To me, good use of technology in the math and science classroom means creating an engaging, interactive, and meaningful learning experience and environment for students. In Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: Media education for the 21st Century, Jenkins et al. (2009) point out that “simply passing out technology is not enough” if we do not support students in their understanding of how to use these digital technologies effectively (p. 17). “Good” use of technology is using technology to support student learning (rather than using it to teach “at” students) through a variety of sources, and to support inclusion within the classroom.
In my math classroom, I use Kurzweil to support students (I have five) who are unable to read independently. By having Kurzweil available to read to them, they are able to work relatively independently and more confidently. In a second example, this year I applied for and received a grant for a program called Reflex Math, a computer-based fluency-building program that focuses on improving addition, subtraction, multiplication and division skills. I had never heard of Reflex Math before, but applied based on a recommendation from my principal. While I continue to struggle with the fact that the program is “game” based and I was brought up believing that computer/video games were rarely educational, my students love the program and many are now practicing at home as well as working three times a week (as is required by the grant) at school. The program is accessible to all students, regardless of their academic strengths and weaknesses, and is helping my students build confidence, as well as fluency in math. In addition to this, I have noticed an improvement in their abilities to complete simple calculations more quickly and accurately on class assignments.
I do believe that there are still times when traditional hands-on experience will trump anything we can show a student using digital technology. When I think of the concept of condensation that I used for my “Conceptual Challenges” response, I cannot think of a good way to support the understanding of why condensation would form on the outside of a container without a hands-on learning experience to accompany it. To be able to see the liquid in the container, touch the liquid that formed on the outside of the container, and make observations about the temperature of the water, container, surrounding environment and so on, just seems to be irreplaceable to me. While I support the integration of new technologies into our classrooms, I believe there continues to be a time and a place for both new technologies and traditional learning models in our classrooms.
Jenkins, H., Purushotma, R., Weigel, M., Clinton, K., & Robinson, A.J. (2009). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: Media education for the 21st century. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Retrieved from https://mitpress.mit.edu/sites/default/files/titles/free_download/9780262513623_Confronting_the_Challenges.pdf