Learning and Teaching Technology London Grid for Learning
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01 October 12

Subjects and Skills | Technology LiteracyUsing ICT in Mathematics | Thinking Skills
Bioscope | Thinking WorldsTM | Building Schools for the Future | Futures channel  

1. Aspects of Mathematics

2. Quadratic Function

2.2 Exploring Sequences

2.3 Working in 3D


“It’s 2008 - So what you got to offer, then? -
Using ICT to put learners in touch with mathematics."
Adrian Oldknow

This article is one of a series commissioned by Becta across the curriculum which aims to inform as many teachers as possible about the benefits of using digital learning resources in their teaching. I am delighted to take this opportunity to try to share with you what I see around me as some of the most exciting opportunities to use ICT to stimulate learners’ interests in mathematics.

The article expresses my own personal opinions. It is not intended to criticise any of the valuable developments taken by individuals, groups, organisations and agencies to provide ICT based teaching resources – and I hope it will bring some of what I think are the more interesting aspects of them to a wider audience. It’s just that I’m starting from a different viewpoint – shown in the photographs below!

 becta_1 Al is five and a half years old, and has already completed four terms at primary school - where he is now beginning to use a computer. So my pre-Christmas present for the family was a laptop for use at his home - with which Al has started to explore the interactive world of the BBC’s CBeebies website: cbeebies. Here he is at our house on Christmas morning using the touchpad on my smart Samsung Q45 laptop which he’d never seen before! He is only just starting to read – but seemed to have no trouble working out for himself how to print out puzzles and things to colour in, as well as how to play games (to an infuriating sound track!).
So the first axiom is that we are now truly in a world of “smart learners” who pick up the use of ICT in a way and at a speed which leaves us oldies just staggered – and yet we know this is inevitable from observing them with video recorders and mobile phones! That leads into the second starting point – the technology itself.
My own eyes were opened at last year’s BETT show where Intel revealed their rugged Classmate laptop designed for educational use in developing countries and costing c$200. Now these are being sold in huge numbers to developing countries such as Nigeria and Libya:
click here for more information.

 A more powerful device, the XO – shown recently on BBC news - has been developed by the One Laptop per Child charity and is being distributed in Afghanistan, Cambodia, Haiti, Mongolia and Rwanda this year: click here for more information.

Again costing $200 each, US & Canadian donors can buy two – one for home and one for the charity – and receive a year’s free T-mobile hot-spot access! At this year’s Hand-held Learning conference in October many of the big developers were giving their projections about developments in educational ICT in the next five years.To view the Samsung presentation
click here>>

The clear message is that we are at the cusp of huge changes in ICT power, portability and price.
So I thought it time to catch up with the smart young things and get myself a mobile entertainment device for movies, pictures and music. But I also wanted wireless e-mail, web-browsing, Skype and a camera – and maybe Word, Excel and Powerpoint – and, yes, some maths software too. So I found the baby Sony Vaio. It’s also very much a fully featured Windows Vista Business laptop – shown here running Cabri 3D! So my own Christmas present set me back £700:
click here for more information

Although that little Sony is clearly designed for personal, mobile use, it can be hooked it up to an external display (like a monitor, data projector or large plasma display) and input devices (like a Gyration wireless keyboard and mouse), as well as to an Interactive Whiteboard. So it can be used as the CPU for home/office desk-top working, for professional development sessions with colleagues, and for classroom work with pupils and students. As with any other PC with USB ports, it can also be used with data-capture devices such as sensors and cameras. Another neat gadget soon to hit the market is the ultra-miniature data projector – so watch this space!:
click here for more information.

While on the subject of hardware, two new hand-held devices have recently come on the market. The first to be launched was the RM Asus mini-book – also known as the EeePc. My loan version has a 7-inch screen, a Mobile Celeron 900MHz processor, 512MB of RAM, a 4GB solid state hard drive, 802.11g Wi-Fi, integrated webcam, microphone and speakers plus 3 USB ports and a VGA port for £199. It comes with Linux, and a range of good open source software installed, including Open Office – virtual clones of the core Microsoft Office products – all for free,
as well as a powerful open source dynamic geometry package. Select the link below for more information:

click here>>

My photograph shows it with an Excel spreadsheet file opened, and with an external USB 256 Gb hard drive, a wireless mouse and a Vernier Go Temp! sensor attached to the 3 USB ports. Windows XP versions with larger flash drives are expected to be available in a month or two with prices under £300.

The other hand-held product is called TI-Nspire from Texas Instruments. This resembles a graphical calculator, such as the TI-84 but with a larger screen and a redesigned keyboard. In fact it is a dedicated hand-held computer running a package called TI-Nspire which is also available for use in a Windows PC or hand-held. This works with documents containing a mixture of pages for text, calculations, spreadsheets & lists, graphs & geometry and for statistics. Documents can be developed on a PC and downloaded to hand-held units or vice versa, and exchanged between hand-helds using a mini USB port which can also be used for data-logging with sensors like the temperature probes shown above. There is even an exchangeable keypad shown here which converts the unit into a TI-84. A very attractive introductory offer for teachers is available through
Oxford Educational

The most heartening message from this little foray into techno-forecasting is that we will not need in future to make compromises about the power, flexibility, speed, display and cost of ICT devices. The greatest challenge will be to harness them – inside and outside the school and classroom – in ways which make mathematics an attractive subject to learners and which enable them to achieve satisfaction, enjoyment and success in responding to mathematical challenges.
For some students this may be through the enjoyment of the subject in its own right (the “pure” approach) and for others it may be through the uses of mathematics which make their world “tick” (the “applied” approach). I guess most of us would be very happy if we could get a bit of both into each learner’s life throughout their time at school and/or college! As well as positive changes in the technology we are also entering a period of potentially positive changes in the curriculum and its assessment through which teachers and learners of mathematics should be freer to make their own decisions about approaches. An important aspect of the developing school curriculum is that it should appear to the learners as “joined up”, and that links between subjects are encouraged and developed. One important current aspect of this is the so-called STEM strategy – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics – designed to attract more students to continue studies in areas of major importance to the future national prosperity. So this will form the backdrop against which we will explore some examples of innovative approaches to the use of digital learning resources.


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