Unpacking Assumptions

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


  1. Hi Mary,
    I totally agree that technology is not a replacement for hands-on activities and students constructing their knowledge. Students seeing condensation building up on a container surface allows the students to look and feel the container. They can see condensation is not leaking out of the sides of the container so they must make and test other theories. Where I do see technology really helping this is as students get older and theories become more advanced. As the video of the high school physics class shows, students like to test the extreme limits of the tech programs to see what would happen if…. they super accelerated speed, changed angles etc.
    I really hope we never get to the point in education where the hands-on aspect is removed. This would be huge disservice to our students.

  2. Hi Mary,

    I really liked that you identified between technology that teaches “at” students and ones that involve and immerse students. I think that teachers and administrators alike need to be well versed in identifying between the two if they are going to make effective and impactful choices when it comes to technology purchasing and usage.

    It’s great to hear that your students are finding success with the math programs. The gamification of learning is definitely something that technology allows for and I agree that at times, it can be hard to see the merit of earning stars and leveling up, but it’s hard to argue with the results.

    Finally, I also agree that technology will never replace reality. The approach perhaps should be to integrate and enhance, but not replace. Lab simulations, for example, can be done prior to a more complex “real life” lab as a means of practicing skills. But the imperfect nature of reality and the observations and analysis that goes with it is an important skill that cannot be replicated digitally.

  3. I think it is funny how many of us automatically think that if the program is game based then it is just playing instead of it having any pedagogical or teaching value. Not being much of a game player myself I had similar views until I spent some time researching games and gamification to use in my classroom. It is true that students are much more engaged in games and because they are they do increase their basic skills, especially in mathematics. Games also help them to persevere, solve problems, and work towards specific goals. Although these are definitely not a replacement for good teaching or hands on activities, they are a good augmentation for classroom curriculum.

  4. Hi all,

    Thank you for your replies! Lawrence, I love your statement that “The approach perhaps should be to integrate and enhance, but not replace.” When watching the video cases, I was drawn to a similar comment the teacher in Case 8 made that if technology can be used to enhance a topic/subject it should be, but if technology will not enhance the topic and students will learn as well from reading from a book, then let them read from a book. While I have really enjoyed the MET program and all that I have learned so far, I also feel almost pressured, at times, to integrate digital technology into my classroom on a daily basis. It is good (and calming too!) for me to remember that just because technology is available for a task, does not mean it must be used every time. There is still merit in allowing some more “traditional” teaching practices into our classrooms. As you said, technology should be used to enhance, not necessarily to replace.

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