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Effective Use of Technology In the Classroom?

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the don't-say-an-apple-for-the-teacher dept.

Education 295

postermmxvicom writes "I remember in college I had one professor who, in addition to being a great teacher, really took advantage of the technology in the classroom to illustrate the concepts for Calculus and Linear Algebra. Well, now I am the teacher. I teach Algebra, AP Calculus, and Physics in high school. This year I have gotten a tablet and a wireless projector. Now I can write on my tablet instead of the board, as well as use other applications. I want to utilize this tech effectively for teaching. Would you please share how you have seen technology effectively used for Math and Physics — either specific software or how that software was used (specific or general)?"

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powerpoint (1)

TOI_0x00 (1088153) | more than 6 years ago | (#20448563)

Well powerpoint is the only thing usefull, my teachers ever used.

Re:powerpoint (5, Funny)

DigitAl56K (805623) | more than 6 years ago | (#20448673)

Well powerpoint is the only thing usefull, my teachers ever used.

Re:powerpoint (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20449413)

Dear grammar guru

I appreciate your correction of my grammar mistakes instead of just calling me an idiot. You are much better than than the rest grammar nazis I've met on slash dot.

Yours sincerely.

Re:powerpoint (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20449529)

It was a joke around the topic of teaching with the aid of Powerpoint. Note the bullet list reply ;)

Re:powerpoint (0)

ThJ (641955) | more than 6 years ago | (#20449639)

Actually, I didn't get that it was a joke either.

Re:powerpoint (0)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 6 years ago | (#20449897)

I appreciate your correction of my grammar mistakes

You are much better than than the rest grammar nazis I've met on slash dot.
"of the" and "slashdot".

You're welcome.

Sounds like a good starting point. (4, Insightful)

khasim (1285) | more than 6 years ago | (#20448677)

So, what is the problem with a blackboard? Be precise.

Then, look at whether the technology will solve that/those problem(s). We're talking math here. Is the technology going to allow you to better explain some difficult concepts or will the focus end up being on the technology?

Blackboards work because blackboards always work. They don't need to be rebooted.

Re:Sounds like a good starting point. (4, Interesting)

RealityMogul (663835) | more than 6 years ago | (#20448857)

He could save his time and the students by prepping his examples, or whatever else he'd write on the board, before school. Then just pull up a saved slide so he doesn't have to spend all that time rewriting it for each class period. Consistent fonts would also mean better readability by the students. Color coding or other text attributes could also contribute to that. Animations would be cool, and maybe explain things better, but I don't think he'd be getting that far into it.

Re:Sounds like a good starting point. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20449163)

That's all pointless. Study pedagogy (or at least sit through a few boring meetings) before giving advice. Slide shows are just about the best way to get students to not engage the material.

Technology has a very limited role in high school physics and mathematics pedagogy. As it happens, a quick blackboard pace is just slow enough to let students critically evaluate the material (with respect to note taking importance), formulate questions, and try to anticipate answers. Go any faster, and all you get is a class full of people fervently copying the slideshow verbatim.

Diagrams/animations can be an exception. If a diagram can be convincingly explained once drawn, and it is complex enough to make using Photoshop or whatever worth the effort, by all means, use a predrawn diagram. Most "interesting" diagrams fail the first condition. Animations, of course, make the first condition moot. But they are rarely worth the effort.

Re:Sounds like a good starting point. (1)

tftp (111690) | more than 6 years ago | (#20449373)

his examples, or whatever else he'd write on the board

He'd write the question first, then some approaches to solution, and then maybe a solution, step by step, explaining everything as he writes it. If you dump a screenful of formulas onto students they'd be just confused. Even when mathematicians and physicists write in magazines for their peers they take care to explain everything that is not obvious (and by that I mean "obvious to professionals working in the field for years".)

As I recall my school years I do not really believe that technology would have improved the teaching of theoretical matters. In many engineering disciplines the "physical meaning" of equations exists only as the input and the output, but everything in between is pure math and abstract operators, of which you just know what they do.

And another note here - "saving time" is not what the teacher is for. If he were to save time, he'd just read a textbook aloud, while students are following him in their own copies of the same textbook. The teacher explains things that the book really means but doesn't say. Some people do not require a teacher, they are fine with a book. But most people study better when a teacher explains and they write it down because that involves a different, active kind of memory. Myself, I remember writing comments on "why and how" where the textbook just said "applying obvious transformations to (3.171) and solving for $foo we get (3.172) which is..." - but the teacher actually went through the motions of reduction and solution so that we also could do it. This way if you studied how a two-port adding circuit works you can design an any-number-of-ports adding circuit, for a simple example. And when someone asks "what will happen if the values of R1, R7 and R13 drift due to the temperature rise from 25C to 125C" you know what to do, and not just stand there like a proverbial deer staring into oncoming headlights.

The problem with powerpoint... (3, Insightful)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 6 years ago | (#20449683)

The problem with powerpoint slides is that someone recently figured out we're not made to read text off a slide and hear someone talk at the same time. We only have enough brain power for one, not for both. If you even try to -- and people instinctively will -- you'll go fuzzy brained and remember neither. So in effect showing powerpoint slides badly, can be in fact worse than not writing anything anywhere.

Now they figured that out for management presentations, and why you come empty-headed from of a presentation you were actually interested in. But I can't come up with any argument as to why it would work better in schools. In fact, it might be outright scary. Using powerpoint instead of a blackboard may well be _the_ most destructive thing one can do.

There are ways to use powerpoint well, like you'd use an overhead projector. E.g., to show charts, relevant illustrations, etc. E.g., in a biology class you could show a picture of a cell's structure as a slide instead of as an overhead projector foil. And leave people time to digest it, instead of forcing them to also take notes at the same time.

But a substitute for a blackboard it ain't. On a blackboard:

A) you're led to follow the current focus of attention, whatever word is currently being written. You don't just get a big word soup to get lost in and out of sync, you get to follow the cursor (hand with chalk) so to speak, at the same time you're hearing it. It works to reinforce what you hear, not to try to split your attention between two different texts.

B) the teacher is only human too, and he too would have trouble if he tried speaking one thing while writing something completely different. So there's a self-reinforcing mechanism to hold prevent it from becoming an attention-splitting device. As a subcase, if he takes some time to explain why he did something to a formula, he won't already start writing the next one.

C) it enforces _some_ structure, because a blackboard is all the space you can get at a time. Which also cuts back on distractions like flipping back and forth between charts. Which is a distraction. Everytime you go "hmm, this one we don't need.. next... nope, this one we'll learn next week... let's see the next one... nah, we don't need that... next... aha, here we are..." that's not just wasted time. That's a bunch of people who've either tried to read it fast and the next minutes will be busy figuring that out instead of what you say next, or (probably most) whose attention and focus went right out the window while you did that little powerpoint dance.

D) well, I hate to be mean to teachers (God knows they have a shitty job already), but it forces them to prepare that material instead of just borrowing someone's slides. And if they didn't know it too well, they'll at least recap it while they write it on the blackboard.

If you will, what I'm saying at points C an D is that I see it as the same as in IT: the better tools and languages we had, the more unqualified monkeys got hired to use them. I'm all for better tools and compilers, don't get me wrong. But in a lot of places the trend wasn't to do more with them, but to lower the baseline for the people hired to use them. And they'll feel the less of a need to learn what they're doing there. After all, the tool will do the thinking for them, right?

The same might just happen in schools. I can see some people (e.g., substitute teachers) going into a class with someone else's powerpoint presentation, but barely knowing what it's about.

Except in IT you have at least some reality check whether it worked or not. If it doesn't compile or doesn't run the test cases, you know you've screwed up. In teaching we might not even know it before we pump out a few generations of complete airheads, for no fault of their own. And for a change I don't mean just the dumb jocks and prom queens, because the powerpoint fuzzy-brain effect applies to nerds interested in that topic too.

