Using tech in the classroom

I’m interested to know how much technology maths teachers use in the classroom.

I’ve always been a little saddened that I arrived in teaching shortly after the death of the blackboard. My own teachers had them, the fancy ones that rolled so that you could keep a side of notes and refer back to them. There’s something very aesthetically pleasing, particularly in maths, about using chalk and a chalkboard, although you’ll be lucky to have one. In came the whiteboard, to be quickly superseeded by the ridiculous amount of spending to gadgetise every classroom with what have inevitably become glorified whiteboards, the INTERACTIVE whiteboard.

I’ve been trained to use one, in fact, I train people how to use one (fairly briefly I might add). Do I use one in my own teaching? Well, yes and no. I use one because that’s what I have. Do I use it interactively? Barely ever.

The only thing I’m grateful that my board can do, is put squared paper onto my background.

I don’t create animations (youtube does them better), and I don’t annotate word documents, and I don’t play games on the board with my students (OK, very occasionally I do, like this cool ‘estimate the angle’ game by NRICH.

I might use interactive fraction strips, but the point I get across is again shown nicely on youtube anyway.

It’s nice that I can draw a circle easily I suppose.

Do I use any other tech? Umm…

In my last school, we had 15 briefcases of voting handsets (15 in each case). These were ‘for the school’ and were bookable by departments. I knew from experience that they’d just sit in the room in which they were kept, untouched, forever. After a month or so of nobody using them, I put them all in my department and announced that if anyone wanted them, they were still bookable, but kept there.

Each pair of maths teachers had a full two cases worth to share between them. It worked well, in that we had them to use spontaneously if we wanted to. The software was a bit rubbish, and unreliable, as were the batteries, but there were a couple of maths games on there that you could use off the cuff, and they were good, so we did. I think the key to them being used was that they were instantly accessible, and required no forward planning to use them effectively. Sure you could create your own activity, and sometimes we did, but that took a LONG time, and the payoff was frankly not worth it.

I don’t miss them, they were fun, but in my current school, I don’t have them, and I don’t care.

In my old school we also had a single class set of iPads, which again I took to the maths department, and they could be loaned out from there. These, however, had no merit whatsoever and were a total disaster. I blogged a long time ago about that disaster mildly desperately here, fairly optimistically here, and at the point where I wished they were never invented, here. I don’t miss those either. At all.

We also invested a lot of money for a license for iamlearning.co.uk which is ‘proven to improve results’. If proof is ‘this successful school used it and their results went up by 5% this year” is proof, then…well it’s not. Most of our students would just guess answers until the game bits came up, or memorised the answers to a particular game and played it over and over again, or just went on youtube when we were on the other side of the class. Also, a lot of the pre-written maths questions had the wrong answers, which was annoying, and ruined any tiny bt of confidence a student may have built up. I don’t miss that either. I have nothing personal against that particular website, the same could be said for all online learning platforms that persue the gamification of learning.

Here is the “tech” I currently use and my teaching benefits from:

mini-whiteboards and whiteboard pens every single lesson. They’re cheap and reliable, although truth be told, I get through board pens like I get through coffee. OK they’re not electronic, but guess what, they can be (yeesh!)

A projector and some speakers. Technically this is an interactive whiteboard, but that’s the bit I feel I truely NEED.

A board to write on.

A loud voice (not strictly technology I suppose). Again, this can be tech if you need it to be (good luck with that)

A few manipulatives like dice and blank cards (not these digital versions)

The most technical stuff I use is not for use with the students.

I use PowerPoint and Excel to create a fairly sophisticated seating plan document for reference

I use http://www.qrstuff.com/ to create quick reference QR codes to access parents when I need to.

I use a memory stick to archive a vast amount of digital resources (basically worksheets).

I don’t create PowerPoints for my lessons, I just write things on the board, or play youtube videos if it involves complex diagrams.

The only other tech I really want to use in class is a visualiser to go through a student’s work, or show a model answer. I think I’ll get one this week.

What tech do you use? I’ve never been happier with so little. Am I missing something?

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4 thoughts on “Using tech in the classroom

  1. Ah, and I thought I was the only self-confessed IWB Luddite – well not totally, but I 100% empathise with what you have written. A funny (to me) story I would like to share. About 15 years ago I was running an InSET session on use of hands-on resources, including paper folding. I showed delegates how to create a tetrahedron from a single sheet of A4 paper, yes, I know it is ‘old hat’ nowadays – anyway, I digress. One delegate, who was and still is a big name in the use of IT (no name mentioned) really like the sequence of folds and about a week later he sent me a link to a program he had made which did the same thing, only instead of students having a hands-on, tetrahedron-making experience, he produced a hands-free version for a PC (or a Mac). I thanked him but privately thought: “Yes this is very interesting (and it was) but I want the learners to actually make a tetrahedron so they could explore its geometry, perhaps using it to work out its mirror planes and its orders of rotational symmetry. I too had a roller-chalk board and as a HoD I was asked to say what grids I would like on it, so I had one plain board one square lined grid board and one isometric dot grid board – it was fab. BTW I was also asked what colour of carpet tiles I would like so I went for grey and dark red – which meant we could act out several puzzles on it. hey, ho – fond memories. By the way I stand in awe of people who do use an IWB interactively, but the other week I tried to show the factors of numbers video which I picked up off twitter recently and is wonderful. This would have made a fab start to a lesson on factors (or “guzintas” as I prefer to call them) – had the program not been compatible with the IWB I was using… so in the end I resorted to turning groups of children into the dots that appeared and went from there…
    Regards
    Mike

  2. If you want to teach effectively, use what you know. I use IWB interactively everyday in a whole host of ways and if I taught KS3 I would use even more. However I was teaching in Zambia this summer without text books and only a piece of chalk and a board. I loved it and the students gained a lot. (My teaching surface was bigger than my IWB in my UK class room.) These are all just tools, start with your aims (presumably to enthuse students with maths and thus get them to understand it and then apply it and then perhaps pass an exam) and use whatever resource is available/efficient/practical, I could go on….

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