Sunday, December 4, 2011

How can I use dynamic technology without an interactive white board?

I just got back from Asilomar, in Monterey, CA, where I was attending the CMC North Math conference.  What a beautiful place!

Had a really great time talking to teachers about integrating technology into their classroom and ways they could use the technology resources they already had.  An interesting thing happened while exhibiting.  We were using an 'interactive white board' using a Styrofoam white board and eBeam to demonstrate our software (The Geometer's Sketchpad, TinkerPlots and Fathom), and so many people immediately assumed that the software only worked with a white board, therefore not of interest to them since they didn't have one.

The purpose of using the interactive white board was merely to show the software better and allow others to interact and draw folks in to play.  What was revealed by talking to many of these teachers was really that they assumed that interactive, dynamic software could not be used unless you had a way for students 'touch it" (as most teachers did not have access to computers for students, but merely a projector and screen). This of course led to my sharing some suggestions, based on things I use to do with my own students, on what to do if you don't have an interactive white board or access to computers and yet you have dynamic software that would really enhance your instruction and student learning. If you have at least a computer, projector and screen, you can still make your lessons interactive. I just wanted to share a few ideas here.

1) Replace lecture/notes with a demonstration and have the STUDENTS come up with their own definitions/understandings.  It is far more engaging and visual to see the effects of changing the variable of m in y=mx + b (using Sketchpad for example), and, through good questioning on the part of the teacher, discovering that variable we call slope determines the direction of the line rather than to have them take notes on the definition of slope and the slope intercept form of a line. It allows students to concretely make a connection to an abstract symbolic representation.
2)   Get a really good wireless mouse. Pass the mouse around and let the students control the action of the software.  Again, guided by good questioning and allowing them to make conjectures and test their thinking.  This gets students involved, and gives the teacher the ability to actually walk around and interact with students.
3) Group students and allow different groups to 'be in control' for the day, again, guided by good questioning.

Just some thoughts.

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