Re:Sounds like a good starting point. (1)

aadvancedGIR (959466) | more than 6 years ago | (#20449613)

No, you're wrong, you can sometimes be out of chalk.

Blackboards work because several people can easily interact on it at the same time and its interface is simple enough for 99.9% of the potential users.
High tech works only in a one-to-many lecture when the lecturer had spent some time learning how to properly use the device and a lot of time preparing visual material that takes advantage of it.

Re:Sounds like a good starting point. (1)

Nyh (55741) | more than 6 years ago | (#20449739)

So, what is the problem with a blackboard? Be precise.
Well, a blackboard has so much room on it I can go back some steps, even to the start of a long derivation, without flipping through multiple pages on my beamer. I think it must be very confusing for student having all the information available on the same blackboard. I can just point at the blackboard and say: "You see why we did that back there? Although it seemed a bit strange there, now it has helped us big time to get the result!". This way of using the blackboard might be so clear for students they even may start to understand what you are trying to teach them.


Re:Sounds like a good starting point. (1)

mspohr (589790) | more than 6 years ago | (#20449755)

Reminds me of my second year calculus class at university. The professor would start at the left side of the blackboard writing formulas and talking to the blackboard. As he moved to the right, he held the eraser in his left hand and would erase the formulas on the left. You only had the space between his two hands to read the formulas. Of course his body was in the middle which made it more challenging.

Re:powerpoint (5, Insightful)

FieroEtnl (773481) | more than 6 years ago | (#20448713)

PowerPoint is very useful if the person using that tool uses it correctly. Unfortunately, most people use it incorrectly and write down every single thing that they're planning on saying on a slide. If you're going to do that, students will catch on and just think that they can get by with printing off the notes and skipping class because listening to the teacher will not help them understand the material any better. The catch is, they won't understand it at all. Active learning helps people learn and remember facts and concepts way better than passive reading or listening. That's why the best way to use PowerPoint is as a guide or outline to what you're going to talk about. It forces people to use more than one sense to take everything in, and if they want notes on everything important from the lecture, they have to write it down themselves and actually comprehend it in the first place.

Re:powerpoint (3, Insightful)

belmolis (702863) | more than 6 years ago | (#20448777)

Before even thinking about making a powerpoint presentation, (re)read Edward Tufte's wonderful essay Powerpoint is Evil [] .

Re:powerpoint (4, Interesting)

Technician (215283) | more than 6 years ago | (#20449039)

Well powerpoint is the only thing usefull, my teachers ever used.

Invest in some old fashioned hardware. Hands-on physics teaches a lot of concepts to those who don't quite grasp concepts published in a book. Examples are a bicycle to teach force/displacement/speed relationships. The classic is standing a bike up and asking if the pedal low to the floor is pushed to the rear of the bike, will the cranking force move the bike foreward or will the gearing cause the bike to move backwards in the direction of the force and why?

Students that grasp these concepts early on are the ones to understand the conservation of energy and entropy. They will understand why you can't use a high speed motor of say 1 HP to drive a 1 KW generator fast enough to power the motor and have a few hundred watts of power left over. An electrical load on the generator provides a mechanical load to the motor. This is not over unity creating a perpertual motion machine.

Props such as a hand cranked generator or bicycle driven generator that can be loaded make a serious impression to early students. Cranking 60 watts is work. 300 Watts sustained is very serious work. This leads to an understang of torque/speed/horsepower relationships. Torque or speed is not power. Feeling power generation is better than most any PowerPoint presentation.

After the mechanical presentations, then go into lecture and detail such as going over an electric bill and figuring the typical days power use and how much work is delivered for a dollar.

Power economy and the hand cranked PC scale now come into view. Hand cranking your typical home PC or laptop and Monitor are now seen as beyond pratical. Energy conservation to fit the hand cranked energy budget now become a prime design consideration for future engineers instead of how to hand crank existing tech.

Hand cranking a 2 watt laptop is possible as well as a 60 watt laptop, but the 60 watt laptop isn't pratical as all the time will be spent cranking quite hard.

You were cheated in your physics class if they didn't do the blowgun/falling ball demo or used air hocky tables to show center of mass of spinning objects and conservation of momentium, elastic and inelastic collisions. In the 1970's we shot a lot of film of this on an air hocky table and took measurements from the photographs to calculate displacement of the objects photographed under a strobe light. The hands on stuff was the best.

OS X Graphing Utility (2, Informative)

catchblue22 (1004569) | more than 6 years ago | (#20449157)

I teach AP Calc, and I bring my Macbook Pro to class. I find the Grapher Utility included with OS X to be really cool. I use it as a quick way to show graphs (one of my favorites is y=xe^(1/x)...slant asymptote and interesting behavior at x=0). I can drag the graphs around, and zoom in and out. This is really useful for showing asymptotic behavior for example. You can also create quick pdf versions of the graphs that can be easily be pasted into other word processing software...this makes test creation a lot easier. The output is quite high quality...far better, and easier than using Excel to graph...yech!

But if you don't have a mac, I have seen some really cool looking software that works with tablet pc's (I've forgotten what it is called). You can write all your notes by hand on the tablet, and they show up just as they would on a white board. But then you can save all of your class notes. This is extremely useful if you have some student come to you and say that they need the class notes because they were sick. I haven't personally used it, so I can't totally vouch for its usability, but it seemed pretty neat at first glance. Be prepared to shell out big bucks for light bulb replacements if you use the projector every day.

In my honest opinion (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20448571)

I would rather be taught with less technology when math is concerned.
I just feel that the blackboard is a much more fluid and natural medium to perform calculations. Also, I've seen those ELMO contraptions be a severe distraction, either because of having to align lighting or because you can see the teacher's hand up close. I've heard kids deride one of my teacher's hand because she was old.

Re:In my honest opinion (1)

wolverine1999 (126497) | more than 6 years ago | (#20448625)

good point - mod parent up please!

Re:In my honest opinion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20449477)

Computers should stay out of math education except for the highest level college math courses (like non-linear dynamics and certain simulations for PDEs). All that these computers and calculators do is teach the student to depend on the technology more than the mathematical fundamentals. As far as physics, the most powerful calculator anyone should ever need should be a TI-36. And even that should be needed only occasionally. I studied physics in college and had a HP-48 and a TI-36. The HP-48 gathered dust except in the rare occasions I used it to invert a matrix.

Here's what you do: (1)

fbartho (840012) | more than 6 years ago | (#20448585)

Take your classes out into the world with those devices, project and draw on the side of your school building. Sketching out the equipment for your physics tests: the seesaws on the playground greased down with lard for example. Or the roller coaster, and a slice of pie on to be *dropped* at the loop. Use real world objects and situations that people can understand, instead of a perfectly spherical spring falling from the sky with a monkey climbing a rope on a pulley hooked to a parachute (unless of course you can sketch that, and then make it happen, because that's fair too.

Unless... you didn't get a day-bright battery powered wireless projector and tablet? Then I don't know, you're screwed, you should mail the devices to me, I'll *hold* them for you till you get back from jail for embezzling or misappropriating resources from the government.

dangling paren! (1)

fbartho (840012) | more than 6 years ago | (#20448601)

- then make it happen, because that's fair too.
+ then make it happen, because that's fair too).


Re:Here's what you do: (1)

megaditto (982598) | more than 6 years ago | (#20448863)

I want some of that stuff you are smoking.

MIT has a cool device (4, Interesting)

fmobus (831767) | more than 6 years ago | (#20448641)

It is a interative screen-whiteboard with real-world physics. It's kinda hard to describe without a movie. []

Re:MIT has a cool device (1)

AGC(AW) (791814) | more than 6 years ago | (#20448747)

We had the same thing down in our weather office in Florida when I was in the Navy. We'd use it for training and briefings. It was really effective when we would give hurricane briefings to reps from other commands.

