Education ∪ Math ∪ Technology

Tag: ETEC 533 (page 1 of 2)

Summary of ETEC 533

So my ETEC 533 course has wrapped up, and it ended up being very enjoyable, although a lot of work.  We have just finished our group assignment which includes an online portion, and an essay which justifies the choices we made in creating our online resource.

In this course we started by reviewing the theory behind using technology to when teaching mathematics and science.  We came to similar conclusions as in my other courses in the MET program,which is that basically teaching the technology should not be the goal when using it to teach other subject areas, and that one has to have a good lesson and justification for using the technology in order to make it work.  We also noted that most teachers lack the training they need to effectively use the technology they are increasingly provided.

Our next unit involved looking at three different types of technology enhanced learning experiences.  We tried out the Jasper series of videos, in which real-life problems are presented using video technology, which an advanced queuing system.  We were also shown the Web-based Inquiry Science Environment (WISE) system developed at the California University at Berkeley, which provides a framework for creating lessons and interactive activities online.  The final activity of this unit allowed us to explore My World, formerly called WorldWatcher, which allows students to analyze real-life geographic data.

The last unit of the course saw us look at a variety of different learning technologies, including visualization software (like Geometer’s Sketchpad), networked communities (like Second Life and a virtual field science lab), and finally hand-held technologies (like mobile phones and data probes attached to graphing calculators).

Two common threads through-out the course were the need for advance preparation for all of these technologies, and the wider world that is made available in the classroom through the use of these technologies.  Many of these technologies are expensive, and so only the richest of schools can afford to use many different technologies in their classrooms, and so part of this course is about deciding which technology suits the situation and the specific curricula being developed.

A third thread was the ability these technologies often provide social affordances in the learning of the students, and for constructivist learning principles to be applied.  Using this learning principle does not require much tailoring of the technologies we looked at in this course.

In general this course was very useful and interesting.  It was a lot of work, and I can’t say it was made any easier by the passing away of my father mid-course, or the operation I ended up needing to have at the end of the course, OR the full back-up I had to do which deleted the original version of this essay.  Despite all of those personal problems, I still think I learned a lot from this course, and was introduced to a lot of resources, some of which I hope to use again in my own teaching.

What about using hand-held devices in education?

iPhone in Education - http://apple.comAs Dede, C., Salzman, M.C., Loften, R.B., Sprague, D. (1999) suggest, hand held devices can be powerful tools for education, when used appropriately.  Dede, et. al. (1999) indicate that the devices allow for subjects to be "immersed" in the learning, be provided with "spatial…[and]…multisensory" cues, be motivated by the use of the technology, and finally feel "[a] sense of presence in a shared virtual environment" (Loftin, 1997).

However, the use of hand-held devices has yet to see any significant impact in secondary schools, at least as far as my personal experience goes, except in a small section of the curriculum.  This is partially due to a lack of funding in education, particularly for technologies which lack a proven track record at the secondary school level, and partially because of ignorance on the part of many senior educators as to the capabilities of the hand-held devices.

Two obvious exceptions to this minimal use, which are widely used across the affluent world, are graphing calculators and digital data collectors.  In my teaching experience, the school without graphing calculators is becoming very rare.  The use of digital data collectors has become so wide-spread that there is an entire physics modeling curriculum devoted to their use out of the University of Arizona (Hestenes, D., Jackson, J., 2003).

Devices which have multiple uses, and are generally considered ‘entertainment devices’ are seeing much less use in classrooms.  In this category, I include cellphones, music devices, personal organizers, and other analogous devices.  The reasons for this are, I think, obvious.  Simply put, educators have enough problems with classroom management these days without introducing another element of difficulty, and so many schools have banned the use of these types of devices, a notable example being the New York City department of education (Clark, A.S., 2006).

The educational value of the second of these type of devices is still being investigated.  Dede, et. al. (1999) argue that when used appropriately, these types of devices can have a tremendous impact on the learning of students, but that when used inappropriately, are little more than distraction devices.

Time will tell if these devices end up having a wide-spread use in education, but my personal suspicion is that they will join the ranks of the other media devices which have been used in schools (radios, etc…) and most schools will not use these devices to their whole potential.

Clark, A.S. (2006) School Cell Phone Ban Causes Uproar. Associated Press. retrieved on April 3rd from

Dede, C., Salzman, M.C., Loften, R.B., Sprague, D. (1999). Multisensory Immersion as a Modeling Environment for Learning Complex Scientific Concepts. Computer Modeling and Simulation in Science Education

Hestenes, D., Jackson, J. (2003). A Critical Role for Physicists in K-12 Science Education Reform. Arizona State University.

Loftin, R.B. (1997). Hands Across the Atlantic. IEEE Computer Graphics & Applications 17 (2), 78-79.

Networked communities and E-learning Opportunities in Mathematics and Science

How can a networked community could be embedded in the design of authentic learning experiences in math or science?

Part of my ETEC 533 course is to examine networked communities, such as Second Life (as an example of a multipersion world simulation), using resources such as PBS Nova Adventures (which provides the ability to hold virtual field trips), and Western’s Integrated Laboratory Network (which allows students to complete a variety of lab experiments online). What these different systems have in common is that they provide a simulation of a real-life learning experience, accessed through the internet.

One immediate question I have is, do these networked communities have any value?  This question is relevant because before one can decide on the "How" one really needs to engage the "Why" question.

