I write this on the board: “How would you like to see technology being used in the math classroom? How have you used technology in a meaningful way in school?”
The goal of this lesson is to start a conversation around the idea of technology and the way in which students would like to see it used in their classroom. This is an important conversation that we often avoid. We are so busy teaching the content around the common core that we are often unable to set up lessons that discuss something like technology. However, if we want our students to use technology in inventive and effective ways, we need to stop and discuss their experiences, expectations and ideas around the concept of technology. These lessons can be used at any time in the year. I like to use them in several ways. I use them at the start of the year to help establish routines for the year. I also discuss these types of lessons right before we are about to use technology at the center of an upcoming project. I also use them as a shift in focus when lessons are being squeezed, shortened or interrupted by something like a standardized testing schedule. I find that students need a major shift during these times and are too tired to work through any type of standard math lesson. I use that change in energy to redirect them towards a new routine or new type of technology.
The StartUP is meant to get students to share the intuition on technology in education. I ask them to write and speak about specific experiences around the technology that they have tried. As they write their thoughts, I circulate and write down interesting comments to ignite the conversation. After a few minutes of writing, I share my observations and quote and chart student needs and experiences. Its important to set up a table or chart that identifies three topics around technology: successful, unsuccessful and possible. “Successful” and “unsuccessful” would list out specific themes and moments that worked and didn’t work for them. The goal would be to identify a common thread in all the items in the “successful” column and all the pitfalls and faults of the items in the “unsuccessful” column. The “possible” column would refer to the ways in which students would like to technology used in the math classroom.
I like to ask students to think about the meaning of “successful” and “unsuccessful” as we build our table on the board. I want to them to draw connections between their different experiences and have an idea of what they want to see in their classroom.
“What do all the successful examples have in common?”
“What do all the unsuccessful examples have in common?”
“Have you had a similar experience?”
If the conversation is lagging a bit, I will mention specific things that people wrote in the room. This often gets the class going. As soon as they hear what someone else said or wrote, they feel more comfortable to participate.
I would also use this conversation to start building general rules and guidelines around technology in the classroom. All of the successful experiences will have a common thread that lends itself to the idea of rules in technology. Successful experiences in every class depends on technology that works. Students need to take care of whatever they use so that it can last and be used by others. They need to have specific goals in mind for the technology and use it in a way that makes sense. If we can’t finish this conversation around the 15 minute mark, we use the middle part of class to further the conversation and then revisit the guidelines at the end of class. I believe it is critical that the students come up with the guidelines around technology. I even quote them whenever possible. For example, I might ask, “how can we make sure that the technology lasts?” Students respond with the obvious, “make sure they treat the technology with respect.” I follow by quoting them and then asking, “what if they do break the technology?” Then students offer a fairly obvious but important idea, “they should let you know so you can fix it.” I might ask another student to rephrase, “if you break it, let Shaun know.” And then I quote them with the second rule. We keep going to establish a list that helps us prepare for whatever technology we have in store.
After students have had a chance to briefly discuss their ideas around technology, I give them the task of promoting one possible application of technology in the classroom. The idea is to create an advertisement to sell their technology. Not only should their advertisement be convincing, but they should also have a plan. Their plan has to involve a rough budget and plan for acquiring the technology (if already not available). The idea is that they should bring in a technology that can change the scope of the math classroom. The discussion at the start of class will have already got them thinking about the pros and cons of most applications of technology and will already have them thinking about other exciting possibilities. They will have already discussed the very idea of the work “technology” and know that this could apply to something as simple as the type of writing utensil (pencil, pen, marker) and surface (loose leaf, scrap, whiteboard, graph paper) to something as complex as implementing python into the homework routines of class.
As they work on the next bold move for technology in the math classroom, I would circulate, complement them on their ideas and of course, scrutinize their proposals. I would ask them all the questions that every teacher gets around their attempts to innovate with technology, “what is the cost? Where would we store that item? How is the battery life? How hard is it to learn the platform? How many students can access that technology? Is the technology something that other classes can utilize? What task does that technology accomplish? Is there another technology that does that better?”
If students are stuck on what type of technology they would like to implement, I facilitate a discussion on the ideas they have and try to offer a few exciting types of technology (you can always find great new developments online).