A Reflective report which discusses the key issues related to the effective use of ICT to support mathematics in the primary classroom. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is developing at a rapid rate in our society. Due to this, it is vitally important that children are taught ICT skills in school. ICT includes computers, tape recorders, videos, television, the internet and many others. It is only recently – due to the Dearing Review (1994, cited by Briggs & Pritchard, 2001), that ICT has been seen as a subject in its own right.
Since 1997, the Government has promoted a succession of initiatives intent on raising the use of ICT in schools. This has included training, funding for resources and documents to support teachers in the effective use of ICT. The National Curriculum is now promoting the importance of ICT across the curriculum and how it can be used to support other subjects, especially maths. In maths there are several links that can be made to ICT (Appendix A). This supports the Primary National Strategy’s ideas of promoting a broad and balanced curriculum.
Throughout this essay I will investigate key issues relating to the effective use of ICT to support children’s learning and teaching in maths. The third International Maths and Science Survey (TIMSS) state that there is little hard evidence for the beneficial effects of ICT, although there is a suggestion of a possible negative effect (Higgins 2003, p170). The impact2 study (Harrison et al 2000) supports this. They found that there was no link between resources of ICT and maths at key stage 1 and only a small association at key stage 2.
However other initiatives have shown to be effective such as peer tutoring, reciprocal teaching and homework. Although evidence does not prove that ICT will raise attainment, it does highlight how teachers can raise attainment when they use ICT to support their teaching of numeracy (Moseley et al 1999). The key here is the teacher. Williams and Easingwood (2004) agree stating that the use of ICT cannot replace the teacher – ‘the key lies in how the technology is used and employed, not in the teaching and the technology itself’ (p9), the teachers role therefore is crucial.
As teachers we need to make judgements about when and how to use ICT (Mosely et al 1999), we need to consider the purpose, range and style of software that is available. I will look at the research evidence and discuss the way that ICT can be used to enhance teaching in the classroom The DfEE state 3 key principles underpinning any decision to use ICT in maths: ICT Should enhance good maths teaching, should be linked to the mathematics learning objectives and should only be used if the teacher and/or children can achieve something more effective with it than without it.
(DfEE, 2000, cited by Briggs & Pritchard, 2002). This highlights the need for good planning where the needs of all the learners in the class are met. In Mosely et al’s (1999) study of counting skills in reception, he found that carefully planned and structured ICT activities with a clear mathematical objective, can play an effective role in improving pupils counting skills. Planning is therefore vital. Teachers need to be aware of children’s prior learning and plan for the individual children they have in their class. However teachers are often restricted and cannot always teach what they wish.
Medium term and long term planning mean the curriculum is mapped out months in advance. This is important as it ensures progression and continuity, although it does put restraints on teachers planning. Although this is the case, Excellence and Enjoyment highlight the freedom that teachers have, reminding us that the Numeracy strategy is not statutory and the National Curriculum only tells us what to teach, not how (Appendix B). And it is how we teach that influences how effective ICT is used to support children mathematical skills.
There is a large amount of research that suggests how ICT should be used in maths; I will focus on the most effective uses below. Williams and Easingwood (2004) refer to ICT as a ‘value added component’. ICT can act as a tool to harness children’s mathematical learning. In many cases it can allow children to perform tasks quicker such as drawing graphs, so that more time is spend on high order skills such as analysis and interpretation. Although this is the case there is a big debate on how far the use of technology should be permitted to replace manual skills, which is highlighted in the 2003 Becta report.
(Appendix C). Williams and Easingwood (2004) state that ICT should never replace practical maths. I agree, I am very aware from personal experience of learning and teaching as well as through reading and discussing that children learn a lot more by ‘doing’. The most powerful use of ICT seems to occur when practical activities are supported by the use of application software such as databases and spreadsheets. The use of calculators is at the centre of the debate regarding how far technology should replace manual skills.
The use of the calculator is virtually non-existent in many classrooms due to the fear that children will not calculate the answers themselves. There is conflicting evidence regarding the use of calculators. The Numeracy Task Force 1998 (cited by Williams ; Thompson, 2003) stated that calculator usage should be restricted until the age of 8 or 9. This was supported by the DfEE in 1999 in ‘The framework for teaching maths from reception to year 6’ which stated that calculators should not be used at key stage 1.
Although they did recognise that if used well calculators can be an effective tool for learning about number. Thompson ; Williams (2003) state that calculators can be used to help children’s mathematical development in 2 ways – as an ‘aid in problem solving’ and as a ‘teaching aid’ (p156). Calculators can be used very effectively; they can help children understand the function keys and can stimulate them to use large numbers. We must also not underestimate the knowledge and understanding developed when ‘playing’ with calculators.
Many theorists assume that children need to learn the skills to use a calculator before using it, however, by experimenting they begin to ’embed and extend their developing ideas about number’ (Williams & Easingwood, p35). My experience supports this as the class I was working with loved the challenge of finding different numbers and began to make patterns and explore place value. Again it is a question of using ICT to enhance the teaching and using it where appropriate, being clear about what you want the children to learn.