It is hotly debated for example whether Second Life is in fact a useful teaching tool1.  Having explored Second Life myself, it seems to me that with proper preparation (read here a LOT of time) one could construct a number of simulations for this faux-world that students could explore.  One could easily represent socio-dynamics and economics using Second Life, but as for Mathematical applications, I think these might be few and far between, and end up being contrived.  There are a number of science communities formed within the Second Life platform, which from a cursory inspection seem to have educational value.  Our instructor had us run through a tour of an astronomical observatory, and although I’ve seen better simulations of the solar system, the ability to communicate live with other students about the simulation probably makes this a valuable learning experience.

The discussion in class of the Integrated Laboratory Network (ILN) brought up some useful points.  The first point, brought up by Nancy was that the fact that the lab time needed to be booked ahead of time meant she really felt like she had to be prepared.  A number of other students in my class agreed with this point, and it would be interesting to see if this effect would happen in a high school settings since of course the preparation would involving learning.  Another valid point, brought up by Ian, was that the simulation felt more like "following a recipe instead of doing science", suggesting that the experiment wasn’t as valuable as a result.  Another student, Tris, reflected that at his school the design portion of a lab was an extremely important part of the experimental process.  My thought was that the use of this equipment physically would be extremely unlikely at the high school level and that if a student created an experiment which required highly specialized equipment, an ILN might be the only way to do it.

As for the simulated field trips, one of the greatest values I can see here is the ability to "explore" a location which is otherwise inaccessible.  I can imagine a time in the not-too-distance future where students would be able to book time using a highly durable robot, and explore Antarctica or Mars, both of which are places that are either extremely expensive or improbable places to visit.  Already there are excellent video field trips of many places in our world which are highly fascinating and learning rich experiences.  One obvious flaw with a virtual field trip is the lack of a tactile experience.  Without taste, smell and touch, the experience would be sensory deprived.

Of these three examples, it seems that only Second Life has a true social learning aspect built into its design.  An ILN or a virtual field trip really lacks that social context which benefits the learning for so many of our students.  It will be fascinating when computer processing becomes powerful enough to allow for multiple users to experience a virtually life-like simulation of a place caught on camera only.  When this happens, and if the people can communicate during the experience, then social learning affordances will be relevant to this type of learning.

Now suppose we wanted to design an actual classroom learning experience which would use one of these tools.  The easiest to do this for would be the ILN, since it has been specifically designed to be an instructional aid for laboratory science.  One would have students design detailed experiments, and then have a wide variety of different tools available to them to complete their experiments, through the use of the Integrated Laboratory Network.  Students would have to discuss their experiments ahead of time and reflect on their experiments afterward to allow for a social context for the activity.

To use the Second Life platform effectively, I think that a simulation could be constructed for the students to access, and then students would be given free reign to experiment within the science simulation (the orbiting of the planets seems like a good example for instance) and discuss their discoveries.  One would lack much control over the specific information learned by any particular student, but it could be a valuable learning experience, particularly for the students who need help visualizing three dimensional objects.

The virtual field trips would allow for hostile locations to be examined by students.  For example one could use footage of an exploration of the deep sea bed and show students how even in an hostile environment, life thrives.  This would make for an excellent learning opportunity in a biology classroom.

None of the resources we have been shown looks like it would be useful for a mathematics classroom without an enormous amount of preparation.  One could imagine that one could show a highly specialized simulation of a concept which involves a fair bit of mathematics, but it seems to me that any such simulations would be too contrived to be useful learning activities.

It is clear that there are uses of these networked communities within education, and even within science education there are opportunities for powerful learning to occur through these communities.  One doesn’t have to look very hard to find examples of things in science worth learning which are for various reasons completely inaccessible for students (imagine setting up a virtual black hole for students to look at for instance).  For this reason alone, I think these network communities are worth exploring, but I think that the inclusion of community needs to be stronger in most of these online systems (Second Life excluded) as this will allow for a strengthening of the learning opportunities available.


  1. Aldritch, C. (2006) Second Life is Not a Teaching Tool, accessed from on March 31st, 2009.
  2. Cancilla, D. A., Albon, S. P. (In Press) Moving the Laboratory Online: Challenges and Options, Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks.


How can Geogebra be used to help students understand and visualize mathematics problems?

In your inquiry e-folio, reflect upon knowledge representation and information visualization based on your post above and the discussion it generated with your peers. Ensure that you refer to the software you chose to explore.

In my ETEC 533 class, we are in the middle of a really cool unit, and our task of this unit was to share a digital learning tool or resource with everyone else in the class.  I chose to share an open source geometry program I have used a lot, Geogebra.  Unfortunately my post has yet to generate any discussion, possibly because of the large number of other geometry packages available, and the therefore limited interest in this particular one.

This handy geometry package is free, cross platform, and very easy to use. It allows for the creation of geometric objects, which have various properties (including position, color, size, etc…) and which can be either a dependent or an independent object.  Independent objects can have associated dependent objects, and when you modify the independent object, the dependent geometric object is modified as well.

For example, suppose we created two points in the plane as independent objects, and then created an associated line through the two points as a dependent object.  When we move the position of either of the two points the line will change to match this movement.  This allows students to end up with a deeper understanding of the relationship between geometric objects.

