Hooking Students’ Minds With Handheld Devices

All of a sudden, technology in classrooms is undergoing a transformation. But the changes may not be visible at first glance.

The Internet has been around for 17 years or so, interactive white boards are well established in schools, and various forms of touch screen technology have been around for a decade at least. So what’s new now?

Rather like planets aligning and producing a new view of the solar system, three developments in the ICT space are opening up a new vision of what is possible in the classroom. The combination of broadband access to the web, ubiquitous interactive whiteboards and affordable touchscreen devices, allows for learning experiences that simply weren’t available just a few years ago.

This is how the magic happens: hand every student in the class a tablet device, connect them to the resources of the Internet, while demonstrating the same pages on an interactive whiteboard. All of a sudden, the child is in control of their own learning, to an extent never before possible.

Send students to a page that demonstrates equivalent fractions, for example, and let them explore and play with the models presented. What will happen? Students will likely try out crazy ideas. Can you find an equivalent fraction for 5/8? Move the “denominator slider” to the right, starting at 1/16ths, and go right up to 1/96ths! What do you see? Now try it with 6/8 – how is it different?

Learning activities like the one described above are simply not possible with the technology of a previous generation. ICTs, in the hands of the child, allow an engagement, a connection between the device and the student’s mind that helps the child construct understanding of hundreds of topics, in every subject.

I, for one, am excited to be alive at this time when so much is possible through ICTs that are already here. Bett 2013 showcased ideas that no one of us could have imagined, and opened up our imaginations to new possibilities.

Author: Dr Peter Price

Dr Price spent 16 years teaching primary classes, before returning to university to study how students react to physical or ICT representations of maths. He and his wife founded Classroom Professor to produce engaging, excellent resources for teaching maths.

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