Interview AbstractLocation: Vancouver, British Columba When: January 13th, 2012 Interviewee: Instructor of aspiring game programmers in post secondary mathematics & physics and has been teaching and tutoring for over 20 years. Lab or lecture room? Incorporating technology in the classroom I specifically avoid technology in cases where I’ve got a lot of students who have had problems in learning because they have relied on technology. They have got used to using calculators and have lost their number sense and their ability to intuitively estimate quantity, size, and relationships. Before long they can quite easily learn that there is a lot to be gained by taking away the calculator and using some of the basic arithmetic and algebra that they have learned. Technology and learning outcomes How can you differentiate? On the other hand, in some cases, the use of calculators or other technological tools … and physical tools are important for learning. I certainly wouldn’t say I exclude all use of technology. It’s very often the problem the technology that it gets used determines on whether the technology itself is good, its neither good nor bad by itself – it is really how it gets used. I am cautious that technology is being used increasingly in situations where it causes the students not develop a skill set that is essential to their understanding. Software to enhance understanding Some of the biggest challenges are how do you measure the difference in learning outcomes in using technology versus not using technology? If you compare teaching a particular subject without technology and then in some way you introduce the technology, how do you measure the value of that technology? There is an awful lot of criticism about the fact that evidence based decisions are very very meager. Technology is of no value in and and of itself – and in fact to the extent that have been measured, mathematics course that have been taught with technology, that technology by itself does not result in any measurable improvement in learning outcomes. From everything that I can see, the money would be best spent doing the things that have been very well established as providing measurable improvements in learning outcomes. Doing things like space practice versus math practice. Mixing up problems throughout the semester. There are a number of things that have been shown to provide improvements in learning outcomes that are usually not done and are certainly not widely known amongst teachers. |
AnalysisOur school is unique in the fact that most of the classes are in computer labs and students do most of their work by programming in C, C++ or other modern programming languages. Our students are encouraged to identify solutions to problems, come up with algorithms and effectively program software without resorting to guessing. With math, some students just want to know the formula without really understanding the problem or the solution. It is understandable that a teacher teaching math and physics in this environment wants students to look beyond simple plug and play solutions. With that said, the interviewee has brought up some key issues that our students face: How much of a deep and conceptual understanding of mathematical concepts do students need to be effective programmers? Does technology encourage or hamper a deeper learning and understanding of the subject matter? Is the technology truly neutral, or is it a matter of how and when it is used that is most important? Are calculators detrimental to students number sense? Are there techniques that don’t require technology that have fallen by the wayside and should be re-evaluated? The interviewee eluded to the fact that if technology is relied on too much, then basic problem solving skills could be compromised. The technology used by students initially as scaffolding can in the future become a crutch. Students still need to have the ability to evaluate their work without the aid of technology where it is deemed reasonable. When programming physics and mathematical concepts from scratch a deeper understanding is required to properly implement and debug the program. The student’s patience to really understand a problem can be antithetical to their previous behaviors. Learning when to use and when to not use technology then becomes of critical importance. The student needs to know when it is appropriate to fully understand the concept and when a cursory understanding is acceptable to the problem at hand. With the ubiquity of easy to access technology, the interviewee brought up the importance of good research. Without understanding the long term benefits and consequences, jumping on the latest technical trends may be counterproductive. Do we really know enough about the effects of technology in the math and science classroom to have a united approach that will be well received by student and teacher alike? |
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