Moving beyond substitution

Good use of digital technology in the math and science classroom begins with an educator who has a vision on how to engage their students towards meaningful inquiry. Meaningful use of technology moves away from teaching content in isolation and moves towards interdisciplinary problem-solving. Teachers who are passionate about motivating their students to think critically, collaborate effectively, and take risks in their learning are what is important in these STEM classrooms. When students are learning WHY something is important, in a hands-on way that explores real-world connections, students are more likely to care and engage in the learning engagements. Digital technology goes beyond the replacement of an ‘old’ way of doing something, but rather is innovative and modifies and redefines the original task. This is the SAMR model at heart.

Digital technology should be implemented with a clear scope and sequence but also be able to handle the teachable moments that present themselves along the way. Students need to develop their computational thinking in a fun way that challenges yet sustains interest.The benefits of using a variety of digital technology tools within the classroom is that there are many different options for students to personalize their learning. For example, when students struggle with conceptual challenges such as volume and capacity, students can watch Brainpop videos, use hands-on manipulatives such as bottles, in order to understand. They can explain their thinking with various iPad apps to document their thinking and learning, as well as be used as reflective samples for their portfolios. A successful science and math class is one that aligns itself with the inquiry cycle, where students are encouraged to tune into real world issues, find out more about these problems and begin making connections while attempting to find solutions, or take meaningful action. Overall, an effective STEM classroom is one where the teacher cannot be found at the front of the room, but rather can be seen transitioning between small groups of students who are busy tinkering, designing, and collaborating.

Implementing effective and useful digital technology in the classroom is possible when educators stop making excuses in their own abilities, such as saying ‘Technology is not my thing.’ As well, I believe it is equally important to break down gender inequality when it comes to digital technology. All teachers need to be supportive of all students learning to become digitally literate. I am fortunate to work in a school that believes in supporting teachers through professional development in digital technology, such as coding and robotics. When schools are creative the possibilities are truly endless, and digital technology does not have to always be about having the latest high-end technology, but it is necessary that all technology should be used effectively.

2 comments

  1. I agree. An effective STEM classroom won’t have the teacher at the front of the class, but rather facilitating. Technology can and has transformed our ways of thinking, and if a student has a technological device they can do so much more with it. From collaborating, sharing, communicating, documenting, researching and the list goes on. It’s up to educators to grow with the students and like you said, quit making excuses that they don’t know how to use it.

  2. Your post reminds me of one of the video cases where one teacher was interviewed saying that she would rather teach the material than having students learn themselves, which reflects a traditional educator-student relationship. There is certainly a place for both pedagogies so I agree we cannot merely say ‘Technology is not my thing’, but finding the right balance is key.

    Andrew

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