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January 2010
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Can Technology Help Students Transfer Knowledge?

As the first day of classes is coming to an end and I keep reading the e-mails from my online students (who are mathematics, general science, biology, chemistry and health science teachers, as well as other professionals), I keep thinking of how technology can help us bridge the gap between these fields. In other words, what can be done to help the students see how what we are doing in different courses is interrelated and how it relates to real life. Today my kids were watching “The Big Bang Theory”, which I think is very funny sitcom, but may be I am a real nerd? Anyways, in one of the episodes, Sheldon (a real king of the nerds and of course a physics genius) claimed that he learned to swim while watching a TV program¬† – so he practiced on the floor of his living room. While Sheldon’s friend ask him, how does he know that he can swim if he never tried swimming in a pool, Sheldon responded that the skill is transferable and the transfer must be easy. I thought of it as a very interesting comment. As much as it sounds funny when somebody talks about swimming on the floor instead of swimming in the pool, very often it is exactly what we do in our classes.¬† And here I think technology can help. I immediately thought of how said I felt in my first year physics courses, when the students who completed calculus in high school didn’t realize that we were doing in kinematics is exactly the same skill (finding slopes, areas under the graphs, etc.) yet transferred to the real-life situation – motion of objects. Yet, my expectation from the students to make this transfer might be exaggerated. But what if when we teach calculus we use motion detectors (see for example www.vernier.com) and discuss how Newton and Leibnitz came up with the idea, how calculus was developed and how we can apply it to real life world. I know mathematics teachers have very little time as they have to “cover” lots of material, yet I think educational technology can make what we do in our classes much more meaningful to the students. Will it help us help our student learn the skills of knowledge transfer? The answer will depend on our pedagogical content knowledge and the knowledge of technology. I think it is worth exploring. I will write more about the technological-pedagogical content knowledge (TPACK) – this is something, in my view, worth thinking about.

2 Responses to Can Technology Help Students Transfer Knowledge?

  1. Nick Firkey

    Hi, first I want to say nice blog. I don’t always agree with your posts but it’s always a interesting read.
    Keep up the nice work.

  2. Rick Stakoe

    Love this post! Thanks for this. I’ll be sure to come back again. P.S: I’ve bookmark your site as well.

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