The interviewee (otherwise identified as Teacher K) is a 24-year-old teacher who graduated from an out-of-province university in June 2016 and is currently in her first official teaching position. Her current teaching load includes grade 6 – 9 math and grade 6 – 12 science. All of the courses are split-level arrangements. I am Teacher K’s coworker and mentor. The interview took place on the evening of Sunday January 22, 2017 by online chat.
Highlight #1:The Disconnect Between Teaching Training and Actual Practice
As Teacher K is a recent university graduate, I was interested to see her perspective on the connection or disconnection between the education she received and her own classroom practice. While in her experience the importance of and theory behind technology use was emphasized, even basic examples of programs and apps were not readily offered by instructors. As a result, unguided exploration was the primary option for finding ways to integrate technology into teaching practice. Conversely, her current school division and colleagues offer many resources for tools and implementation options, including time with mentors. As I am Teacher K’s mentor, it has been rewarding to see her growth over time in the area of technology. Despite the theoretical–practical disconnect between her university training and practice, Teacher K has been able to find ways to meaningfully use technology tools in her classroom. “In science, technology allows students to see videos of situations we are unable to see in real life. For example, when studying ecosystems, we are unable to visit a desert. By using technology, students are able to see pictures and videos of the interactions that happen in different biomes all over the world.”
Highlight #2: Catch-22 of Risk vs. Reward
Teacher K expressed an associated value with technology when it is used purposely and at the right time in instruction, but also a series of concerns regarding less effective use or challenges encountered by students. These challenges can make it more difficult to incorporate technology tools she identifies as potentially useful as some of the students lack the self-regulation skills to engage with the tools properly.
“[Technology] can interfere with their learning if used inappropriately.”
“If a student doesn’t already have knowledge on the topic, the use of technology can be confusing or distracting for them.”
“If I begin the class with students working with technological devices, they will not be able to do anything else afterwards. Therefore, if I use technology, I must incorporate it at the end of the class.”
“Another challenge occurs when there are not enough devices for each student. This causes arguments between students who are unable to share or wait their turn.”
Technology has many potential benefits to offer to the classroom; however, the challenges also need to be considered when determining on the best way to use tech tools with students.
Highlight #3: Technology for Organization
In addition to technology for the actual exploration and learning of concepts, Teacher K finds value in using technology for organizational and communicative purposes. With reference to her class website, she explained that it “allows students to study from home without having to carry a textbook. This is especially useful for middle school students who often forget their notes or assignments at school.” In this way, the technology enables students to learn more ubiquitously and continue to practice their math and science skills regardless of time or when absent from school. Using technology tools for communication and organization facilitates more effective use of instructional time, and helps students prepare for work and life in the 21st century world of electronic communication beyond that latest trends on their Instagram feeds.
As a whole, Teacher K has a positive view of technology use in her math and science classroom, despite the challenges. Her own determination to learn will continue to serve her well as she dives deeper into her teaching career.
Transcript of Responses:
- In what ways did your teacher education training prepare you (or not prepare you) for the use of technology in your teaching?
In my teacher education training, we were taught the theory behind using technology in our classrooms. We were taught that it is important and it is something we should strive to do, however we were never shown how to incorporate it into our lessons or specific examples of programs we could use in our classrooms.
- Do you feel that technology enhances your students’ learning experiences in science and math? Why or why not?
Technology can enhance the students’ learning, but it can also interfere with their learning if used inappropriately For example, using interactive games on the computer, Ipad or Smartboard allows students to manipulate and interact with the problems. This can allow them to better visualize and understand the problem in front of them.
In science, technology allows students to see videos of situations we are unable to see in real life. For example, when studying ecosystems, we are unable to visit a desert. By using technology, students are able to see pictures and videos of the interactions that happen in different biomes all over the world.
- From your perspective, what are the most significant challenges students face when using technology in math and science learning?
If a student doesn’t already have knowledge on the topic, the use of technology can be confusing or distracting for them. For example, when using an online fraction game, a student without an understanding of fractions will just drag objects around the screen and guess to get the answer correct. By doing this, they are not learning the concept.
4. From your experience, what are the shortfalls or challenges of using technology to teach science and math?
Technology must be used at the most appropriate time in a science or math class. If I begin the class with students working with technological devices, they will not be able to do anything else afterwards. Therefore if I use technology, I must incorporate it at the end of the class. If students like using technology, it can be used as a reward if they show positive behavior during the first part of the class.
Another challenge occurs when there are not enough devices for each student. This causes arguments between students who are unable to share or wait their turn.
5.Do you have any advice for colleagues wanting to bring more technological approaches into their practices but are not sure where to start?
My advice would be to start small. Introduce technology in very small ways for a short period of time. By doing this, the students get a small introduction to it and the teacher gets to see how the students handle it without it taking up all the instructional time.
- Can you think of any examples of when using a technology-based approach yield a positive outcome that would not have happened otherwise?
In my classroom, we have a class website. This allows me to post messages, information, notes and assignments for students and their parents. I post upcoming test dates,assignment due dates, pages from their textbook, and all notes required for students to prepare themselves for tests. This allows students to study from home without having to carry a textbook. This is especially useful for middle school students who often forget their notes or assignments at school. With use of the class website, students are still able to complete their work and study for tests despite not having their school books with them. This also allows students and parents to keep up to date with classes and study when needed. This is also great for when students miss class, they are able to stay caught up with their classmates.