Science, Math, and Technology: A Conversation with about Technology in K-12 Math and Science Education

Article excerpt

Q. WHAT MAKES SENSE FOR K-12 DISTRICTS TO LOOK AT RIGHT NOW IN TERMS OF TECHNOLOGY?

A. There are two really important uses of technology that districts could be focusing on.

One is interactive representation, where technology is used to visualize a math concept such as rate and proportionality, or simulate a scientific phenomenon such as how weather changes affect agriculture.

The second important use is to change the pattern of engagement in classrooms, getting kids more active and collaborative. The teacher is then able to provide more feedback and to adapt or to adjust instruction.

SRI is developing ways of using low-cost wireless handhelds to enable students to sketch the graph for a math function, for example. The sketches could be collected on a whiteboard, and then the student work is the focus of a classroom discussion.

Q. WHAT DO YOU SEE AS THE MAIN TECHNOLOGICAL TRENDS IMPACTING K-12 DISTRICTS?

A. The most important trend is away from technology in the form of computer labs or something you pull out on special occasions, and toward technology that's ubiquitous, inexpensive, and as easy to use as a pencil. Examples are the trends toward $100 laptops, and handheld devices such as PDAs, whiteboards, and graphing calculators.

There is also an overarching trend toward integrating technology into the core curriculum, rather than using it as a supplement or an extra. In math class, students don't need MS Word or PowerPoint. In science class, they don't need Excel. Rather, we're looking at applications that integrate with the subject matter and that are based on what research tells us about how people learn.

Q. WHAT CHALLENGES DO DISTRICTS FACE IN MAKING TECHNOLOGY DECISIONS?

A. The biggest challenge is overcoming fads and hype, and focusing on uses of technology that research shows produce learning.

In their rush to adopt wikis and blogs, schools may be neglecting powerful improvement approaches such as computer visualization, simulation, and modeling tools that have the backing of scientific evaluation.

Q. HOW DO SCHOOLS IN OTHER COUNTRIES COMPARE TECHWISE WITH U. …