Preliminary Research


The integration of technology into the curriculum is an on-going process.
In the past computers have not been widely used for instruction so teachers cannot rely on their own experience as students. The development of new teaching strategies that involve the use of technology requires imagination and concentration. Something new has to be invented. Topics that lend themselves to computer instruction have to be identified. Activities have to be planned. Then new strategies have to be tested, evaluated and modified. Teachers have to be willing to try something new. Adjustments have to be made as to when and how to use a given technology most effectively. This also takes imagination and planning. The successful implementation of new methods takes cooperation and communication among the members of the staff and feedback from students.
This is a major focus for the teachers who use the Farragut High School math lab.

Here are a few my personal observations.

1. The stereotype of treating computer activities as optional or supplemental to be used at the end of the chapter has to be replaced with true integration. In the past text books have included technology in this manner (treating it as an extra) since there was no guarantee that a school would have available computers. To make these changes teachers need to be familiar with computer activities and strategies available to them so that they can plan for their use at the optimal time. The appropriate use of activities can reduce the need for re-teaching and can give the teacher the ability to provide students with individual attention and immediate feedback and correction of mistaken perceptions. The use of computer activities after a unit test is only demoralizing to students who wish they had the opportunity to learn before the unit test. The department could facilitate this familiarity by providing inservice training times for the purpose.

2. Teachers need to choose activities that are appropriate for their students. No two classes are exactly alike and teachers need to constantly reevaluate the teaching/re-teaching needs of their students. We generally use Mathematica as tool in the upper level courses such as Pre-Calculus and Calculus. Students use it to work with three-dimensional graphing, Newton’s method, the mean value theorem, and other Calculus topics. It would not be appropriate to use the “Solve” command in Mathematica with students who have not yet grasped the concept of an equation. Our limited research has shown that the practice programs are of great benefit to the regular college preparatory courses. The honors students learn as effectively from regular homework assignments although they appreciate the computer activities. Many honors students have commented to me that the lab activities “always help.”

3. I have found that the observations of classroom teachers as to the needs of students often lead to the most useful technological teaching strategies. Interactive, electronic versions of tried-and-true paper/pencil activities can be created providing all students with immediate feedback and giving teachers the ability to identify those who need one-on-one help.

4. Students like to interact with computers. They like having the computer tell them they are right. They are even willing to ask teachers for help so that they can get that positive feedback. They are generally willing to engage in more extensive practice on a computer.

5. The decision to “man” the computer lab with math teachers with computer skills rather than a technology administrator only is an effective model for enhancing instruction. The two teachers can work together in planning and preparing activities to enhance the teaching of mathematics and for the time that students are in the lab the teacher/pupil ratio is doubled thus providing more learning opportunities for students. This would not be the case if the lab coordinator felt obligated only to assist in keeping the computers operational. It is also important for the classroom teacher to be involved when the class comes to the lab. Teachers who feel comfortable with technology are welcome to direct the activities, in which case the lab coordinator will serve as an assistant. Lab coordinators are willing to give instruction for computer activities if the classroom teacher requests it and then the classroom teacher is expected to participate in the activity, monitoring and instructing as needed. The experience of seeing of adults working together is also of benefit to students.

6. There is always the need for communication between the lab coordinators and the classroom teachers. They need to work together so that students are using the lab for meaningful and useful activities.

7. It can be seen from the surveys conducted at FHS that our students have a positive attitude toward the use of technology for mathematical instruction. They overwhelmingly prefer to use software for initial practice! (146/156 or 94%)

A Focused Assessment of Geometry and the Math Lab
Evaluating the effectiveness of technology
Summary by Leslie Howe
Farragut High School
Knoxville, Tennessee