Re:MIT has a cool device (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20449337)

have a look at echalk: []

Clickers (2, Interesting)

cuantar (897695) | more than 6 years ago | (#20448645)

The physics department at my university has started using "clickers." They are small handheld devices resembling calculators that students can use to wirelessly answer multiple-choice questions an instructor poses via e.g. a slide on a presentation. After everyone answers the question and the timer ticks down to zero, the instructor can display a histogram of counts/answer.

Individual devices are tied to students in that only one id number is allowed per device, so these are also useful for taking attendence in large classes. Students enter their id upon connecting to the instructor's master node at the beginning of the class. Their utility for teaching depends largely on the questions the instructor asks, of course. If two answers receive similar amounts of support from students, individuals could be called on to explain their reasoning, helping the instructor to highlight where their weaknesses in understanding lie.

The devices are sort of a mixed blessing. I found that the best problems for them were those with two very similar answers that differed only conceptually, rather than mathematically.

Here's a link to one kind of clicker that's being used this semester (XP software via Parallels on OS X :) [] (I am not affiliated with OSU at this time)

Re:Clickers (1)

djupedal (584558) | more than 6 years ago | (#20448687)

" these are also useful for taking attendence in large classes."

"Ow can you 'aveny pudd'n, if you don' eat your MEAT??"

May I also suggest attendance in another semester of basic English, if you really want that physics degree to mean anything :)

Re:Clickers (1)

feyhunde (700477) | more than 6 years ago | (#20448889)

I, too, went to OSU physics and saw this being used well, especially in the engineering classes and the basic modern physics classes (with 200 and 50 students approx).

I got a 580 on my Verbal GRE and I was on the extreme end of physics students. They not do good in English.

It's really useful for speed of grading and for concept testing. Quick feedback for knowing that the class didn't understand the concept of, say, changing frames of reference. It's great because a professor can get everyone involved and not just the ten or so hyper kids with their hands and passions raised about it. It's great to ensure a good swath of questions get answered.

Negative uses in the program include an attempt to do computerized homework for the massive physics for engineers class. For instance, one might get 10 problems with the variables changed for each user. The program had a set number of chances and a fudge factor of 5% for minor math errors. Except of course most minor math errors are more like 50% off (divide instead of multiple, or add then multiple or multiple then add). An Error that would be worth 1 point off gets you ten because of that error. That error might also be very common...

Those who went there remember the excel sheets and the Macro. Different persons would have different answers. Argue to death, etc. Eventually one person would get it right and it would report it to the keeper of the excel sheet who'd enter the correct formula. Most people would eventually use the sheet for at least one answer. The rampant cheating the computer homework inspired made them go back to having a TA paid 10 bucks an hour to grade it (far cheaper and easier to spot 5 homeworks turned in at the same time with the same errors).

A final positive use was the ability to do 3d and 4d moving graphs.

Re:Clickers (1)

djupedal (584558) | more than 6 years ago | (#20448957)

"A final positive use was the ability to do 3d and 4d moving graphs."

So if I can explain the 'arrow of time' to 5th graders, so that they can go home and explain it to their filipana nannies...I'm in?

Re:Clickers (1)

Entropius (188861) | more than 6 years ago | (#20449351)

I've often wondered about the mean GRE scores of physics grads. I'm at the UA and got a 790 verbal, which is apparently unusual. (But probably half of my class got an 800 math along with me.)

HIGH SCHOOL? (4, Insightful)

scribblej (195445) | more than 6 years ago | (#20448649)

If my experience in High School still applies (and maybe it doesn't; it was a long time ago) you're going to turn out the lights to use that fancy gizno and half the class is going straight to sleep, the other half is going to be passing notes and shooting spitwads and paper airplanes around.

I suggest you compliment the technology there with a pair of night-vision goggles or something.


urinetrouble (809485) | more than 6 years ago | (#20448933)

Well, you could keep their attention with a high-presence speaker/headset mic system that booms your voice newly omnipresent voice whenever time comes for the lights to die down and the projector to turn on. That'd be pretty funny if you surprised kids with that, especially if one of them crapped themselves or something. It'd be funnier if you fucked up, though. Just don't fuck up. And I guess this only works the first time. I know I've seen this idea done before in news or something... In either case, as a just-barely-graduated person straight out of high school, I can safely say that I was one of those sleepy peoples, and I spent a lot of my time with my head down not really paying attention to class and instead thinking about shit like this. haha.

cart before the horse (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20448667)

I think a major mistake teachers make is to discover new teaching technology and then invent a curriculum that uses them. This gets the process entirely backwards. If you try this, you're going to sacrifice learning in the interest of playing with your new toys.

You've got these new tools. That's great. Now forget about them. Design your lessons as you would. As you go, you're going to realize ... "this would work better if I can use my new gizmo." This is where the technology comes in. First find the problem, then find the solution.

In-class polling (1)

dev_alac (536560) | more than 6 years ago | (#20448671)

One of the few things that I've seen that's been a good use of technology is using those in-class polling kits. You basically ask a multiple-choice question on a concept, then the class is polled. Once everyone answers, you can see the distribution and know what people were thinking. Can be useful to know if you're not getting an important concept over on the students and you know during class. The drawback is that it's limited to multiple-choice type answers, but you can require them to do a bit of work on their own.

Re:In-class polling (2, Insightful)

tftp (111690) | more than 6 years ago | (#20449705)

What makes the teacher think that one minute after he stopped talking everyone has captured and memorized everything? I was never subjected to such quick polls, and if I were I'd say "what do you want from me, I haven't had a chance to review my notes and to reflect upon what I just heard."

Understanding of a lecture is not equal to memorizing it, and even the understanding is not guaranteed to occur instantly; some things you just circle and write on the margins "Where did this come from? Check with the book." instead of interrupting the lecture for everyone else. The teacher won't disappear in any case, so you can always ask separately, but in my experience it is plain impossible that nobody else in your class knows the answer to whatever confuses me.

Labor Saving is Only Advantage. (1, Insightful)

twitter (104583) | more than 6 years ago | (#20448683)

You already know how and what to teach. The only change will be that you can reuse your notes directly and can drag in new content from Wikipedia and other nice places. Instead of having to write everything every time, you can just point to what you are talking about.

The drawbacks are that students can glaze over if they are not busy taking notes, and that you might run too fast for them because you are not pacing yourself by writing.

What you use to present does not matter. The easiest way is to take pictures of your notes and project those. Typesetting is time consuming and error prone and that's where images help most. Just hold the camera high enough over the page for good focus and zoom in to crop what you don't want. Images can be stuck into a "Power Point" slide show, but you are better off using Open Office and exporting the result to html with frames.

Overall, you are replacing a blackboard with a slide show and augmenting the notes your students would take. The real learning comes from assignments, but you already know that.

Re:Labor Saving is Only Advantage. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20449475)


Thank you Twitter for actually posting an insightful comment without resorting to any mention of "M$" or "Windoze" or anything else childish. This is the kind of post that is actually a benefit to all of us on Slashdot. Keep making posts like this, please!

Thanks again!

Apple Learning Interchange (2, Informative)

Twid (67847) | more than 6 years ago | (#20448685)

If you use OS X then the Apple Learning Interchange [] is a really good resource site. It has hundreds of teacher-contributed lesson plans.

Re:Apple Learning Interchange (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20449607)

you forgot he said tablet?
OS X does not have tablet functionality without hacking the system

Computers in the classroom are great... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20448693)

... if you are teaching, say, programming.

Otherwise, turn the damn thing off and teach.

I say this as a professional programmer/neophile whose wife taught in a district [] that billg used to hold up as a tecnocational (I think I'll copyright that word) success story.

