Sunday, October 11, 2009

Math and Science Online

In recently gave a workshop to my colleagues about using the wiki. We encountered some small obstacles but the final result was a success. However, I left with a haunting feeling that these workshops should be tailored differently for the math and science teachers. My colleague, a math teacher, was insistent on first knowing how she could use a wiki in a math class before walking through the steps of building it. I understood her concern and left the workshop with a firm promise to myself to find high quality and easy-to-use web based resources for the math and science teachers that can easily be incorporated onto the wiki.

Then I came across this article in 'Elearn Magazine' by Maria H. Andersen at Muskegon Community College who writes about the reluctance of math and science teachers to adopt new technologies. She says, "Faculty from almost every discipline are interested in using new technologies and teaching online, except the people in math, science, and engineering." It's not because they don't want to learn something new or that they are busier than teachers of any other discipline, Andersen concludes. It's simply that they can't see how that new technology applies to their discipline. (I can hear the art and music teacher saying, "Hey, that's what we think too!)

Andersen offers a simple solution: give these teacher six powerful tools and examples for how to use them. I will only list the first three and encourage you to read the article yourself.

1. Tablet computers: The tablet PC is like a digital notebook with the additional capability that the screen can also be used for input. Tablet PCs are usually equipped with a stylus that allows the user to write on the screen. Handwriting recognition software converts this input into text for use with software such as internet browsers and email programs. As an educational tool, two of the most important features of the tablet PC are annotation and wireless communication. The annotation feature allows the user to write on almost any document much as one would annotate a printout of the same document. The wireless communication feature allows tablet PCs to share information with one another. She mentions Wacom's Bamboo Tablet for under $100.

2. Recording and editing software such as Jing (there's a free version) and Camtasia.

3. Training in equation software such as Mathtype. Andersen points out that most math and science teachers don't receive formal training and "if instructors perceive that creating equations in documents is too time-consuming, they are unlikely to try teaching online, where typing an equation is often the quickest form of communication."

I recommend Ms. Anderson's blog where she writes about teaching math and technology online.

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