This program is very flexible, and can be used to show simple geometric relationships (like for instance the geometric fact that the sum of the interior angles of a triangle is 180 degrees) to very complex geometric properties (the limit of the sum of rectangles which approximate the area underneath a curve is equal to the exact area under the curve).  Geogebra is then therefore useful in a wide variety of different contexts and branches of mathematics.

When students are using dynamic geometry software, such as Geogebra, they invariably end up with a deeper understanding of the material (Pütz 2001).  This is probably because they are given a strong visual representation of the object, that comes associated with a more tactile impression that comes with using the mouse to move and adjust the object.  Obviously there is a "wow" factor involved in the use of any new program, where the students are engaged with an activity simply because it is new, but it has been my experience that the use of these geometry packages ends up leading to a long lasting understanding of geometry.

Another advantage of Geogebra is that it allows the user to export the current file into a web ready format (a java applet) which can then be uploaded to a web server.  This provides the ability for students and teachers to discuss and analyze each other’s work, and allows for the creation of a social discussion about the work. 

Geogebra also allows a "construction protocol navigation bar" to be added to the file, which means that users can step the geometric construction process, one piece at a time.  This is a tremendous advantage of Geogebra as it allows a user observing someone else’s work to have some insight into the process they went through to create it. 

Geogebra allows students to actively and through the sharing of the work online, socially construct an understanding of geometry.  This program allows for simple visualizations of possibly complex geometric concepts, and helps enhance a student’s understanding of those concepts.


Pütz, C. (2001). Teaching Descriptive Geometry: Principles and Effective Methods Demonstrated by the Example of Monge Projection, XV Conference on Graphics, Sao Paulo Brazil, November 5-9, 2001.

Hannafin, Robert D. & Scott, Barry N. (2001). Teaching and Learning with Dynamic Geometry Programs in Student-Centered Learning Environments. Computers in the Schools, 17 (1), 121-141. Retrieved March 18, 2009, from

20 reasons not to use a one to one laptop program in your school (and some solutions)

We have a 1 to 1 program right now at the school I’m at, and there are a lot of problems with it.  Initially I was for the program, but I am becoming more and more against it, especially with the current way our program is run.  Let me list the problems I’ve discovered so far:

  1. Classroom management while students are "taking notes with their computers" is an issue.  I think installing a gigantic mirror at the back of the classroom would be ideal.
  2. Classroom management issues while the students are supposed to be working on exercises using the CD version of their textbook, or a calculator emulator, when in fact they are searching the internet deciding what shoes they are going to buy on the weekend.
  3. MSN Messenger, Skype, Google Chat, etc… name your poison here.
  4. Transition times between activities increase as you wait for the students to reboot/boot their computer, plug in their power cord, comb their hair etc…
  5. Exceptionally slow internet at our school since every student is actively connected to the internet all the time.
  6. Our wireless hotspots only support 15 active connections.  We have as many as 26 students in a class.  You do the math.
  7. Students don’t maintain their computers properly, leading to the spreading of malware, viruses, etc… through USB sticks.
  8. Since some students have malware installed, our network takes a hit as it has to defend itself against internal intruder programs searching the local network for active ports.  Every day I have 10-12 port scans that my firewall blocks.
  9. Students don’t keep their software up to date.
  10. Students don’t even keep the right software on their computer.  Equation editor is SUPPOSED to be standard in M$ Word, but hey some students have got it uninstalled… heck some students don’t even have a word processor on their computer.
  11. Students don’t have the same software on their computers.  For example, I have seen Firefox 2, Firefox 3, Safari 2, Safari 3, Internet Explorer 6, Internet Explorer 7, Google Chrome, Opera in action, all at the same time, in the same class.
  12. Students don’t know how to do "fill in the blank" on their computer, so class time is spent trouble-shooting rather than on instruction.
  13. Laptops are stolen, about 3% of them each semester.  Combination of laisse-faire attitude by students and poor security at the school.
  14. Students forget their laptops/power cords/brains at home/in locker/in canteen
  15. Three different operating systems in use.  Yes, some students are using Linux.
  16. Of the three distinctly different operating systems in use there are 3 flavours of Windows, 2 of Linux, and 3 of MAC currently in use.  Now I’m supposed to be an expert on all 8 of these flavours and plan my lessons for minor incompatibilities between them because why?
  17. "I just need to print out X for my Y class.  Can I go do it now during your [unimportant] lesson?"
  18. Students forget passwords, even for their own computers at times.  The most common one for the students to forget is the one for the wireless or for my classroom blog.
  19. The laptops are heavy.  Textbooks are heavy.  Some of my students have back problems already at an early age from carrying too much to and from school.
  20. Most teachers lack training on how to use the 1 to 1 program effectively.  We need time to be trained in optimal pedagogical techniques involving the use of technology, provided with classroom management strategies, and shown with some proof that the technology is worth using.

There are some simple solutions to these problems.

  1. Don’t let the students buy their own computers.  Either buy all of the computers for the students or require them to buy a specific model.  They need to be using exactly the same software, hardware, etc… 

    This is less important now that more applications are on the web or cross platform.
  2. Make the school in charge of installing software on the student computers.  This works better if they are actually the school’s computers and you are renting them out to the students for the year.  This way you can ensure that no games, chat programs, peer to peer file sharing programs, http proxy tunnel clients, etc… get installed on their computers. 

