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Research has also shown how ICT can be used as a teaching aid and help the teacher ‘focus the children’s learning’. The Interactive Whiteboard is a key resource which does this. It allows teachers to present information in a range of ways so that children of differing abilities and learning styles can understand. In my experience it makes learning more fun and Interesting for both teacher and the children. It also allows children to be involved and interact with the learning; one example of this is the highlighting tool.

It is this level of integration, according to Williams and Easingwood (2004), which makes this a powerful tool for both teacher and child (p59). It is clear that children pay more attention if the lesson is interesting and fun for them as they are more motivated to learn. Motivation is a key factor in learning as children will only learn if they want to. Linking learning to children interests and their lives is very important, especially with boys. ‘The use of real data collected from a real medium can both be more interesting for children and serve as a motivating factor in their work.

‘ Briggs and Pritchard (2001,p5 ). Using television programmes, the internet and teletext can be a very good way of enhancing children’s learning, providing a context in which they can use their skills. This is very important in maths as it’s an abstract subject and children can find it very difficult to establish concrete ideas. ICT has been shown to develop collaborative learning and therefore develop mathematical language and learning. The Cockcroft report, 1982 (Appendix D) stresses the importance of discussion and of using the correct mathematical language.

Children often get confused due to its ambiguous nature and so it is essential that children are taught the correct terminology at an early age. Computers encourage pair and group work and much software is aimed at collaborative work. Children in most schools have to work together due to the limited amount of computers, but this can be used as an advantage. Wegerif et al (1998) agrees stating that direct software can support discussion and reasoning. He found that the intervention could move classes from 50th out of 100 to the top 30.

He believed that software needs to challenge, have a clear purpose, on screen prompts, no features that encourage turn taking and multiple choice questions. (Higgins, 2004, p170) There is a lot of evidence that shows the effectiveness of discussion and peer support. Vgotsky states that with the help of their peers children enter into a ‘zone of proximinal development’ which allows them to achieve their full potential. However some software is better suited to individual learning, allowing children to work at their own pace.

Jackson and Kutnick (1996, cited in Higgins 2005) agree stating that ‘Individuals work better on drill and practise activities’. Integrated learning programmes are an example of this and can be very effective as they are differentiated and provide feedback for children. This ‘drill and practice’ software allows children to practice the skills they have learnt; the Cockcroft report highlights the importance of this. However the integrated learning programmes don’t ensure that pupils are learning the desired objective and don’t offer formative feedback.

Therefore it does not help children to improve and correct their answers and this is a crucial part of the learning process. The area where ICT can be used very effectively in maths is experimental learning, where the role is reversed and children ‘teach the computer’. Much research states that when children explore and experiment for themselves they truly learn. As teachers we need to be aware of children’s capabilities and allow them to explore. Williams and Easingwood (2004) state that ‘a good teacher is often a teacher who is prepared to take risks’ (p36).

Ownership can be liberating for children and gives teachers new insights into the way children learn. Also if willing, teachers can learn a lot from the children. They often know a lot of the software better than due to being brought up on computers. This can be a good opportunity for children to teach the class, or tutor their peers, and this has been shown to be a very effective way of supporting children’s maths skills, as it allows them to explain their ideas of skills and concepts, which consolidates their learning. Similarly teachers need to be aware that children do not have to know everything.

Ainley (2001, p172) states that children will learn more by working through their problems and learn valuable lessons in problem solving. From my work in year one I am aware of the importance of problem solving, the Cockcroft report reinforces this calling problem solving ‘the heart of mathematics’ (Appendix B). Seymour Papert (book mindstorms, 1980) was geared towards experimental learning rather than directly instructing the children. He came up with the program ‘logo’. Logo allows children to explore and through this they begin to understand instructions and how to program the turtles to do what they require.

Logo can enhance children’s skills in several areas of maths including: shape and space, direction, distance, angles, bearings and compass points. It allows children to learn advanced concepts such as angles; this is where logo is so powerful. Angles could not be taught at a very young age but through logo children become aware of 90 degree and 180 degree angles, which is a concept way advance of their years. Logo can also offer lots of extension activities such as: producing the same results with further commands and a move to formulas. This will make sure that learning is not restricted and ‘more able’ children are catered for.

ICT can be used effectively to differentiate pupils. The teacher can harness the children’s abilities in one area to help them with difficulties in another. Williams and Easingwood (2004) state that what remains important is that the ICT being used is appropriate to the capabilities of the pupils and the teaching and learning objectives for that lesson. Many children find maths difficult and ICT can be used to increase their confidence and motivation. In my experience ICT is fun for children and they often do not realise they are learning. ICT can support children of differing abilities.

ICT equipment can be modified to suit the child, for example a different keyboard could be used to support those with weak motor skills or a larger screen for visually impaired children. It is crucial that all children are included and treated as individuals so that they can achieve their full potential. This is a requirement of the National Curriculum (Appendix E), which reflects the Education and Human Rights Act. ICT provides a wealth of tools for teachers to enhance children’s mathematical skills. The evidence clearly shows that it is how ICT is used that makes the difference. A lot of factors affect the way that teachers teach.

Higgins and Moseley (2001) state that the way in which teachers skills, beliefs and practices are related, affects the way they choose to use ICT, and how effective they are at using it. Pritchard and Briggs (1996) support this stating that recent research (NGfl, BECTa, Dfes, 2001) has found that the extent of ICT use in the curriculum seems to be dependent on the individual teacher and that pupils can have very different experiences across different schools and subjects Mosely et al’s (1999 ) document ‘moving forward with ICT… ‘ states that this is more to do with teacher confidence.

They found that finding areas of ICT where teachers are confidence was a great starting point. This made them more likely to try new teaching approaches, resulting in the effective teaching of ICT. Ainley (1996) agrees stating that ‘developing your own confidence with using mathematical software is a very important step towards using ICT confidently to enrich children’s experiences of mathematics’ (p4). This highlights the support that teachers need – support from colleagues, the school and the Government. The Government have created a range of initiatives to support teachers.

One of the Governments initiatives funded by the New Opportunities Fund (NOF) in 1997 was to provide new equipment and resources to teachers. More recently laptops have been provided for teachers to plan and preparations have been made for broadband to be available in all schools. This has shown to be effective. The teacher training Agency evaluated the use of training and found improved standards of attainment. This is supported by the annual ofsted report ‘ICT in schools’ (2004) which states that ‘overall an increasing number of numeracy lessons are being supported by ICT’.

However, the lessons were shown to be inconsistent and unsystematic. These concerns are shared by the Becta Report (2003), although they state that it may be due to the variable access to ICT. Either way, these inconsistencies are causing inequalities in maths and this is something that has to be addressed. This shows we still have a long way to go.

Bibliography

Ainley, J (1996) Enriching Primary Mathematics with IT. London: Hodder & Stoughton. Ainley, J (2001) Adjusting to the newcomer, roles for the computer in mathematics classrooms. Gates (ed) Issues in mathematics teaching. London: Routledge Falmer

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