New reporting from the George Lucas Educational Foundation, Edutopia, points out the importance of assuring that the technology we bring into math classes fosters active engagement.
The report notes that, regrettably, in the midst of the STEM drive it’s possible for teachers to be commended for increased technology use alone, whether it supports healthy math learning or not. The updated 2017 National Education Technology Plan explains that in today’s classrooms many students are using technology as a tool for passive learning rather than engaging in active learning experiences that promote student agency.
A sounder, more productive approach starts with educators focusing on pedagogical content and an understanding of best practices specific to mathematics. “In simplest terms, when planning to integrate technology into a lesson, educators should take into account the technology knowledge the students will need, the mathematics content knowledge they’ll need, and the best practices for teaching both the technology and the math,” the report emphasizes. “This process is extremely important because without it, the technology may be integrated in a way that is pedagogically inappropriate for mathematics instruction.”
For example, the report finds that math apps and websites that focus on speed and rote memorization are readily available and widely used, yet these same methods often lead to math anxiety, low mathematics achievement and mathematics avoidance.
Pedagogically informed technology, on the other hand, helps students productively struggle with math…meaning that they learn to problem solve rather than repeating a specific list of facts or procedures. “Problem solving skills are more valuable than memorization, and they’re the true work of mathematicians. If the goal of integrating technology into the classroom is to engage students in real-world experiences, the students must be given opportunities to do real mathematics.”
Technology that fosters deep mathematical thinking is the goal. “Content-specific apps and websites that focus on math learning with the use of virtual manipulatives are highly effective, and in some cases more efficient than physical manipulatives,” the report concludes. “If we believe that students of mathematics need opportunities for discussing math, creating and connecting visuals, analyzing models, discovering patterns, and making generalizations, the technology that we introduce into our classrooms should match those values.”