I am an educational venture analyst who is currently working for an Ontario school board. Besides this role, I have been teaching high school Math for many years here and abroad. Currently I am interested in sourcing out smart and viable educational technologies that could be integrated successfully in the classroom and that are in compliance with our board goals. As a mathematics teacher, I believe that automatization of math and learning with technology provides real-life context where inquiry based learning is enabled and Math becomes alive.
The Board Initiative
The board initiative promotes not only 21st century skills but ICT literacy that will augment the student overall learning. The current need of the board is to integrate smart and effective technologies that promote high-quality teaching and learning while keeping the existing budget in mind. The curriculum document for learning math/science specifies that students ought to use technology (e.g. In my opinion, this should be extended beyond learning with calculators) to resemble the current market.
To support the above, please refer to pg. 37 of Ontario Grade 11-12 Math Curriculum Document.
Before A Proposal
Before the product is presented to our superintendent, a sample Likert Scale Survey would investigate how many teachers and students already use this software out of their choice or the competitive one (GSP) or any other one; the overall experience of the use of dynamic software in the classroom, the existing and potential barriers, etc. The findings would be integrated into my proposal to point out its strengths and weaknesses and how to address them adequately with this particular product integration.
A Proposal to Our Superintendent:
After extensive research, I propose that we consider integrating GeoGebra, an award winning, dynamic multi-platformed math and science software, for all levels of Math teaching and learning that comes with in many languages. The application is free, open, and could be downloaded from the internet. It joins geometry, algebra, tables, graphing, statistics and calculus in one easy-to-use package. It it being used in a growing number of schools globally and its community is growing fast. However, there are potential obstacles and suggestion on how to overcome them.
You could check one of the GG’s demos here: [youtube]http://youtu.be/w7lgMx8-1c0[/youtube]
This software was created by an academic who has strong experiences in math education, computer science, and education research. Please see the creator’s profile here. Also, this app is extensively supported by peer-reviewed academic research and some interesting ones come from Cambridge University by Dr. Lavizca.
I would suggest that we start with a pilot project in few schools, and if the results are favourable, we are to expand it all schools.
At the moment, the board is using the Geometer’s Sketchpad (GSP) that comes with a steep price tag, the upkeep of licences, and some bugs. On the flip side, GSP is already being used in our board, belongs to McGraw Hill Education, has a solid tech support, and it does come with textbooks and other resources that integrate the software in a meaningful way. However, as we are moving more and more away from traditional textbooks this feature might become obsolete in the near future.
The Return on Investment (ROI) in adopting GeoGebra that is free could be significant if we are to consider all schools in the board and that we no longer will need to purchase the licences for GSP. We are looking to be eliminating the cost of roughly $200,000 per 2-3 year span (a licence cost of $15/computer x average 100 computers/school x 107 schools = $160,500 +$40,000 approx. cost for troubleshooting and upkeep costs in terms of time). The figure is dependant on the lifespan of our computer equipment that currently is enduring quite heavy wear and tear and on average needs to be replaced every 2-3 years. The figure above could address some of many of our more dire and immediate needs and becomes significant in savings if we are to look at in the long run. The cost is the training of our staff that could be done during already mandated professional development days and therefore, reduced. The workshops could be led by our GG teacher experts, or we could pay for the outside experts as well at the estimated cost of $500 per workshop. To become a proficient user of GG, on average of 30 hours are needed. This could be accomplished with 4-5 PD sessions in a year. The additional cost would be around $2,500/year. The additional cost would be in terms of time needed for our tech staff to download the software onto the schools’ computers. However, this could take (10 min x approx.10, 700 computers) to staggering 1,783 hours. To reduce this number, teachers and students could download the app as it is quite straightforward.
GeoGebra brings other features that GSP doesn’t have and therefore, contributes to overall added value to our schools. For example, it has more versatile tools and features, runs on more platforms, has a thriving community since it is open, comes in 60 languages useful for our ELL learning and teaching, it is fueled by relevant peer-reviewed research and not only profit, written by math instructors, etc. In addition, it is much stronger than other free products similar to this one. Please see the comparison table below:
GeoGebra and Other Products Comparison Table
Comparison between GeoGebra and GSP
When comparing and deciding on GeoGebra, I have used the below table of criteria to support my recommendation. I’ve decided to compare the two since GSP is the existing software in our board. Although GSP does meet some criteria better than GeoGebra, GG has a stronger cummulative value based on the criteria used in the table below:
|1. More versatile tools and features
2. Easy-to-use interface and friendly; intuitive
3. Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, Android, iOS, Windows RT.