Re:Computers in the classroom are great... (1)

bdo19 (992170) | more than 6 years ago | (#20448935)

I opened that up and the first word that popped out was in the middle of the middle column, top line. LemonLINK.

LemonLINK? LemonLINK???

Only from a school district. *shakes head*

Sometimes there is truth in marketing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20449687)


Great name, ain't it? It describes the nyetwork pretty accurately.

Par for the course for a district who named this guy [] Teacher of the Year.

My wife is pretty happy to be out of there...

Ways to use the technology (4, Informative)

confused one (671304) | more than 6 years ago | (#20448695)

One way the tablet is better than a blackboard is that you can save a written copy of your lecture, and make copies available to the students. That way they can spend their time paying attention to the lecture, instead of rushing to copy everything down. This can make the class more interactive.

The PC can be used, in general, to demo the physics and calculus principles through animation. It can be a useful teaching tool, just don't let it replace the hands on activities usually done in the lab portions of the course. Sometimes doing is better than seeing.

Re:Ways to use the technology (4, Insightful)

bishop32x (691667) | more than 6 years ago | (#20448801)

It may be different for you, but seeing something up on the board doesn't help me learn. Graphics are great for illustrating a point, but in terms of equations and diagrams, I need to write it to remember it. Getting copies of the instructors notes just gives students a lazy way out, not a chance to participate more.

As a student (1)

Bluesman (104513) | more than 6 years ago | (#20448701)

I've had a professor that makes great use of his tablet, mostly because the notes are already written when he gets there, and if someone has a question he can write more on the fly.

This is at a post-grad level. I think high school math would benefit from animated examples.

I wouldn't go too far into the technology aspect, though. Pencil and paper are the tools to learn math.

The best math class I had was where the prof used contraptions he made out of springs and plywood to demonstrate differential equations.

Re:As a student (1)

poopdeville (841677) | more than 6 years ago | (#20449243)

Pencil and paper are the tools to learn math.

I prefer a fountain pen and vellum. Easier and faster to write with than pencil and paper, giving me more time to focus on the material rather than taking notes. Rhodia makes very nice "vellum paper" notebooks, and Schaeffer makes $10 "disposable" refillable fountain pens. I got one of those on a lark and was hooked. Try it sometime. You might like it.

suggestion (2, Informative)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#20448719)

I've always found it cool and educational when one can fiddle with the various factors in equations and see how it changes the shape on a graph. It gives one a sense of proportion and relationships.

Re:suggestion (1)

tftp (111690) | more than 6 years ago | (#20449567)

It's cool but not always educational. For example, at work I use a tool sometimes that is called Microwave Office (it's an expensive RF design CAD.) It has this feature. You can change the value of any component in the circuit and see how various graphs are affected. However to get anything useful out of this function you need to know in theory why this happens and how. Just seeing peaks and valleys appearing and disappearing is not very exciting.

Besides, most of engineering work involves far more than two or three dimensions; if you for example want to model the effect of tolerances of 100 components then you are looking right there at a 101-dimensional problem (and likely more.) Plotting of such a surface would be impossible. Engineers usually minimize the effort by disregarding minor effects and focusing on major factors, followed by numeric simulation of the circuit around sensitive points in, say, 100-dimensional space.

Those who can't do... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20448723)

Those who can't do, teach. Those who can't teach, well they usually consult, but I guess you've decided to take a different route.

Concentrate on teaching instead of showing of some cool way of displaying formulas. Whether using a blackboard, white board, old school projector or a tablet with video projector it's all the SAME.

TEACH, forget about the tech. Be a good teacher and you'll actually be appreciated. Be a bad teacher and you'll be one rung below a used car salesperson. Concentrate on good teaching practices, I don't honestly see how a tablet and projector can be any different than using an old school projector for teaching math in a class room.

sparsley (2, Interesting)

bishop32x (691667) | more than 6 years ago | (#20448725)

The problem with most of the technology is that it gives information too fast for most students. It's easy to whip up a whole bunch of slides, or pre-made note-sheets for a document camera, but it's much harder for the students to follow. When you're doing things on the board (I guess a tablet pc and a projector might work here) it's much easier to understand step by step process, particularly in derivations, when the instructor is speaking and writing every step of the way. In terms of tablets versus blackboards, blackboards generally allow you to keep more information in front of your students for longer, but feel free to ignore this if the geometry of your space limits blackboard space.

The other mistake that many of my tech-savvy instructors (both high-school teachers and professors)have made is distributing copies of your notes. It sounds like a good way of making sure all of your students gets all of the information, but it completly eliminates the need to take notes in class or even pay attention to what you're saying.

xYOU FAIL IT (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20448739)

users. BSD/OS

Wrong question (4, Insightful)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 6 years ago | (#20448743)

If you don't know how you're going to use it to meet your classroom goals, maybe you should be asking yourself why you intend to use it at all.

"Because it's there" doesn't seem like a good reason for introducing technology into the classroom.

Two suggestions (3, Insightful)

belmolis (702863) | more than 6 years ago | (#20448751)

I have two suggestions. (a) if there are things that you find tedious (e.g. marking) or difficult (e.g. sketches, if you aren't a good artist), look for technological solutions to those so that you can devote your time and energy to more important things and won't get tired and frustrated; (b) don't focus on your new toys. Instead, think about what ideas and skills you have a hard time getting across and ask yourself how you could improve in those areas. Sometimes the answer will be something your toys are good for, maybe a simulation for an experiment you can't readily do, but sometimes it won't be technological. It might just be a better derivation of a theorem or formula or a clever diagram. If you focus too much on your toys, you run the risk of doing things that you, and maybe your students, find cool, but that aren't really of much educational value.

do cool stuff yo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20448765)

I took a discrete math in high school with a lot of boring BS. one of the most exciting part of it though, was learning how credit card numbers were generated and verified with check numbers.... as well as pulling information from someones drivers license number.

We also did limited forms of public key crypto.

What I'm trying to say is that if you can apply the science to ninja/james bond/intriging/profitable use cases... you can hold attention much longer and garner more interest.

Animations and 3D (3, Informative)

Zaph0dB (971927) | more than 6 years ago | (#20448771)

In my university days, I understood a lot of calculus by visualizing an animated sequence (mean value theorem, limits, derivatives...). Animation is a great tool for these things. Same goes for numerical analysis.
Also (from the same days), linear algebra can be (often / sometimes) simplified to a 2d / 3d projection which can be displayed easily by a computer. Forget that you CAN'T draw in 3D or can't animate in 2D on the board - the computer can.
And of course - physics, chemistry, geography, history - omg, history would be so cool to learn with a projector, if done correctly (not just clips - diagrams, arrows on the world map describing population movements, pressures, wars) - all of the "real world" sciences are much more fun when working in the real world. Even political science (if your school offers it) can enjoy the benefits of a projector, even if only as a video machine (watching Marting Luther King Jr. making his speech for example).
However - I don't think that a projector is a "magic wand". It conforms to the equation "invest more time, reap more results". If you invest the proper amount of time preparing good material (and not only video clips), your students would enjoy it immensely.
Just my 2 bits.

Re:Animations and 3D (1)

otie (915090) | more than 6 years ago | (#20449113)

One math professor told us that animated sequences and 3D graphics are pretty, but there's no significant learning advantage - the people who can't grasp the mathematical concepts from basic 2D blackboard (or basic overhead projector) drawings won't likely be helped by the animation either.

May I ask? (1)

permaculture (567540) | more than 6 years ago | (#20448805)

Would you please share how you have seen the professor you mentioned in passing, use technology effectively for Math and Physics lessons? Go into detail.

PDFs of notes (1)

nukem996 (624036) | more than 6 years ago | (#20448815)

In college my calc professor wrote everything on his tablet and projected it on a large screen. Not only did it make it much easier to read then chalk but he saved the notes as a PDF and uploaded it to his website a few hours after class. I always took notes but sometimes I would miss something or miswrite something so looking at his notes helped a lot.

