Tuesday, February 11, 2014

You may say I'm a dreamer...

Not actually me,
but I like to think this is how I look when I daydream.
I like to spend most of my free time daydreaming about the day when I finally have a teaching job.  The children are all angels that love to learn, assignments are graded automatically, I never have to attend staff meetings, and my only interactions with parents are to brag about how well their children are doing.  Then I wake up and realize that I will never find a real-life situation as nice as that so I start to mentally prepare myself for the reality of teaching math to secondary students.  One of the issues I will need to deal with is keeping the students interested in what they should be learning.  I need to either avoid or be able to answer the age-old question:     
“When are we ever going to use this?”

 I plan on using a few different technologies in my future classroom to keep students interested: a digital camera, a document camera, scientific and/or graphing calculators, and hopefully a Smartboard along with iPads loaded with math-oriented apps like WolframAlpha.

The digital camera is for me to use in my lesson planning.  Having visual aids of some kind is always helpful for keeping people interested—adults as well as children.  These can get stale after a while if they are clip art, from the same teacher-supply book, or randomly sourced Internet pictures.  The visual aids can start to seem hokey or cheesy and lose their attention-retaining properties.  With a digital camera, you can get the same basic content to help with visual aids, but with people, things, or places that the students know.  The pictures themselves, of course, would depend on the lesson.  If we were talking about angles, for example, I could use a picture of the doorway to the classroom to show a right angle, a propped open book for an acute angle, and a top-down view of an open locker for an obtuse angle.  This would give students some real things that they see every day, so they can start to relate what they’re learning to life.

Document cameras have been extremely useful in the math classes I have taken, so I would like to continue using them when I teach.  I still like the chalkboard for a lot of writing, but it is so nice to be able to show smaller things using the document camera.  I could use it to show congruent and similar shapes without having to worry about my drawing on the board being exactly right.  I could even use it to show the key to a pop-quiz if I wanted the students to self-evaluate their papers.

At the middle school level, I would keep a classroom set of scientific calculators.  We would use them to talk about square roots, order of operations, and all sorts of things.  At the high school level, it would probably be graphing calculators, but depending on the class content, I may require the students to have their own at home as well.  In the beginning the calculators on their own serve as a way to keep students interested.  They are new and fun to play on, so they get excited when you start handing them out. 

A Smartboard would be an excellent technology for a math class.  It can connect to the document camera, and allow me to show graphs, modeling simulations, and anything from the computer.  I can use PowerPoint as a classroom routine, having a welcome message up at the beginning of each class, and even use it for review games before tests.

iPads would be nice for my classroom in theory, but if they are not for only my math class, they could get a little unwieldy.  Ideally, I would hand out the iPads when there was a use for them in my lesson, just like the calculators.  There are so many wonderful math visualization, modeling, and equation-solving apps out there that they could be an extremely valuable resource in keeping students engaged.  If the students use their iPads for multiple classes, whether they are rented or student-owned, there will inevitably be distractions.  These could be games the student has downloaded on their personal iPad, or even just homework for another class on a school-issued one.  We must tread carefully when giving the students power like this!

I do hope that I can find a job with a technology-rich school.  There is so much you can do to supplement a lesson and keep the students interested when you have new, exciting technology at your fingertips!