Skill Zones for the Successful use of ICT in Mathematics
This skill list has been structured so that it could form a convenient home for ICT activities to be referenced. Potential trainers could also be asked to reference their own ICT competences to these zones.
Zone 1 Classroom Hardware
Although ICT department staff are normally the ones to be concerned about classroom hardware, they are often unaware of the special needs of mathematics teachers. It is important therefore that mathematics teachers have a good understanding of how the classroom should be setup, so that the software and hardware that they do have is not compromised.
Mathematics staff should be aware that these are issues that need to be addressed in setting up/taking over a mathematics classroom:
- Connecting desktop and/or laptop to a projector and interactive whiteboard
- Projector controls: use of ‘blank’ and ‘freeze’; setting the contrast correctly (default setting invariably loses graph grid lines); adequate speaker system
- The vital importance of getting aspect ratio right (circles and ellipses!); problems associated with mixed systems (4:3, 16:9, 16:10), and checking that the graphics card can cope.
- Screen resolution: lower the better to achieve a clear image for the pupils in the back row. Need to know about the wide-screen equivalents of 800x600.
- Use of a tablet PC (with associated wireless projector link, and bandwidth problems)
- Use of wireless graphics tablet. These devises generally connect seamlessly to laptops, but need a Bluetooth dongle for a desktop connection.
- Classroom lighting: control of lights vis-à-vis the whiteboard; control of sunlight.
- Lo-tech classroom requirements: plastic ruler and protractor (though not to be used with a Smartboard); mini white-boards, etc
- the provision of a lectern so that keyboard and mouse can be used standing up
- PC-Mac issues (for some).
Mathematics staff may also become involved in IWB purchase issues, and here would need to consider
- Installation and usage issues
- Making decisions: pen-driven, finger-driven, or both, how the software varies on the different boards and how the interaction is different (pros and cons of the different makes); conversion between different file types
Zone 2 Interactive Whiteboards
A large proportion of classrooms in England have been equipped with IWBs, some pen-based, some finger-based, and more recently some are a bit of both! It is important that this investment is not wasted, and that the teachers learn to put these tools to good use.
- At the board, on the desk, in the head: maximising the effective use of the IWB for mathematics teaching
- The IWB software as the management (i.e. organisational) tool for all electronic resources in a lesson
- Pedagogy of the IWB
- Converting from one IWB software type to another (when this is possible and when it is not possible)
- Using the IWB software tools specific to the board including: mathematical tools e.g. (compass, protractor ruler); grid creation; camera; hyperlinks; video recorder etc.
- Use of virtual manipulatives, Teachers’ TV, and other resources within IWB files
- Creation of animations (i.e. video resources) using IWB software.
- Use of IWB software for use in mathematics - ActivStudio, ActivInspire; Smart Notebook
- Use of learner response systems for specific IWB
Zone 3 Strategies for lessons on laptops, and lessons in the computer lab
It is highly desirable that students get to experience the power of ICT for themselves, and increasingly they will be able to do so at home. At school, the choice of hardware is changing fast, but for now is still likely to be classroom laptops or a laboratory of desktops. The teaching strategies for these different situations need careful planning.
- A changed pedagogical practice and the dynamics of the classroom
- Planning and problems of implementation
- Alternative technologies: Smart phones and e-readers
- issues with the widespread use of wireless internet connection; contention ratio
Zone 4 Wordprocessing for Mathematics
Mathematics teachers need to be able to produce high quality worksheets, both on paper and onscreen. In addition to general word processing skills, teachers need to be able to create high quality mathematical diagrams and mathematical expressions.
There are now many WP options now, falling into two categories:
- traditional word processors (e.g. MS Office, Open Office). MS Office is still evolving and there are significant interface differences between versions. Office 2003 has toolbars and menus, whereas Office 2007 (and now Office 2010) has threads and ribbons. The MAC version is also different.
- in the ‘clouds’ (e.g. Google Docs) – where documents can be easily shared and
co-authored online, but some features are lost.
The following techniques need to be mastered for any system in use:
- How to create one-line mathematical expressions as text, without using an equation editor. These make use of the large number of font independent Unicode symbols that are available. Either use “Insert Symbol” or use the Autograph on-screen keyboard. e.g.: y = |x| ± √(4 – x²)
- How to create multi-layered mathematics expressions. These are created as a graphic object (ie not text). An ‘Equation Editor’ can be used for this, or many WP systems have a sophisticated equation tool; there are alternatives such as FX-maths pack, and MathType.
- Creating mathematical diagrams; use of shift (to make figures regular), and ctrl (to make figures centred); use of Ctrl-D (to duplicate figures in a controlled way).
- Creating hyperlinks to other files and URLs
- Pasting images from the web
- Careful use of the right-click
- Creation of pdf files.
- Putting mail-merge to use to create multiple documents based on spreadsheet data.
Zone 5 Spreadsheets for Mathematics
Although designed for use in commerce, spreadsheets can be used in a wide variety of way to support mathematics teachers. They can be as useful in teaching situations, where mathematical concepts can be modelled, as in day-to-day administration.
- Managing cells, formulae, series, charts; statistical operations (including filters, pivot tables, frequency counts, histograms and tables)
- Making a spreadsheet interactive with slider bars, conditional statements and self-checking methods
- Knowing when Excel goes wrong, or does not quite get it right!
- Handling large datasets; selecting columns of data
- Converting data pasted from website when necessary using “Text to Columns”
- Sorting data; filtering data
Zone 6 Internet Resources and Related Issues
The availability of a fast internet connection in the classroom is becoming something most teachers in this country are fortunate to be able to expect. This ability to ‘bring the world into the classroom’ can leave many teachers overwhelmed by the quantity and the very variable quality of what can be accessed.
- Awareness of internet resources for mathematics, e.g. www.tsm-resources.com
- How to drive Java and Flash web apps, and to embed in other digital resources
- Ability to retrieve data (into Excel) and images (into Paint or Autograph) and everything (into IWB software) from websites
- Using Teachers’ TV, YouTube, etc.; converting to FLV for offline showing
- Software to create and edit podcasts, videos and animations.
- Use of video resources (eg ‘Jing’ for on-screen recording, or files from digital cameras)
- Understanding the vulnerability of information on the web, eg Wikis.
- Email lists; forums; social networks
- Virtual Learning Environments: contributing material and accessing resources.
- Creative use of games
- Ensuring that sites with mathematical input (e.g. NRICH, Mathletics) are used creatively
Zone 7 Specialist Software
There will be a need for specialist software trainers to train the trainers in the effective use of primary software. Some of the secondary packages have junior versions (e.g. Cabri and Geogebra).
There will also be a need for specialist trainers in the main secondary software packages, including:
2D: Geometer’s Sketchpad, Cabri II, Geogebra
3D: Cabri 3, Yenka
- Dynamic Coordinate Geometry
2D and 3D: Autograph.
Autograph, Excel, Tinkerplots, Fathom
- Graphic calculators (with and without CAS)
Casio, TI, HP and Sharp
- Programming languages
Trainers need to be aware of the basic principles of ensuring that dynamic software is used effectively:
- The judicial use of parameters.
- The use of student prediction before the computer does anything.
- Awareness that learners do not have a lifetime of ‘traditional’ mathematical study on which to ‘prop’ visual images. A visualisation that excites a teacher may well not excite a learner.
Teachers and trainers need also to be aware of the rapidly changing facilities on mobile technology. Learners are likely to have increasing access to a large number of mathematically based ‘apps’ on their phones and ‘pads’, and should be encouraged to explore their studies using them.