Best use of tech in the classroom ever: (1)

ChePibe (882378) | more than 6 years ago | (#20448825)

Sorry, not a math or physics example. I'm a beginning law school student, and the best use I've seen so far is by the TA in my criminal law class. The professor has put the TA in charge of the PowerPoint presentation (he's the only professor there to actually use PowerPoint that I've seen) and the TA has this tendency of putting up the answers to whatever questions the prof is asking when some hapless student is getting grilled to death (and this prof loves to grill students). The TA always has a little grin on his face, and the Prof never turns around to find out... I imagine he'll force us all to pay a fee at the end of the semester for his services - a fee I would gladly pay =)

Nice question; some ideas (3, Interesting)

xPsi (851544) | more than 6 years ago | (#20448831)

As a physics professor, I often find myself asking the same kind of question. Sadly, I'm way behind you with your tablet and wireless projector, but you are definitely inspiring me with that kind of gear. Here are a few ideas:

I try to use Mythbusters sub-episodes every so often as teaching tools. As most of us know, it's pretty entertaining and, while a little too seat-of-your-pants to serve as rigorous science, it definitely captures the scientific spirit and frequently inspires teachers and students alike. We'll typically watch some part of an episode, discuss the principles involved in the myth, and try and do some calculation related to the episode (e.g. number of ping pong balls to lift a boat off the bottom of the bay, terminal velocity of a penny, etc.). With your setup, you can nicely embed the parts of the video into a presentation then use the tablet to lead a real-time discussion of various topics of interest. As you probably know, there are many nice physics videos out there which can be used in this way. I also can suggest using a nice plotting calculator with your setup to quickly demonstrate ideas like Taylor expansion, Fourier decomposition, basic plotting, etc.

There is some software available out there that will analyze video motion using basic mechanics tools (CM motion, rotational motion, vectors, motion diagrams, position versus time, etc.). You give it a few anchor points on the real video capture and can step it through the motion but with all the vectors and graphs superimposed. Although it is a cool idea, sadly, the version I tried was old quite clumsy (made more clumsy by the laptop/AV setup). However, with your tablet and wireless, you may have more versatility if updated software exists.

There are several intriguing student grading/evaluation systems out there that use bar codes (for example, here [] ). I know at a glance this sounds rather sinister and 1984-ish, but with student-customized bar codes (not tattooed on their foreheads, but rather printed on their papers), I think this can be used quite well to facilitate quick grading of quizzes with real-time feedback and histograms, class participation credit, and other creative classroom data organizing solutions. This could be made especially effective with the mobility provided by your tablet and wireless.

Anyway, all the best with your pending projects.

Interactivity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20448855)

In my experience as a teacher, technology in the classroom is only effective if the students are interacting with it. You have a good start with your tablet PC. the next thing I would add is 4 or 5 Wii controllers. These are fairly cheap and can be easily adopted to the P.C. You can then create all kinds of interactive applications and activities using any programming language or even Flash if you are so inclined. You also want to avoid spending a lot of your own money on technology for the classroom. I've fallen into this trap more than once.

Wow! A teacher who can use Technology! (1)

chris_sawtell (10326) | more than 6 years ago | (#20448923)

You'd better be careful now. Carrying on like this will qualify you for Instant Sainthood in the eyes of many /.ers.

effective use of tech (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20448951)

I had a calc teacher that is wheelchair bound. he extensively used two or three programs to great effect. One was basically just a word processor that was specialized for math equations. he used a lot of colors for different parts of equations, to show what happened in a certain step and things like that. another was a broad graphing/visual suite that allowed him to graph things out in many ways. it's been a while, I'm sorry I can't help any more, but instead of doing some chickenscratch on a tablet then saving a bitmap, he created text pdfs with equations and everything.

Wrong question (2, Insightful)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 6 years ago | (#20448961)

Asking "how can I use technology" is always the wrong question. Your goal is not to use technology, its to teach. The correct question is "How can I increase the amount my students learn?" or perhaps "How can I increase the number of students who learn?". When you look at solutions to this technology *may* be part of it, but it probably won't be.

For physics, the thing I always found best was lots of real world examples. Don't explain mechanical advantage- set up a pulley system and let them lift a car. Don't explain pressure- show it to them by lying on a bed of nails without being cut. The more fantastic the example, the better. About the only thing that I ever really found technology useful for in physics was to show the effect of changing parameters in equations, and you can find plenty of java applets on the web that do that.

Re:Wrong question (1)

Score Whore (32328) | more than 6 years ago | (#20449341)

For physics, the thing I always found best was lots of real world examples. Don't explain mechanical advantage- set up a pulley system and let them lift a car.

That's the wrong idea. The right idea is setup a small series of mechanical examples showing how the pulley system provides advantage. Then provide them with the math. Then have them figure out what pulley system they'll need to lift a car one handed. Then setup up two such systems and tie a rope around each arm. Then drop the lifts out from underneath the cars. If they did their math correctly, they'll still be able to clap after the exercise.

You are on the right track -- (1)

HW_Hack (1031622) | more than 6 years ago | (#20448963)

But need to adapt your lessons to work with the technology. I work as a Technology Facilitator at a large high school and its a fact that many classes / subjects benefit from judicious use of technology and multimedia. If you can hook up a PC/Mac to the projector you can now use interactive websites (math - physics) to add depth / spice to your lessons. Our math dept makes heavy use of digital projectors - Elmo's (document cameras) - and programs on PC/Macs that can be projected up to the white screen. Many teachers also use a Mimio ( [] ) to make any white board into an interactive white-board. You can do an entire lecture while capturing the content of the board to a digital file that you can print out for students or post on your website.

The goal here is to teach math (pencil + paper) - but also to draw the student into new experiences or ways of seeing the problem.

And keep in mind that most of these Slash-Dotters are either geezers or pre-geezers and haven't sat in a room full of 15yr olds ..... since they were 15.

Blackboard is best (3, Insightful)

blitz487 (606553) | more than 6 years ago | (#20448991)

Use of blackboards/whiteboards works very well. The prof writes the equations down as he explains them, and the students handwrite them into their notes. The prof writing them down keeps the focus on the relevant part, and the student handwriting a copy helps fix it in their brains.

It ain't broke, and doesn't need fixing.

Re:Blackboard is best (1)

micpp (818596) | more than 6 years ago | (#20449411)

Except when the lecturer is moving through stuff so fast that the students are having to scribble things down so fast they don't have time to actually think about what they're writing. Although this tends to be with prewritten overhead slides rather than stuff on a blackboard.

I find the most effective method I've seen is some of my lecturers will make their slides available... only with bits missing, which we then have to fill in during the lecture. Keeps the students awake by copying stuff down, but doesn't require them to write at ridiculously fast speeds to keep up.

Re:Blackboard is best (1)

gujo-odori (473191) | more than 6 years ago | (#20449483)

I have to second this. The best math teacher I ever had, by far (Fred Lyon, if you're out there, thank you!) used a blackboard and his great talent for *teaching* math to people. Sadly, nearly all of the math teachers I ever had were people who clearly had a talent for math but who had pathetically little skill as teachers.

Years later, I spent a few years as a teacher myself, which confirmed for me that they were crappy teachers, it was just me. I can say without egotism that I was a good teacher, and I used nothing more advanced than a TV and VCR in the classroom, and even those were very sparingly used.

If you want to use a projector and a tablet notebook, that's cool. If they had had those when I was teaching, I might have used them, too. I hate chalk. Apart from that, I'd advise you not to get too hung up on technology. Being an effective teacher is all about effectively communicating what you know to others; high tech devices in a class that's not teaching people about high-tech devices can just as easily (if not more so) hinder your goal as help it.