4.Extensive open resource centre on GeoGebraTube
5. multilingual; with 60 languages it caters to our growing ELL population enabling teachers to assess their students more appropriately and ELL students understand better what they are learning
6. Written by math instructions considering math education for all levels; fueled and supported with credible research and social venture
7. No support over the phone or online chat; only desk help e-mail contacts available that could be timely or forum options
8. Calculations are possible, macros, loci, animations, assignments, webexport, no proofs
9. open and free
10. Thriving community
11. Imo, easier for calculus
12. few ways of installing it
|1. Not as many tools
2. Easy-to-use interface and friendly; intuitive
3. Windows, Mac OS X (Java), now mobile explorer as well, Linux but with bugs
4. Comes integrated in textbooks (schools can buy them along with software) and with online resources
5. English only
6. Profit-based venture
7. Solid help-desk support over the phone, online, etc.
ANALYTICAL FRAMEWORK COMPONENTS
1. TYPE OF MARKET
GeoGebra could be used for K-12, higher education, and commercial use as well.
In our case, the product is marketable across our board, and potentially on a provincial and national level of our public school system.
However, in this context, the focus is to offer this software to grades 9-12 of our local board. The diversity of the product is that it could be implemented for earlier grades as well; the potential benefit is that the students could grow academically while getting familiar with the software use from an early age. Just imagine the competency and expertise in software manipulation if they were exposed to it from the get go.
2. TYPE OF OFFERING
This interactive software connects both geometry and algebra, and can be used for learning of statistics and calculus. “The software offers two representations of every object: the numeric algebraic component shows either coordinates, an explicit or implicit equation, or an equation in parametric form, while the geometric component displays the corresponding solution set” as mentioned by a student. The interface is easy to use yet it comes with many powerful features. There is also an authoring tool to create interactive learning materials as web pages. The software is used on Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, Android, iOS, Windows RT.
Although there are other softwares on the market, this one comes with close to 94,000 materials on GeoGebra Tube that could make a life of a teacher much easier and is available in over 60 languages. Please see here: http://tube.geogebra.org.
There is a blog with regular updates regarding the product. Please see here: http://blog.geogebra.org
The forum provides materials for beginner users, guiding packages, troubleshooting, and a thriving community willing to share: http://geogebra.org/forum/. However there is no formal tech support service available via phone or instant online trouble-shooting but there are help desks contacts available.
The institutes are all over the world, and those interested in GG could become their local ambassadors. The certification is also available, as well as the workshops. However, the conferences and workshops are tied to physical spaces and specific dates and therefore not readily accessible to everyone.
The application is rooted in an academia and supported by research. It is open sourced with a growing number of contributors. The community is quite large and growing. The team consists of research, software development, finance, community support (teacher training and research),a STEM rep, advisors, volunteer translators, etc.
3. WHO IS THE BUYER?
Please refer to an earlier section of this document. However, the buyer could be any educational institution/organization and the product could be bought centrally. The buyer could be individual teachers who see the value of the product, a parent,a learner, or a commercial institution. In our context, the buyer would be our local board that specifically buys it for grades 9-12.
4. GLOBAL TARGET
We are talking about the market where there is a need for interactive and dynamic math software for teaching and learning and with “access” to internet: Anglophone countries, “European” countries with language skills and those requiring translation, and a few “Asian” countries. Those regions with restricted or poor quality internet service might be able to download the software to be used offline but would need to keep updating it for it to stay current.
5. MARKET STATUS
Based on preliminary face-to-face informal interviews, there are many teachers who use or would use this or a similar product in their classroom in our board. Given this context, I would look at the market as a number of math teachers and students in our local board. Based on that and the initial sample survey, I would compile a pie chart that exemplifies uses and practices of this/similar product and analyze other components as well to provide an accurate “market” status breakdown.
This technology works well with the system in place as long as teachers are willing and see the value in using it. In this context, this learning technology “could” be imposed and compete with the existing one (GSP). Instead of the term imposing, I would rather use “the teachers are given the opportunity to see the value in adopting such a technology” along with adequate incentives in terms of professional development on “school’s time”, and plethora of materials to integrate it in their practice. Teachers are convinced that this technology would make their teaching more effective and current.
Potential Barriers and Overcoming them
Teacher ability to switch and adopt the “new” technology quickly; training time might be needed, and teacher willingness to adopt could be some of the barriers that might need to be addressed. What I see on a daily basis, although there is an initiative on promoting technology, that the use of technology is at times met with a use of a graphing calculator. Often teachers resort to this option as the curriculum is dense and time is limited. There ought to be a push for a change to be reflected clearly in the curriculum document along with the development of technology skills coupled with learning of math/science/other subjects.
Teachers need to be willing to adopt the new technology. Many incentives ought to be in place: some teachers could become board experts by getting a certification, others could become school leaders in the area, etc. Teachers need to see the value in using this technology or switching to the new one. Students get to use it for free on their own devices and hence have more opportunities to become self-regulated and independent. Also the new technology is more flexible, caters better to our school population, etc.
Teachers could see a new technology as a one more thing to learn in their already busy lives and be resistant to it. Teachers ought to be given time to learn the new features on the school’s time, through PD, and see that their lives could become “easier” with an extensive library of resources and new tools and features to be taken advantage off. Clear how-to guides could be helpful, and providing comprehensive lesson packages with how to instructions along with the curriculum expectations could be seen as having a real value. These packages should have the option to be easily tweaked to suit specific needs.
Besides this, learning how to use this software by both teachers and students should be straightforward. The learning curve is steep, and should be effective when everything else is in place!