The following is a Guest Post from Mike Thimmesch, who writes for Upgradeable. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Long gone are the days when all that was required for math was an abacus and a pencil. These days, it’s all about graphing calculators, computer programs, and video games. And while some teachers may find it difficult to keep up with the ever-shifting landscape of technology, it really pays to stay abreast of changes in the field and find ways to utilize these innovations in the classroom. It shouldn’t come as any surprise that kids raised in an era of unfettered access with a million gadgets at their fingertips would balk at doing things old-school. So if you want to grab their interest, you’re going to have to learn to speak their language, and you’ll likely find that an interest on your part will lead to equal engagement by students. But it will require a time investment on your part, so what are the major benefits to be gained?
For starters, the role of a teacher often necessitates continued education. If you’re not keeping up with current trends, you will find yourself at an immediate disadvantage when it comes to dealing with your students. So take on the role of the student yourself. Ask kids what they’re into, how they spend their spare time, and which technologies they find fun and interesting. Not only will your willingness to learn about their interests surprise them, you may be able to bond with your classroom on a whole new level by allowing them to teach you in return. And when you begin to integrate their technology into your lessons, you’ll see an even bigger payback.
By finding new ways to update your course and keep it relevant, you will almost certainly discover a renewed interest in mathematics and the possibilities for implementing it through technology. And your excitement will be readily apparent to your class. You’ll be connecting with the kids on two very important levels. For one thing, children are more perceptive than most adults give them credit for. If you’re bored, they’re bored. If you put the minimum amount of effort into your lesson plans, they will reciprocate in kind. Secondly, by taking their likes and dislikes into account, you’re showing that you care about them, something that (sadly) many teachers never bother to do.
As you probably remember from your own childhood, there were a few shining examples of teachers (at least one of whom probably influenced your decision to take up the noble profession) and probably without fail, they engaged you on both an intellectual and a personal level. They made you see things in new and interesting ways and their enthusiasm for the subject was infectious. By seeking out ways to bring technology into the classroom, you will not only renew your own feelings of excitement for math, you will also surprise and delight your students.
Of course, the trick is to find the right technology. Luckily, there are a wide variety of tools at your disposal. Between hardware, software, and websites devoted to the fusion of mathematics and technology, you’ll have no shortage of ideas. And paring it down shouldn’t be too difficult. If you try a few things out in class, you’re going to discover pretty quickly what works and what doesn’t. And don’t underestimate the value of student input. Kids have no problem enumerating their likes and dislikes and they’ll let you know when you’re succeeding.