    This approach is too top-heavy. Recommendation instead is to make sure that teachers are aware of these issues, and then have them focus on effective teaching; which means helping students learn about appropriate timing.
  3. Have a way for the teacher to turn off access to the internet when they need.  Could be as simple as a light switch which turns off the nearest wireless box (have one wireless box per room, configure it to a minimum radius, maximum number of active connections).

    This seems kind of crazy now. So many of the applications we use are online. 

  4. Don’t use Windows until they can prove that it is as secure as the other Unix based systems.  Go with Linux and a bunch of open source software, or go for Mac and pay through the nose, either way works.

    We’ve had many less problems with viruses here at my current school, so I think that either virus protection software has gotten better, or Windows 7 is much more secure than Windows XP.

  5. Have some common sense when planning the layout of your classrooms.  Install electricity outlets in convenient locations, either right in the tables the students are using or on the floor.  Make sure there are enough outlets to go around.  Heck, put an ethernet cable port right next to each outlet and forget about wireless all together.

    I still agree with this one. Plan ahead. I think robust wireless networks have gotten easier to set up, and so the ethernet cables are less necessary. Still, it took us almost 6 months to get our wireless network stable.

  6. Make sure students are all given training on how to most effectively use their computers.  It is the job of a school to help students learn how to use these powerful devices, but to be honest, the typical classroom teacher isn’t up to the job, and they’ll be the first to admit it.  This training should happen in an information technology course taught as a core subject.  Each student should take this course each year they are in school.

    We integrate technology at my current school without too many issues. We are focusing on teacher training on how to use the technology which seems to be making a difference.

  7. Have a specialist who’s job it is to trouble shoot the computers and make sure they are all running smoothly.  Have students see this specialist outside of class time if possible.

    I agree with having a specialist around, but wonder, if a student’s paper wasn’t working, would we let them suffer until the end of the day to get it working again? If it’s a critical tool for learning, it needs to be working.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a strong supporter of technology in the classroom.  I think there are some very powerful, very useful ways it can be used.  However I don’t think it is being used effectively at our school, and I often wish I had the power to can the whole program and start over again, implementing some of my suggestions above. Update: At my current school, I think we are working on improving our use of technology, and for quite a lot of people, it is being used effectively. Obviously, there is always room for improvement.

Update: I wrote this post nearly 4 years ago, when I worked in a very different school, and my own pedagogical approach was different. I think that battery life of computers has improved a lot since I wrote this, mitigating some of the issues, and that I see these more as learning experiences for students and teachers. With more applications being web based (and more applications supporting a wide variety of users), standardization of device and browser is a lot less important as well. Further, students will have these same issues after they leave school, so it is somewhat better for them to have them in school, where they can get some support for later in life.

Questions about Edelson

To help me remember this issue for later, I’ve decided to explicitly post my responses to these questions in my blog.  Those of you who are not interested in my personal responses to a reading for my ETEC 533 course can safely ignore this posting.  🙂

  • Based on the reading, what broader educational challenges have provoked the author to do this research?
    According to the author, teachers are "being asked to teach more content more effectively" and at the same time being required "[that] inquiry to play a much more prominent role in science learning". (Edelson 2000).  This is an issue because both of these requirements of teaching take up more classroom time in a traditional classroom, and Edelson (2000) says that "[t]raditional science teachers often perceive these demands as unachievable."
  • What is the author’s theory of learning?
    Based on this quote, "Learning takes place through the construction and modification of knowledge structures." (Edelson 2000), I suggest that this author is essentially a constructivist where the essential definition of constructivism I am using here is "learning is an active process of constructing rather than acquiring knowledge" as suggested by Duffy, T., Cunningham, D.J. (1996)
  • What are the pedagogical design principles that shaped the development of the WorldWatcher?
    According to Edelson (2000), there are four design principle’s in the development of the WorldWatcher:

    1. "…learning is the process of constructing new knowledge structures and forging new connections between knowledge structures in an interconnected web…"
    2. "…learning can be consciously monitored and directed through metacognitive processes…"
    3. "…knowledge is retrieved based on contextual cues…"
    4. "…an individual must have procedural knowledge that enables him to apply that declarative knowledge, or he must be able to transform it into procedural knowledge…"

    The following table created by Edelson (2000) summarized the pedagogical considerations in the creation of the "Learning-for-use" model.

  • Explain the reasons for integrating digital technology as a key part of this learning experience.
    "WorldWatcher was designed to bring the power of scientists’ computational tools to learners" (Gordin & Pea, 1995).
  • How are the pedagogical principles reflected in the design strategies suggested?
    There are 6 phrases or words Edelson (2000) uses to describe the fundamental principles used: "Create demand, Elicit curiosity, Observe, Communication, Reflect, and Apply".  Each of these words appears to lead to an activity used to satisfy this criteria in the WorldWatcher’s program.  A major component of all of these criterion in the program is that computer related technology is used to make the implementation easier.

The second article we were told to read (Learning-for-Use in Earth Science: Kids as Climate Modelers) started off as largely a rehash of this article.  This is probably due to the influence of Edelson as the author of the first article, and a co-author of the second.  However, it then diverses to describe a piece of research by the authors.  First they pretested some 8th grade students on their understanding of the relationship between Earth orbiting around the sun while rotating on its axis, and the seasons on Earth.  Following this, they used some software called the "Planetary Forecaster" to help the students understand this relationship, and finally they post tested the students on their understanding.  Not surprisingly, they discovered that most students understanding of the changing of the seasons had improved dramatically.  A major flaw apparent to me in this research is a lack of a control group, wherein some students are taught using more tradional methods, and some students are taught using their software.  This aside, the software seems very interesting and probably is responsible for a positive effect on the students’ understanding given what appear to be solid design principles.

