The Challenge to Situate Digital Learning Technologies in Preservice Teacher Mathematics Education

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Published: 
Oct. 01, 2012

Source: Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 12(4), 355-368. (2012)
(Reviewed by the Portal team)

This article focuses on how preservice primary teachers can be supported to embrace digital learning technologies (DLTs) in their teaching of mathematics.

Method
The participants were seventy nine third-year bachelor of education students, aged between 20 and 50+ years.
The study was carried out at the Brisbane campus of the Australian Catholic University.
All mathematics content and pedagogy tutorials are conducted in the mathematics laboratory, which is equipped with seven standalone networked computers, a data projector, and a Smartboard with a number of mathematics-specific software programs.

Students were exposed to digital learning technologies during both the lectures and the tutorials of the third year bachelor of education unit.
The author used a communal constructivism environment (Holmes, Tangney, Fitzgibbon, Savage, & Meehan, 2001) as the framework to implement the unit EDMA310, so that the students and I could work together to develop understandings about the potential and practical application of readily available digital technologies.
Data were collected through pre-questionnaire, based on the questions used by Guy, Qing, and Simanton (2002), and post-presentation reflections.

Discussion and Conclusion

The findings reveal that preservice teachers demonstrated a high degree of initiative.
The majority of students downloaded the 30-day free trial of Fun With Construction, and many of these students then went on to purchase the software.
Some students also found a wealth of tutorials and hints for use of the Smartboards on the website, which they shared with the cohort on their Facebook site.

The most striking result from this study was the increased participant self-reported confidence with using DLTs: from 33% at the commencement of the project to 69% reporting to be very confident or quite confident at the end of the semester.
Another positive finding was deepening of the students’ conceptual knowledge of mathematics and how to deconstruct this knowledge in order to co-construct it with students.
The DLT-based assessment task required that all students reflect on and, to a certain extent, articulate their understandings of big ideas in mathematics rather than become complacent with superficial, procedural, or computational activity.

The frustration felt and vocalized by several students was as much about their lack of ability and knowledge as it was directed at the authors herself and the university.
They were particularly critical about the lack of interactive whiteboards throughout the campus, and the limited access to the interactive whiteboards on campus.
In addition, the students began to recognize the potential of such creative DLTs as a bridge between the use of familiar hands-on materials as representations and abstract representations of mathematical models.
After a time, most students could discriminate between actual hands-on materials and virtual manipulative materials, and recognize the potential of utilizing both in their teaching of mathematics.
Some even reflected on the notion that digital technologies do uniquely what other resources cannot do.
The most notable outcome was when these students realized that they had the capacity to create learning episodes for mathematics that were removed from the prevalent and ever-present worksheet maths.

Furthermore, the students gained confidence after successfully presenting their DLTs to their peers, and their self-efficacy in using technology to teach mathematics increased due to these enactive mastery experiences.
Upon their return to university, during their practicum debrief session, numerous students spontaneously shared their success stories about their use of interactive whiteboards, and other interactive applications they had discovered on the Internet.
This success and enthusiasm was not solely for their teaching of mathematics; they were using DLTs in every subject area they could in order to engage their students and enhance their learning experiences.
The author concludes with the actions being undertaken for next year’s cohort, based on the feedback from the participants in this study:

- Tutorials will use hands-on concrete materials in conjunction with virtual interactive applications, so that students will be explicitly shown how the two are linked and are vital for effective teaching and learning of mathematics.

- The descriptors and criteria for marking of the assessment tasks will be made more explicit in order to focus upon the concept development and interactive nature of the created application.

- Examples of student work will be shown to the new students to illustrate what can be achieved and allow for critical analysis of the applications.

- More use of the Smartboard, Smart notebook, and Fun With Construction will be incorporated into lectures and initial tutorials for the unit.

References
Guy, M., Qing, L., & Simanton, E. (2002). Integrating technology into an elementary mathematics methods course: Assessing the impact on preservice teachers' perceptions to use and teach with technology.
Holmes, B., Tangney, B., Fitzgibbon, A., Savage, T., & Meehan, S. (2001). Communal constructivism: Students constructing learning for as well as with others. In J. Price et al.
(Eds.), Proceedings of Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference 2001 (pp. 3114-3119). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.

Updated: Jan. 13, 2015
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