Instructional Technology has grown significantly beyond its origin as a supporting role in education. In the 21st century classroom, technology drives the higher-order thinking and problem-solving that challenge students and teachers alike. Furthermore, even the concept of the classroom has literally been demolished with flipped instruction, anytime-anywhere access to lessons and instructors, and a wide variety of sources addressing different learning styles. The focus on memorization of facts and procedures is shifting to the creation of environments conducive to creativity, innovation, and even entrepreneurship. Simply take note of the growing popularity of programs linked to financial literacy (e.g., BizWorld, Junior Achievement’s Biz Kid$, and the JumpStart Coalition) that infuse technology into their curricula. These organizations meld mathematics, finance, economics, and general social studies into a cohesive package, but it is technology that gives life to their programs.
Our challenge as educators is to devise methods of transference moving the theoretical concepts mentioned above into the classroom. Transference is a team effort: administration, IT, faculty, students, and parents all working together to develop a comprehensive technology plan that provides clear goals, guidance, and responsibilities along with the commitment to actualize the plan.
In the 1990s, Bloom's taxonomy of cognitive objectives was updated to reflect the needs of the 21st century. While the bottom five categories map directly to the original taxonomy, the apex, Creating, emphasizes the shift to constructing our knowledge through "doing" rather than absorbing. Creating also opens the door for student creativity, expressing mastery of the lower levels in personally relevant ways.
Knowledge creation tools include:
Scratch (mit.scratch.edu): Create computer programs to investigate number theory and geometric properties.
BYOB (Build Your Own Blocks, http://byob.berkeley.edu/): Includes Scratch while adding advanced computer science capabilities. s the name suggests, programmers can define their own blocks that act much like procedures (functions, subroutines) in "real" programming languages. BYOB even supports recursion.
Google SketchUp (www.google.com/sketchup): Discover relationships between faces, edges, and vertices while building 3-D structures. SketchUp is a great tool to gain comfort working in three dimensions.
Google Earth (earth.google.com): Discover geographic obstacles that befell the explorers of earlier centuries. For example, follow the Oregon Trail, noting up close the rugged mountain passes and wide rivers. A math-related exercise is to devise techniques to measure the area of notable features using geometric shapes. Students find on their own how common shapes like triangles, rectangles, circles, can be used to cover an irregular region.
Google Earth is also a valuable expressive tool. Referring back to the Oregon Trail example, students describe the hardships and challenges of the trail by entering placemarks (Google Earth term for post-its) at the appropriate locations. The note includes images, audio, and well-formed description. The result is an annotated tour of the trail.
GeoGebra (geogebra.org): GeoGebra provides hands-on methods for discovering how symmetry works and how polynomials describe real world objects. Students find pictures of object, usually famous buildings but some plants work too, and learn first-hand what it means to be symmetric. A second activity is to import a picture that includes an arch-like figure (e.g., the Golden Arches of McDonald's, the St. Louis Arch), and use GeoGebra to fit a parabola onto the figure. Students use sliders to adjust the values of the coefficients (the a, b, and c in ax2 + bx + c) to adjust the shape of the parabola. This activity offers a visual (geometric) look at quadratics, in contrast to the more algebraic factoring and solving for roots. Students can try more complex shapes, discovering the modeling value of polynomials, along the way.
All Woodside classes have an interactive whiteboard. Grades 2 through 8 have a class set of laptops. Laptops for all students offer a learning opportunity anytime - anyplace. Walk around campus and see students seated around a picnic table or huddling on the sidewalk with their laptops open before them.