What both articles have in common is that they are looking at the use of technology to assist in the understanding of geographic principles of Earth.  Students are given training in the use of specialized technology, which is used as a tool in this instance, and guided toward an understanding.  Although the authors claim to be used constructivist methods, it seems apparent that the lessons used are much too guided to allow for true constructivism on the part of the students.  It seems clear to me that the students own prior knowledge is not being used to guide the learning process, and that the direction of the lessons are much too focused.  I don’t mean to say that this is necessarily a bad thing, it is my experience that without sufficient guidance, students will wander aimlessly.


Duffy, T., Cunningham, D.J. (1996). Handbook of research for educational communications and Technology. Association for Educational Communications and Technology.

Edelson, D.C. (2001). Learning-for-use: A framework for the design of technology-supported inquiry activities. Journal of Research in Science Teaching,38(3), 355-385.

Edelson, D., Salierno, C., Matese, G., Pitts, V., and Sherin B. (2002). Learning-for-Use in Earth Science: Kids as Climate Modelers. National Association for Research on Science Teaching, April, paper presented in New Orleans

Gordin, D.N., & Pea, R.D. (1995). Prospects for scientific visualization as an educational technology. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 4, 249-279.

Preliminary results for survey on technology training

A couple of days ago I posted a Google form asking one simple question.

Estimate how many hours of technology related training occur at your school each year.

After only 2 days up, I’ve received 30 responses, which seem to be from a wide variety of different schools, and almost all of which are from people I’ve never met before.  The preliminary results are posted below, as well excerpts from the comments added by the people completing the surveys.

Number of hours of training Number of respondents
Less than 5 hours 16
5 hours – 10 hours 5
10 hours – 20 hours 1
20 hours – 50 hours 4
More than 50 hours 3

 Some comments below:

  • Training is certainly being offered, but not on a terribly organised basis.  Our head of tech is simply, at present, trying to stimulate more interest.  Training sessions that are setup are poorly attended (3-5 people in general, I’d say).
  • We are fortunate to have a keen staff who want to be trained. We have a marvellous in-house trainer so…it works!
  • There are also other opportunities to receive training at a conference for my subject area, but frequently we are not given permission to attend these conferences due to funding issues or other issues deemed more important than my attendance at one of these conferences. This is called politics.
  • Technology is something [our] school districts love to talk about, but when it comes to spending the money to really get serious…well they would rather fund the football team.
  • Our technology expert was made available to us upon request in order to serve our needs with regard to technology.  This was very useful, as technology training on its own is, in my opinion, quite a waste of time. It’s great to know what’s available, but to spend PD hours en masse to learn about something which you are not immediately going to put into practice is like learning French and having no one to speak to in that language. pretty soon…who remembers?  I had specific questions about setting up projectors and Promethean Boards, and because I learned what I wanted to know, I now regularly use that technology.
  • All tech training is self-administered or self-taught among the 6 staff members at my small school.  Basically, it’s minimal if not non-existent.
  • There is usually 0 hours of organized group technology training at my school. If you need help with an issue, a technician is called in or one of the staff members who is considered a "technology expert" would help. You have to take the initiative to ask for help because it won’t be offered. It’s sad but true.
  • Technology training for teachers is costly in our state. Our national economy is so poor that we no longer have the support of the Feds. As a result I have bought pieces of equipment because I knew the district would not reimburse on  teaching items (overhead projectors and pushcart). I’m lucky to have a job!
  • Dozens of courses are available afterschool but taking classes [is] optional.
  • Mostly focuses on MS Office, electronic gradebook, electronic lesson planning.

What is abundantly clear is that most teachers surveyed are in a school where technology training is lacking.  A recent introductory session on one program used at school took an hour at my school.  I was surprised that more than half of respondents indicated they had such little official training at their school.  At my school we spent an entire PD day where we offered 10 different technology related workshops for teachers to choose from (as well as another 10 non-tech workshops).

Any comments?

What is The Effect of Technology Training for Teachers on Student Achievement?


This paper discusses the importance of teacher training in technology.  One important question is looked at, specifically; does training in technology lead to increased student achievement?  Following a review of current literature in this area, we look at possible answers to this question and reasons why teachers often receive less technology training than they require.


One thing my colleagues are always complaining about when it comes to technology is a lack of adequate training in how to use technology.  A common complaint at every school I have worked at has been about how teachers are given technology to use, some of it very expensive, and not given enough training to use the technology effectively.  This is a complaint that many people in our class discussions have brought up.  A useful question to ask then is, how much of a difference does training teachers to use technology make on the performance of their students?  Assuming that student performance, however it is measured, is linked to teacher preparation, we can hypothesize that there is a relationship between training teachers how to use technology effectively, and student achievement.