Being a good teacher is not about technology. It's about being a good teacher. Technology can sometimes help with this, but at least as often, it can't. That's why classrooms still have chalkboards and/or whiteboards after all these years.

Clickers... (1)

jbf (30261) | more than 6 years ago | (#20449005)

Like the iclicker can help you gauge student understanding. (counting the blank stares helps too).

Well on the software side. (1) (760528) | more than 6 years ago | (#20449057)

There are quite a number of options, but it can depend on what your using (OS wise). I remember using a nuclear power station simulator in physics once that was kinda kewl. But its been years since i was at school too. I would suggest searching on, and I know and freshmeat both have quite a few visually based software packages that revolve around physics and maths.

This might be a good example: []

The tricky thing for me would be to try and apply visual aids to maths, depending on the level required and what type of math it is. As has been suggested though, the ability to modify notes and distribute them on the fly would be a big plus. Sitting there writing down what the teach was saying (while it does seem to increase the ability of the human mind to retain things) was always an annoyance! :)

Probably not the most useful post however!

Generic Headline (1)

achten (1032738) | more than 6 years ago | (#20449067)

The title should be "Effective use of software tools in Algebra, AP Calculus, and Physics classroom in high school"

None (4, Insightful)

Secret Rabbit (914973) | more than 6 years ago | (#20449073)

I find it stunning (and disturbing) that there is this notion that adding tech to the classroom is by default beneficial. This idea is complete rubbish and the studies are starting to mount that show this (see below). Especially when it comes to the hard sciences and mathematics. We know that 'dead poets society' ruined a generation of english teachers. IMO, technology is ruining a generation (or more) of science/math teachers.

I've seen exactly ZERO tech used in class beyond an overhead that was anywhere near effective whether high-school or beyond. Hell, even when I taught *C++* I used the white-board a significant chunk of the time. Also, in high-school, that cover of darkness can prove to be a bad choice.

Powerpoint (and similar products) are so poorly used (I've actually /never/ seen it used properly) that they actually seriously detract from the class. In fact, people tend to do the exactly same nonsense with powerpoint that they do with the chalkboard i.e. write what they say. Yes, I can read, tell me/write on the board something I can't.

There have also been studies on using tech with kids (look through /. archives for the links). The conclusions were that all this tech actually largely prevents learning because the kids are distracted by all the "shiny objects" rather than actually paying attention to the content.

So, my suggestion is to put away all of you expensive toys (that are proving to be less and less effective as time goes on), pick up a piece of chalk and actually teach them. After all, when it comes to Math and Science, all you need is quick sketches to get the ideas across, now don't you.

Re:None (1)

Osty (16825) | more than 6 years ago | (#20449437)

Powerpoint (and similar products) are so poorly used (I've actually /never/ seen it used properly) that they actually seriously detract from the class. In fact, people tend to do the exactly same nonsense with powerpoint that they do with the chalkboard i.e. write what they say. Yes, I can read, tell me/write on the board something I can't.

It really depends on the teacher. For example, my Physics professor in college (had him for three classes, 2.5 semesters) used Powerpoint extensively and to good effect. The slides were available at the copy shop (would've been better if they were electronically available, but the copy shops run a racket on campuses for note printing) in Powerpoint's "note" format (two slides per page, with space to take notes on each). During class, the prof would use Powerpoint's pen tool to write equations, draw graphs, etc. He did all of that with a mouse and was amazingly good, but I guess you get pretty good at writing/drawing with a mouse when you use Powerpoint several hours a day, 5 days a week. That was before tablet PCs, so I would suspect a tablet + Powerpoint + a nice projector would make for a really good experience.

What really helped the slides was that the prof didn't just read what was there, or circle/highlight bits already on the slide. He used the slides to setup the basic premise and then went through the steps to show whatever concept he happened to be teaching at the time.

That's not to say that Powerpoint is always going to be the best thing to use. It's great in a large lecture hall setting, where the prof is teaching 200-300 people at once with more individual emphasis happening during discussion sections and office hours. For a typical high school class, Powerpoint is going to be overkill -- there's simply no need for a huge projected image when you have 25-30 people sitting in close proximity who can all see the whiteboard/blackboard and can have an interactive discussion rather than being lectured to. I also don't think Powerpoint would work very well for an "arts" class (history, literature, etc -- anything but math/science), but that just might be because my best experience with it was in a hard science class.

I also think Powerpoint is way overdone in business, but when I make presentations aided by a slide deck I at least try to keep the slides as brief notes for what I'm talking about and use the interactive nature of Powerpoint to highlight/emphasize/add detail to slides as I'm talking. Too many people use Powerpoint as if they were presenting slides from their family vacations, and we all know how boring that can be.

Some, probably (2, Interesting)

Selanit (192811) | more than 6 years ago | (#20449653)

Obviously, adding technology to a classroom is not inherently beneficial. The mere presence of a bunch of transistors in the room will not improve the students' comprehension. But it's also a bit premature to dismiss it completely. Socrates strongly disliked the whole "marks on papyrus scrolls" technology which was cutting edge in his day -- which is why he never wrote anything down himself. We depend on his student Plato for our knowledge of Socrates' ideas. You and I, right now, are as close to the beginning of digital technology as Socrates was to the beginning of books.[1]

Education takes place inside the student's skull. It's a process of acquiring new concepts, trying to understand them, and then use them. Usually education involves failing to grasp the concept a few times, and then "getting it." The job of the teacher is to introduce the concepts, and to create an environment where the student can try them out, get it wrong, and then get it right. Digital tech can probably help with both steps (introducing concepts, and creating the learning environment). So far a lot of the ways we've tried it have not worked very well -- PowerPoint is an excellent case in point. So PowerPoint isn't useful. Fine. That doesn't mean nothing will ever be useful. Let's try a whole bunch of approaches, scrap the ones that don't work well, and then try even more approaches.

[1] The Egyptian and Mesopotamian cultures had been using written communication for a good long while before it reached the Greeks, of course; but Socrates was close to the beginning of books within his own culture.

Some useful tools (1)

Verte (1053342) | more than 6 years ago | (#20449087)

Animations and interactivity are always great- Mathematica, Maple, or Python + Matplotlib can be handy for this. If you have access to fluid or electrical system modelling software too, great. Otherwise, there is not a lot you can do. At the end of the day, there is only one way to learn to apply principals: a combination of reading and examining the ideas, and examples.

Some people have mentioned having the notes reproduced in PDF- I found I did much better in the university classes where notes were distributed rather than having to be copied down, because it leaves more time for meditation on the subject matter, and reduces needless duplication of work. I doubt it would work the same in high school, though.

Learn a bit of code... (1)

ayjay29 (144994) | more than 6 years ago | (#20449095)


I trained as a physics teacher 12 years ago, and worte a couple of small applications for the studnets to use during lab sessions. They were basic sumulations, using line graphics, and Turbo C++. They worked quite well in the class, when combined with traditional labs as well.

You can download the Visual Studio express editions for free, and it should be fairly easy to get something simple up and running. Just create a windows app, then drop on a timer, and use the events to drive an animation. Start with something simple, then build on it.

Drop it. (1)

Marty200 (170963) | more than 6 years ago | (#20449179)

Have them calculate at what height you would have to drop your tablet to break it. Then have them test the results.


I have no idea how to apply this but... (3, Interesting)

localman (111171) | more than 6 years ago | (#20449209)

I have learned more math and physics as a result of self-guided programming than I ever did in school. I remember a few years ago I was working on a simple vector graphics system for a video game I was making, and I finally understood the point of converting between cartesian and polar coordinates. Then I added physics to the program and picked up ideas like velocity along the angle of impact vs. the tangent. Recently I was working on a program to find color differences, and had to scale certain 0-1 values into a curve by using various exponents.

