Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Teaching with Apps and Teaching Apps

One of the challenges faced by teachers today (and probably throughout history in one form or another) is that teaching technology. Often, students need to be taught how to use technology in addition to the subject area. For example, they need to know how to take computerized tests. Also, there are a lot of excellent tech-based teaching tools out there but unless teaching and students know how to use them, everyone can be equipped with the greatest in-class tablets or fantastic lab devices but it won’t do any good. Colleagues of mine put together a lesson plan which uses an app called Geogebra  to teach how to define, evaluate, and compare linear functions.

Geogebra is a nifty little app that can help students visualize how graphs and equations relate to one another. Note that they students still have to do the work the old fashioned way before they can use the app to figure it out. Some advantages this approach has include giving students both visual and hands-on interactions with the problems and whole lesson is structured very well for an “I do, we do, you do” style of scaffolding. Another advantage though, isn’t really related to math or to traditional teaching techniques. By using the app as a tool, the students can learn a little about how apps work in general and that there are more useful functions of a smart phone or tablet than Candy Crush. Realistically, apps are no longer just a way to waste time and show off the capabilities of a prestige item. Being able to navigate an app is becoming an important part of being able to navigate our society.  And this isn’t likely to change. While there are obvious challenges and questions related to teaching technology in the classroom, I think lessons like this one which integrate content and other skills is a way to help students be able to prepare for their futures. 

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