Review of Current Literature

An important part of answering this question is addressing the issue of how well educational research is done in the area of technology since we need to know how good the tools are that will be used to answer this question.  Kozma (2000) discusses this issue and decides that much work needs to be done improving our current educational research practices.  He emphasizes that "Perhaps it is the paradigm rather than the researchers or the user community that needs to change."   This suggests that we need to look at how we do educational research differently but the existing ways in which we collaborate are functional.

According to Cradler, J., Freeman, M., Cradler, R., McNabb, M. (2002),"A careful review of studies shows that more than the specific technology or software used, the context in which technology is applied is critical to the educator."  The authors suggest that when training teachers to use technology in the classroom, one should focus on how the technology is useful, rather than which technology is most useful.  This seems to me to be true, except that the typical level of comfort with technology that teachers have is low enough that theory will be of no use to teachers without specific examples to draw upon and learn about.  Therefore, training sessions should be used for a balance between practical hands-on examples and the theory behind the use of technology.

To paraphrase Brand, G. A. (1997) teacher training, in the area of technology especially, should:

"be flexible, take into account various needs, [provide] provisional support, be developed collaboratively,  include remuneration and teacher recognition, be sustained, be linked to educational objectives, provide intellectual and professional stimulation with a clear administrative message."

These traits seem to be true of any professional development but especially so for technology training given that only "20% of teachers feel comfortable using technology" (Cradler et al. 2002).

One way to help ensure the successful implementation of a technology training plan, as suggested by Williams, L. A.; Atkinson, L. C.; Cate, J. M. & OHair, M. J. (2008), is to operate within a learning community environment.  Rather than operate with "top-down leadership that hinders collaboration and professional learning" schools should "creat[e] technology enriched learning communities, where technology was used as an effective tool that is tightly linked to content standards and seamlessly integrated into ongoing classroom instruction." (Williams et al 2008).  In such a learning community members work collaboratively to decide on technology policy and learn how to implement it.

Another important thread that came up in our discussions was the amount of time devoted to technology training for teachers.  According to a study by Swan, B., & Dixon, J. (2006) "mathematics teachers need continuous and relevant training and support, especially when teachers are teaching out-of-field or are new to the profession."   This is true of any teacher, especially new teachers.

Now that we have established what is necessary in order to make the necessary teacher training work, we need to look at how this training affects student learning.  A high school principal mentions in Williams et al. (2008) that with "her low socioeconomic status students … She observed increases in attendance and decreases in discipline problems in classrooms in which teachers were integrating technology with authentic teaching and learning."  Such anecdotal evidence, while heart warming, should be examined next to an analysis of data. 

In a contextually limited study, Brush, T.A. (1997) discovered that when cooperative learning is used with integrated learning systems modest gains are made in student comprehension.  He also noticed that "[i]n the cooperative group, 85% responded that they believed the computer math lessons helped them with their math classwork" suggesting a link between the social use of technology and higher self-evaluation of one’s work.

When examining the factors influencing the use and implementation of technology related to student success, Baylor, A. L. & Ritchie, D. (2002) discovered "…a strong positive relationship between teachers who had a higher degree of openness to change and the impact of technology on students’ higher-order thinking skills."  In other words, having a teacher who was willing to experiment with technology was a strong indicator of positive student learning.  This is interesting because it is unclear whether technology training would either reduce or increase experimentation.

Experimentation with technology might be increased because of improved self-confidence of the teachers related to training (Cradler et al. 2002).  It could also be decreased because technology training is almost always done by presenting different tools to the user and the teacher may end up limiting their choices to the options presented.  In this case technology training might actually be a hindrance to student success.

After discussing this issue of technology use in the classroom with my classmates in ETEC 533, a common thread has emerged.  Technology use in the classroom should be supported by sound pedagogical techniques and planning.  This view is supported by Schacter, J., and Fagnano, C. (1999) who make the same assertion.  They add "…that teachers, administrators, policymakers, and parents need to understand the learning theories and principles around which the technology is designed in order to select and implement appropriate technologies that will have a significant impact on student achievement."  So in order to make sound decisions about how and why one should use technology in the classroom, one must be trained. 

Schacter, J., and Fagnano, C. (1999) analyzed meta studies of different ways technology could be incorporated into student learning and discovered that computer based instruction has been shown to "moderately improve student learning."  Using computer support collaborative learning, Schacter, J., and Fagnano, C. (1999) discovered through their meta-analysis shows "…significant improvement in the inquiry cycle…" of student learning.  Since this is a higher order skill, one would expect this is a result of increased comprehension.

However Lesgold (2000) notes that "[technology use] may fail either because the new possibility afforded by technology is not realized in classroom practice or because the infrastructure of the school does not allow the technology to facilitate improvements."  So just because a school attempts to use technology does not guarantee that they will see improvement in student learning.  Lesgold (2000) recognizes that places which already have strong technology support are often where studies showing improved student scores are done, and may not be indicative of the typical school environment.

Lesgold (2000) makes another important observation which is relevant to our discussion.  He points out that standardized tests are often used to measure student learning, and that valuable technology experiences may not be represented by this form of assessment.  He uses the ability to "write a really good report, which may take several days" as an example of a skill not easily captured by a standardized test.  In order to therefore justify our assertion that student understanding has been improved, we need to look at a variety of assessments.  Lesgold (2000) also suggests using expert analysis of school performance factors as an alternative to standardized testing.