These are all simple things that I should have picked up in school. Things which I'm sure were explained but without any practical (or even impractical) application. So I only had the vaguest recollection that they were even possible. But the moment I encountered a programming problem that I wanted to solve, yet required this kind of knowledge, I vacuumed it up.

That may not be what you mean by "using technology" in the classroom, but it's what came to mind for me.


Best use for technology (1)

dsgrntlxmply (610492) | more than 6 years ago | (#20449251)

I suggest using the tacky attention-getting techniques of 1998-era Web ads (rapid flashing alternating red background / green text and vice versa), and punch-the-monkey animation, as a reminder that a few specific topics are not as useless as they first seem in high school math, and will in fact be required repeatedly by at least the second semester of calculus:

1) The quadratic formula
2) Factoring of polynomials
3) Polynomial long division
4) Completing the square (which I still cannot remember).

Everything else is better handled with a whiteboard and enough colored markers. At least until you get to slope fields, where Mathematica is a very welcome aid.

If technology is used in the classroom, it needs to be ready and reliable. Even the time spent waiting for a projector to warm up, is a large loss from 50 classroom minutes.

The above is from the perspective of an adult university student.

technology is often just a distraction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20449295)

In high school, I often found that attempts to use new technology in the classroom were more distracting than anything. It often rook a few minutes to get everything set up, what with messing around with wires, waiting for projectors to start up and such. It's just enough time for the students to have started talking amongst themselves and get distracted from whatever you're actually teaching. And once it was finally started, the technology rarely seemed to add anything. In many cases, it seemed more like the teachers were just saying "Oooh, loookie what I can do," rather than actually doing something that really helped people learn things. Don't try to plan lessons with the intention of using a certain technology; only use it if it seems to be the best way to convey information. And when you use it, try to make sure everything is set up beforehand and can start up immediately.

What not to do... (1)

Brit_in_the_USA (936704) | more than 6 years ago | (#20449407)

Spam, pop-up, viruses etc. would be a major distraction and a source of amusement to your class, so I would suggest that the machine has very good virus and spy-ware protection and is NEVER used for personal Internet access or any education unrelated programs and stays off the Internet while running during your class (unless you must show them an online page in real time - save an offline copy of the page for the class).

Remember, you will have some sharp eyed students in your class who will work out your email address, IM user names, IM friends list, what programs you have installed etc.etc. if they even so much as see any related program window or start menu for a split second.

Never update any piece of software of windows for that matter just before a class (if it isn't broken don't fix it)

Educational research (2, Informative)

enigma48 (143560) | more than 6 years ago | (#20449415)

I completed my teaching qualifications (Math and IT, high school) in 2005 and did a little bit of research into this. I'm sorry I don't have time to find links but here's what I found:

* When small groups or individual students were given wireless voting devices and some of the lesson was interactive (i.e. "So, what does everyone think will happen when I drop this metal into water?") the students enjoyed and recalled the lesson better.

* When *anonymous* brainstorming software was used, student participation is significantly improved. (Improved participation in general has been linked to better learning for decades)

Check out the ERIC database, I think some articles are available with full-text and you can get some pretty cool ideas just from the abstracts.

Some examples from physics... (1)

Entropius (188861) | more than 6 years ago | (#20449425)

From the lecture end: Realtime computer graphics can be useful for illustrating concepts that can't really be represented well in static drawings on a blackboard, especially those that involve time evolution.

Solutions to Schroedinger's equation in one dimension, for instance, mapping XYZ to x, Re(psi), Im(psi). Then do time evolution to illustrate things like wave packets.

Electromagnetic radiation is another -- computer graphics are useful for showing the fields produced by a charge moving in a particular way. For introductory students, programs that automatically generate the fields and equipotentials resulting from a given electrostatic charge distribution can be instructive if the students get to fiddle with it. (It's useless in lectures because it can be drawn on the board.)

Classical mechanics, since it deals with the motion of visible macroscopic objects, can usually be covered pretty easily with video clips and real things to fiddle with -- everyone studying rigid-body motion (Euler's equations, etc.) should see the tumbling wrench video shot aboard the space shuttle.

Get their attention (1)

Nomad the Odd (1139747) | more than 6 years ago | (#20449443)

Technology is a spectacular tool for getting attention. Shiny bits, movement, videos of explosions... All things technology does well. Other than that, it is often used as a replacement for leaning math than a tool. Use it to grab the kids' attention, then teach them the old fashioned way, then go back to moving and shiny things every once in a while, to keep them paying attention. (This written by someone who slept through 80% of his pre-calculus class because the teacher was too boring, and couldn't keep my ADD infested attention span. That class got repeated in college.)

Smartboard Interactive Whiteboards (1)

redglazelinux (1151213) | more than 6 years ago | (#20449447)

I work for an Architectural firm and we are also trying use our technology more efficiently. We are using similar technology for reviewing architectural drawings and 3d models. We use a Smart Technologies brand SMART Board that was developed for use in educational institutions. Many schools across the nation are utilizing the boards for teaching math, science many other subjects. Many of the educational tools that are bundled with the SMART Board are inside of what is called the "Notebook Software" in the galleries. Inside the gallery you will find transparent protractors, rulers, etc. I conducted a demo with a smart board last year, and another one of the features that the teachers really liked was the ability to record what is happening on screen and save it to a movie file. For instance we worked through the process of a complex mathematical problem documenting each step. The teachers said it would be a great idea to make the video available online so that their students could review it if they had a question outside of class. I should also state that I did the demo as a favor and I am not employed or in any way affiliated with Smart Technologies Inc., however I do use their product on a daily basis and it is an amazing tool for anyone who would like to do more with technology.

Useful tech (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20449487)

If you need to produce high quality handouts or overheads etc with high mathematical formula content try the LaTEX typesetting tool, it does a much better job than a word processor. It's a bit tricky to learn but a little time spent in using it will pay dividends, plus, of course, it's free!

If you use the technology, *use* it! (1)

DaleGlass (1068434) | more than 6 years ago | (#20449497)

I remember that when I was at school, teachers sometimes would use technology in a pointless way.

For example, pointless way to use a projector: Take your printed/handwritten notes without graphs or drawings and project them. Might just as well distribute copies. Projecting is pointless when there's nothing interesting to see, and the time to set it up takes away from the class.

Pointless way to use a lab: Get everybody into the lab, then tell them to open their books and study theory. Back then I was really puzzled what the point was. Today I'm fairly sure this must have been some way to get the school to claim the lab was used when it really wasn't. As a student, that was seriously annoying. Here I was thinking that we'd actually be testing something today, but no.

Wrong way to use computers: Get everybody into the computer room, then spend half the class messing with software that doesn't work, and going from computer to computer checking who's having what problems. Test before you try to use it in your class, make sure everybody knows how to do what's needed to follow.

All this probably sounds really obvious. But I've seen all of those mistakes done, sadly.

Re:If you use the technology, *use* it! (1)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 6 years ago | (#20449855)

Schools often have limited space, thus the science department will use all of their allocated space to make labs, which then results in them having to do book study in those labs...
At least thats how it was in our school, all the science classrooms were kitted out as labs but we often just did book studies there.
The presence of chemicals and equipment in the drawers and cupboards under the desks didn't help class discipline tho.

Video Recordings (1)

saurabhdutta (904490) | more than 6 years ago | (#20449541)

I went to Nanyang Technological University Singapore. Believe me, over there we had the most technically assisted smart classrooms. Media projectors, tablets connected to projectors, SMS questions to be shown on a seperate screen live and video recordings. My experience has been that other than the tablet thing, nothing else adds much value to the typical whiteboard setup except video recordings. These video recordings of lectures synced with the powerpoint slides which were available till the semester exams were done with were immensely useful in clearing out the last minute doubts. I wonder why this hasnt found much penetration in the universities/colleges internationally. Especially the wealthy ones.

