Sunday, January 1, 2012

Guest Post-1:1 Technology in the Math Classroom

To start the year I have a guest post all about 1:1 in the Math Classroom. Enjoy!

Perhaps the single subject area that stands to gain the most from the introduction of a 1:1 technology program is math.  Math classrooms with 1:1 technology can greatly expand the differentiation of content provided to students, can prevent student misconceptions from developing, and can free the teacher to focus on teaching and planning rather than grading.  Let’s look at each of these benefits in further detail.

Expanded Content Differentiation

Students in a math classroom without access to 1:1 technology typically follow a textbook in lockstep fashion.  With only the teacher as a source of information, pacing and content for all students must be kept identical.  1:1 technology allows each student to have, in essence, his own personal teacher.  Through the use of video, a math instructor can record all of her lessons (or utilize videos created by outside sources), allowing students to work through material at their own pace.  Similarly, practice problems no longer need to be limited to those found in a textbook; instead, a teacher can utilize online texts and resources that provide problems of varying difficulty and which adapt to students’ previous answers, becoming harder or easier when needed.

A lot of conversation has centered around the idea of “flipping” classroom instruction, allowing students to watch a video lecture as homework so that class time can be devoted to discussion or application of the content being presented.  1:1 technology can certainly permit this, but it can also take it a step further, allowing for classrooms to not only be flipped but also individualized.

Preventing Student Misconceptions

When students complete practice problems in a typical non-1:1 classroom, they often are asked to complete a large number of problems before receiving feedback on whether or not their work is correct.  This is incredibly harmful, as students who are doing something incorrectly on a paper/pencil assignment will repeat that error multiple times and get it ingrained in their mind before it can be corrected.  1:1 technology prevents such misconceptions from taking hold by providing students with immediate feedback after each problem is completed.  Many online programs don’t just provide a correct answer (even a textbook can do that), but also provide students with a written and/or video explanation of how to solve the problem at hand.  This is incredibly valuable not only in preventing misconceptions from developing but also in allowing students to take ownership of their own learning.

Freeing the Teacher

As 1:1 technology provides students with instant feedback on the various practice problems they complete, another huge benefit emerges: the teacher is freed from the crushing, constant burden of assessing student work!  Suddenly freed from this overwhelming task (my own math students, from all classes combined, can easily complete thousands of problems each day), the teacher is now able to focus on planning and teaching more effectively.  Videos can be created and plans can be individualized in the time no longer spent grading student work.  Teachers will still be familiar with their students’ work, of course, because the online tools described above are able to provide the teacher with a detailed summary of how their students performed on their online practice problems.

For any district looking for a place where 1:1 technology will be instantly valued and appreciated, math classrooms might be the best place to start.

About the author:
Mark Pullen, 1:1 classroom teacher, on behalf of Worth Ave. Group. Worth Ave Group provides laptop, tablet computer, and iPad insurance to schools and universities. They have been insuring schools since 1971.
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