We would also like to show that the use of technology has a positive effect on students’ ability to think critically.  Newman,D.R., Johnson,C., Webb,B. Cochrane, C. (1995) measured levels of critical thinking demonstrated by students using educational technology by using student questionnaires and a sophisticated content-analysis technique. 

The questionnaires were useful as a self-evaluation of the students’ critical thinking skills.  The content-analysis method seemed a bit subjective in the sense that the researchers interpreted statements made by the students as either exhibiting evidence of critical thinking or not.  However it seems like one of the only ways to measure this difficult to capture skill. 

Both of these techniques, according to Newman,D.R et al. (1995) "showed evidence of similar amounts of critical thinking in both face-to-face seminars and computer conference discussions" and the content analysis showed that "…overall learn depth of critical thinking was higher when learning took place [using technology]."


So to summarize, we can see that in order for technology training to be successful, we have to provide ample time for sustainment of the training, and plan our training to meet the needs of the diverse group of educators present in schools.  We also need to be considering the environment in which the technology is to used and tailor the approach depending on a variety of factors, including previous levels of adoption of technology and the likelihood of continued support for the new technology.

However if this falls into place, and technology is used in a sensible, pedagogically sound way, numerous studies suggest that it can help with improving student retention and understanding of material.  A variety of reasons exist why this happens, with some studies reviewed pointing to increased student engagement, improved collaboration between students, and more effective tools for demonstrating information.


Antonijevic, R. (2007), Usage of Computers and Calculators and Students Achievement: Results from TIMSS 2003, Online Submission.

Baylor, A. L. & Ritchie, D. (2002), What factors facilitate teacher skill, teacher morale, and perceived student learning in technology-using classrooms?, Computers & Education 39(4), 395–414.

Brand, G. A. (1997), What Research Says: Training Teachers for Using Technology, Journal of Staff Development 19(1).

Brush, T.A. (1997), The Effects on Student Achievement and Attitudes When Using Integrated Learning Systems with Cooperative Pairs, Educational Technology Research and Development, 45(1)

Cradler, J. & Bridgeforth, E. (2005), Recent Research on the Effects of Technology on Teaching and Learning,

Cradler, J., Freeman, M., Cradler, R., McNabb, M. (2002), Research Implications for Preparing Teachers to Use Technology, Learning & Leading with Technology 30(1)

Cradler, J.; Mcnabb, M.; Freeman, M. & Burchett, R. (2002), How does technology influence student learning?, Learning and Leading 29(8), 46–49.

Daugherty, M. K. (1993), Mathematics, Science, and Technology Teachers Perceptions of Technology Education, Journal of Technology Education 4(2).

Erminia Pedretti, J. M. (1998). Technology, text, and talk: Students’ perspectives on teaching and learning in a technology-enhanced secondary science classroom. Science Education, 82(5), 569-589.

Glenn, A. D. (1997), ‘Technology and the Continuing Education of Classroom Teachers’, Peabody Journal of Education 72(1), 122–128.

Gonen, S.; Kocakaya, S. & Inan, C. (2006), The Effects of the Computer Assisted Teaching and 7E Model of the Constructivist Learning Methods on the Achievements and Attitudes     of High School Students, Online Submission.

Kozma, R. (2000), Reflections on the state of educational technology research and development, Educational Technology Research and Development 48(1), 5–15.

Lesgold, A. (2000), Determining the effects of technology in complex school environments, SRI International, Menlo Park, CA, 34–39.

Li, Q. (2005), Infusing technology into a mathematics methods course: any impact?, Educational Research Vol. 47(Issue 2), p217–p233.

Li, Q. E. (2005), Mathematics and At-Risk Adult Learners: Would Technology Help?, Journal of Research on Technology in Education 38(2), 143–166.

Maninger, R. M. (20061001), Successful Technology Integration: Student Test Scores Improved in an English Literature Course through the Use of Supportive Devices, TechTrends: Linking Research and Practice to Improve Learning 50(5), p37 – 45.

Mitchell, B.; Bailey, J. L. & Monroe, E. (2007), Integrating Technology and a Standards-Based Pedagogy in a Geometry Classroom: A Mature Teacher Deals with the Reality of Multiple Demands and Paradigm Shifts, Computers in the Schools 24, p75 – 91.

Newman,D.R., Johnson,C., Webb,B. Cochrane, C. (1995), Evaluating the Quality of Learning in Computer Supported Co-Operative Learning, Journal of the American Society for Information Science. 48(6):484–495

Quellmalz, E. S. & Kozma, R. (2003), Designing assessments of learning with technology., Assessment in Education 10(3), 389–405.

Reznichenko, N. (2007), Learning with Graphing Calculator (GC): GC as a Cognitive Tool, Online Submission.

Schacter, J., & Fagnano, C. (1999). Does Computer Technology Improve Student Learning and Achievement? How, When, and under What Conditions?. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 20(4), 329-43. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. EJ603784) Retrieved February 13, 2009, from ERIC database.

Shacter, J. & Fagnano, C. (1999), EBSCOhost: Does Computer Technology Improve Student Learning and Achievement? How, When and under What Conditions?, Journal of Educational Computing Research 20(4), 329–343.

Swan, B., & Dixon, J. (2006). The effects of mentor-supported technology professional development on middle school mathematics teachers’ attitudes and practice. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education [Online serial], 6(1).

