Technology is more prominent in today’s classroom than it ever has been; from interactive whiteboards to PCs and handheld devices all holding their place within a learning environment.
We live in a digital world, where it’s common for even very young children to own a smartphone and tablet. Search engines are the go to place when researching any topic or subject rather than going to the library. So, should these tools should be readily available in the classroom to support learning?
In mathematics, mobile devices can be very useful for helping teachers get pupils engaged to learn new material and lessons at all ages. From maths-based brain teasers and problem solving apps for younger pupils, to software such as Excel which allows older pupils the opportunity to create graphs, charts and more from real time data – not to mention formulas to calculate figures.
There are currently numerous educational apps on the market for both teachers and students. Last year, National Numeracy, an independent charity which aims to increase low levels of numeracy among adults and children, announced the launch of its new free app to aid maths education.
There is evidence to suggest that digital equipment, tools and resources can raise the speed and depth of learning, particularly when used in science and maths for both primary and secondary school pupils. However, should this be the primary way we teach children?
No replacement for a tangible resource
Any book lover will tell you that no matter how many novels they have on a Kindle, nothing will ever beat having a book to touch, turn the pages on and go back to reflect on whenever they please. The same could be said for a tangible textbook when it comes to learning.
Aside from sight and touch playing a key role in understanding for younger children, there are many reasons why textbooks and worksheets still hold a key place in the classroom.
While technology allows children to learn in ways their parents and grandparents never had, there are still some concerns that teachers need to strike the right balance between traditional teaching methods and digital ones. For example there’s the issue of the amount of screen time children have each day, and iPads and similar devices in classrooms may only add to this.
In addition, there’s one obvious con of using new technology in the classroom, and it’s the age-old problem – what happens if there’s a power cut or the device faults? Tablets are temperamental and are usually upgraded with new features and benefits, making their predecessors obsolete after a year or two. Plus, if you have a power cut, children may not have access to learning tools on digital devices if they have no charge in them!
Handheld devices such as tablets can be great for learning, but there’s evidence to suggest that using such devices affects our concentration levels and attention span. Of course, we need children to be alert and focused in order to best understand and learn the concepts of maths so it makes sense to limit the use of technology when learning new concepts.
A good teacher is the number 1 resource children require to enthuse and encourage them to get embroiled in the learning process.
Second only to that, there is no 100% substitute for textbooks, paper and mental arithmetic, and we don’t think there should be, though digital technology can certainly complement mathematical education in our primary and secondary schools, even if outwith the classroom rather than inside it.