Intuition over Technology (1)

pdexeriment626 (1138363) | more than 6 years ago | (#20449615)

I am currently a Ph.D. student in mathematics and have been teaching tutorials and courses since my second year of Uni. My feeling about using computers and various pieces of technology to teach either one of these topics is that they are counterproductive. I had two incredible teaches as an undergraduate in math and physics, and NEITHER used technology to make them effective teachers. What made them good was that they knew how to explain seemingly complex ideas in simple intuitive terms; and they actually helped students to visualize mathematics/physics in their head. They essentially taught students how to teach themselves new ideas.

The fact of the matter is, powerpoint style lectures have been shown to harm the attention span of students. It's like when you were in grade school and the teacher put on a movie for class; you zone out almost immediately. As for using computers to aid in 2D and 3D visualization, frankly I don't think this is a particularly good idea either. Students aren't always going to have a nice 3D movie given to them when they are faced with a new concept in math or physics. In higher level mathematics, naive 2D and 3D representations of concepts can be either misleading or incorrect; and making a student dependent on such simple visualizations cripples their ability to visualize more abstract concepts in effective ways. I believe in teaching students how to visualize things in their head; that is, how to sketch out pieces of a problem from something they see in the form of mathematics.

The point is, anyone can sit down and read a textbook... and if you are a teacher that essentially just regurgitates what is inside the textbook, you will never be a great teacher no matter how much technology you use. A great teacher or lecturer is the one who can show the student a path to original intuition. This will enable the student to draw their own visualizations, etc. when confronted with a new problem. This is precisely what made Richard Feynmann such an incredible teacher; he used intuition to make the most complex concepts intuitively clear to anyone... then he reconciled that intuition with mathematics. The mark by which I judge myself in understanding a subject is that I should be able to pull someone off the street and get at least the idea of what I'm talking about across to them in a few minutes. As I deal mostly in differential equations, I obviously can't do this just by writing equations; but it can be done intuitively by using simple explanations, heuristic examples and sketches.

I'm also a firm believer in the idea that students are meant to take notes in class. Writing information down in a note taking fashion forces the student to acknowledge the content being taught on some level. If nothing else, it reinforces what the lecture is saying. I know taking notes from a lectures that just dumps out information is difficult; but I believe them to be remarkably effective when paired with a teacher who conveys more in the way of intuition than statements of fact. The textbook is there to give the data... as a teacher you are meant to give the intuition to the student so they can sit down and understand that data. Forcing them to write down notes on their own will enable them to build a more solid connection with the intuition you are (hopefully) conveying.

In the end, learning by rote is the lowest form of understanding. Next comes the ability to do problems that you are already acquainted with. After this level comes the ability to solve slightly new problems by combining methods you used to solve previous problems. After this level, one gets into various levels of intuition which enable one to solve completely new problems. I try to teach my students in the hopes that they are seeking at least this level of understanding. I wish more teachers would spend more time working on their lectures along these lines as opposed to spending so much time and money to make their lectures nothing more than a powerpoint presentation.

I know this may come off as idealistic and naive; but I have been teaching university level math and physics for about eight years now. Personally, I know I am not the best teacher; but what I have described is what I aim for in my classes. From what I can tell from feedbacks and grades, students seem to respond very well to this methodology of teaching.

This will cause flames, but it is the best advice. (1, Flamebait)

TheNetAvenger (624455) | more than 6 years ago | (#20449633)

This will cause flames, but it is the best advice.

Since your TabletPC has 1GB of RAM and a very capable Intel 950 Video. The first thing you need to do is pick up a copy of Vista Ultimate or Premium. The pen and TabletPC support in Vista is years ahead of XP running TabletPC Windows. (You might want to upgrade to 2GB of RAM, even with XP the performance difference for TabletPCs is noticeable when it is doing voice or handwriting recognition.)

Next get a copy of Office 2007 OneNote. It will be your new best friend for writing, preparing notes, animations, videos, web content and even doing math in the application as you write.

It is like Windows Journal on crack, as you can even voice record your lectures and include a copy of the Audio and notes in standard web formats for you students to download or even OneNote formats if you want the audio and writing to be in sync for your users.

Office 2007 Word also works well with properly formatting equations and converting hand notes to type forms without losing your equation or notation formats.

Since you are a teacher, you can get the Education versions of all this software cheap, and just Vista and OneNote 2007 will transform what you are doing with your TabletPC into a whole new direction.

Also check out the Microsoft Education software constucts and Forums. There are lots of bright people doing what you are wanting to do and will have been suggestions for other software specfic to what you are teaching than the answers you will find on SlashDot, as most people posting here couldn't even give you 5 changes between Vista with built in TabletPC features and XP TabletPC, as most here run from MS technology.

Yes I know I will get flamed on this, but for Tablet technology MS is the 'best' provider of an OS and basic software that makes the technology shine and work effortlessly.

teach WHY people should study Algebra (2, Interesting)

Simonetta (207550) | more than 6 years ago | (#20449733)

    You have the misfortune of being a high school teacher. You are probably very limited in what you can actually teach because the course work must be all rigidly defined, especially now in the era on 'No Child Left Behind' and the federally enforced overemphasis on testing.

    You have the additional misfortune of being a teacher of a subject that all students must master to get their HS diploma but less than 1% will ever use in their future lives. I work on the margin of the tech industry and I've used high school algebra only once in thirty years. Had to sit through hundreds of hours of classes in it and hundreds of hours of homework which for me was like carving concrete with a teaspoon.

    For algebra (assuming for the sake of argument that it is worth learning), the best tool would be any program that allows the students to move the terms around the equation by clicking, highlighting, and dragging. Then the software should let them know if the resulting equation is equal to the original one. And if not, why not. Also, software that puts simple values into the x and y variables and quickly lets them know whether the equation balances or not. Plus an animated tutor program that shows the steps for solving complex equations. A program with hundreds of solved examples, not just two or three solved examples.

    For calculus, I recommend bringing a dog, a thermometer, and a gun to class. Shoot the dog and put the thermometer into it. Take readings over the next few hours to show how the heat loss of a recent corpse follows a specific natural log curve and how forensic pathologists use these formulas to determine time of death.

    For logarhythms, measure the distances between the frets of an electric guitar to show how each distance is 2 raised to the 1/12 power from the previous fret and how this formula makes possible tuned scales.

    If any of these things work, then consider getting a television show to teach math through iPod instead of in a public school.

BBFlashback (1)

jmcurran (1151245) | more than 6 years ago | (#20449795)

I use a programme called BBFlashback Blueberry Software. It records everything that happens on the screen and your voice. My students find this very useful because they can listen to the lesson over and over again in case they missed it the first time. It's also useful for adult students who have jobs and cannot make every class. You have a variety of playback options. We use Flash which plays in the students' browsers once they've installed the plugin.

Effective Use of Technology In the Classroom? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20449797)

Does blinding disrupting students with a laser pointer count?

risks and benefits (4, Interesting)

e**(i pi)-1 (462311) | more than 6 years ago | (#20449841)

> Would you please share how you have seen technology effectively used for Math and Physics.

I'm both enthusiastic as well as sceptical (and wrote and talked about it [PDF] [] ). Here are some major points for me:
  • Using technology is like telling jokes. Some people can deliver, other better do not.
  • Teaching is complex. Not everybody can handle the additional challenge of technology additionally to the organisatorial and pedagogical parameters. Most of us have experienced bad use of technology. I certainly have produced disasters myself.
  • It is often not the technology which produces the failures but the lack of a backup plan. Technology often fails. The advantage of the "good ol blackboard" is that it always works. Even white-boards fail when markers are dry.
  • Overuse of technology is like dishing up the same meals again and again. The benefits of technology can wear off, if the novelty is gone.
  • I use the rule of thumb: technology can improve a lecture by 20 percent, but adds the risk to losing 80 percent. This risk makes the use of technology exciting and worthwile.
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