Williams, L. A.; Atkinson, L. C.; Cate, J. M. & OHair, M. J. (2008), Mutual Support Between Learning Community Development and Technology Integration: Impact on School     Practices and Student Achievement, Theory Into Practice 47(4), 294–302.

Zhiting, Z. (2003), Teachers Professional Development in Technology-Pedagogy Integration: Experiences and Suggestions from China.




What would be an ideal pedagogical design of a technology enhanced learning experience for math and/or science?

Assignment as follows:

In response to Kozma (example article) and the above questions, create your own personal, short statement on an ideal pedagogical design of a technology-enhanced learning experience for math and/or science.

As I think about this problem, I am considering the following variables which influence my ideal design.

  • Students are social creatures.  Learning that happens within a social context is much more likely to be lasting and valuable. Students should therefore be working together.
  • Technology is a valuable tool we can use to help us with our lessons.  It is not a replacement for well designed lessons.  Therefore our lesson must have a back-up plan in case the technology fails, and the technology should not be the exclusive focus of the lesson.
  • Knowledge is generally constructed within a context.  In other words, students add new things they learn within the context of what they know.   We can use technology to help with this process, for example students could include what they work on as part of an e-portfolio, which would help them keep track of what they have learned.  If they also tag each item they add to their electronic portfolio, then they can be simultaneous categorizing their discoveries as well as cementing the connections each topic has with what they already know.
  • At the end of the day, we want the students to have learned something about mathematics or science, and what they learn about technology should not be the focus of the lesson.  The mathematical or scientific concept to be learned should be one that is condusive to learning through technology.
  • Like most good lessons, the focus of the lesson should be on what the students can do, and not what the teacher can say.  So an ideal lesson would involve the teacher avoiding the ‘sage on the stage’ role and become more of a resource manager.

An example of an technology-enhanced lesson would be the following:

  1. Before the students enter the room, the teacher has used some simple network tools (like Remote Desktop for example) to set up all of the computers in the room so they are ready to go.
  2. Student enter the room and sit in their assigned seats, and are quickly briefed, either in electronic form or by the teacher, on what the objectives are for the day.  During the lesson, students keep track of bookmarks to things they discovered and/or created during the lesson.
  3. Students self gather into small groups and begin to digest the information given to them.  Basically they read and reread the problem they are presented so that they understand it.
  4. Using tools they have learned in previous classes and any other suggested tools presented by the teacher, students begin to plan an investigation into a mathematical or scientific phenomena.  While this is going on, both students record notes while chatting with other about what their plan of action will be.  The teacher circulates around the room at this stage and gives advice on what might work, and what might not.
  5. Students try out their chosen plan of action, and the teacher supports each plan and provides assistance where necessary.  Students make sure to electronically record their observations.
  6. Students discuss with each other using an online public forum what they discovered.  Teacher joins and guides the discussion.  Each student logs their participation in the discussion.
  7. Students write a quick summary of what they have learned, and use the bookmarks to their various resources they have gathered to create a mash-up of what they learned in class that day.
  8. Once the students leave, the teacher examines what each student has produced (using an RSS feed or similar technology) and writes down his/her own observations on the class, and decides how he/she will either refocus the next lesson, or move onto new material.
  9. At the end of the semester, each student’s e-Portfolio is used as a primary assessment of what the student has learned.


Which definition of technology or metaphor for technology appeals to you and why?

My ETEC 533 instructor provided us with some quotes which describe ways we can define technology.  The question is really, what is technology, and what is a useful metaphor for describing technology.  I think you can’t really separate the two from each other given a constructivist point of view.  Basically, in order to define something, anything, we use a metaphor to explain how this definition fits into what we already know.

Okay enough pre-amble.  Here’s the definition/metaphor that resonated most with me.

"Feenburg (1999, 2003) suggests that technology is the medium of daily life in modern societies. His impression is that technology is humanly controlled and value-laden just like a social institution." – summarized by my instructor from Feenburg, A.  (2003).  Questioning technology.  New York, NY: Routledge.

The idea to me is this.  We decide as a society what we consider technology and what we do not.  If a school decides they want to spend more on their technology budget, they aren’t going to go out and buy a bunch of fax machines, photocopiers and overhead projectors.  This isn’t what schools generally mean by ‘technology’.  Schools who want to increase their use of technology are talking about cutting-edge technology, stuff that is relatively new.  They don’t actually mean those older things which for the most part no one considers technology anymore.  I’ve mentioned this before on this blog and it seems to me to be a common theme for my course, but I’ll say it again:  If it is ubiquitous and reliable as a toaster, it’s no longer considered technology.

I wasn’t sure what is meant by medium of daily life in this context so I had to go read Feenburg’s description of his book to figure it out.  Basically, he suggests that every once in a while a cultural upheaval happens, and the way society views the world shifts.  Our currently evolving view of technology is just one of those shifts.  In his book, Feenberg argues that technology has become how we live our life, rather than a tool we use in our life.  I’m not in complete agreement with him on this one, but I would agree that hardly anyone (in the 1st or 2nd world) could go a day without using some sort of pretty advanced technology, and maybe our reliance on technology isn’t such a good thing.

Anyway, I see technology as that which would have been magic 10 years ago.  If it was around 10 years ago, probably today most people take it for granted.  Under this perspective, computers in a school computer lab aren’t really technology anymore, it’s the web browsers running on them and the software they run that really control of what they are capable.  People make choices about what should be on those computers based on sociological factors.