Maths and physics ramblings.

Paperless classrooms, Pt 4 – My personal fears and hopes and qualms and goals / Bits and pieces / Some things to think about or read

To be quite honest: when I truly want to come to grips with an article I’m reading for uni, I print it out. Oh sure, I print two sheets to a page and double sided, but it’s still a print-out. And true, I don’t have an ipad or Kindle or any other paper-substitute of my own just yet so I can’t speak with absolute authority – but I am convinced that I will never truly convert to e-readers. Perhaps this will be the identifying sign of people born in the 20th century? Or maybe I am being fanciful. But ipads and interactive white boards: these I can definitely get behind. All my reference material and textbooks and graphing software in a single place? Yes. Hooking my laptop (or ipad or…) up to a screen without excessive fiddling around (as I have previously rhapsodised about)? YES. I guess my conclusion is that I am prepared to dip my toe into the world of education technology – just as long as I don’t have to love or adopt all of it!

Oh and here are some interesting links I don’t have time or space to properly discuss but are worth a look:


Paperless classrooms, Pt 3 – What can ipads do for us?

I had a bit of a look-around to see what are some of the basic things that an ipad could do for me-as-a-teacher, and these are some of the apps that I decided I would absolutely need:

 A handwriting app (I need this!)

A good graphics calculator (CAS) equivalent:

General mathematics technology:

Maybe some ebooks…? You’re looking at about $10-20 for one, and normal textbooks start at $50. See, technology SAVES you money!!

But for me the real question is, what can a particular ebook about ADD to the experience (ie, what can it do that a standard bound paper book can’t)? It’s worth taking a look at the ebook section in this (the entirety of which is a fascinating read).

Paperless classrooms, Pt 2 – Pros and cons of the digital classroom, generally

Before waxing too lyrical about the benefits of current technology, take a look at these two articles – and (To sum them up, they say that technology is useless unless carefully planned and implemented and it actually ADDS to the learning experience, instead of adding a shiny veneer to what a classroom is going to look like regardless.) As the very sensible Dan Meyer puts it:

“Then consider the difference between a teacher who uses blogs, wikis, podcasts, vodcasts, VoiceThread, Operator11, SlideShare, TeacherTube, Flickr, Animoto, and one who doesn’t. The difference between the two is less obvious neither is it necessarily positive. When used improperly and uncreatively, these tools do more harm than good1.”

Next post – so, what CAN ipads (in particular) do for us?

Paperless classrooms, Pt 1 – An introduction to the concepts and motivations

‘Paperless classrooms’ are a trending topic not just in the world of edublogs but in ‘normal,’ everyday schools. In Australia the federal government has the ‘Digital Education Revolution’ (have a quick read here which it has been funding since 2008. A key component of this has been the ‘one-to-one’ scheme (often written as ‘1:1’) whereby every high school student from year 9 up will have a laptop for their own use by the end of 2011 (via the National Secondary School Laptop Fund, see here

Paperless classrooms are generally seen to be important for two reasons: a) environmental, green motivations and b) embracing 21st century digital opportunities. A subset of the second reason, that is almost a third reason in its own right, is that we should prepare young learners for the technologically advanced world that they will be operating within once they leave school. Another motivation, that is often not explicitly owned up to, is that of capturing students’ interest or increasing their engagement – perhaps because this is seen as being mere bribery or a desperate attempt to connect to students on their own level. It’s difficult to know what to say to this – are we utilising technology to validate ourselves or because it’s truly useful in its own right? That reducing the use of paper is good for the environment is inarguable though, and more on the opportunities that technology affords us in the next post!

New things are scary (and awesome (and scary))

I got a teaching job for next year. Yay! Awesome! …At a school which is doing its best to go paperless(!) Ipads for Years 7 and 8, netbooks for Years 9 and up. As a maths and science teacher who loves innovation, this is fantastic. As somebody who will holds on dearly to her belief that she does her best work with a pen and paper in her hands, this is a little bit intimidating. So I thought I might post a series of linked posts exploring what a ‘paperless classroom’ will mean for me next year, with an emphasis on magpie-ing some shiny bits and pieces from other people’s views and experiences.


Things I said to other people about things we’ve both been writing about.

It is always nice to know you’re not alone ^_^



Managing and Exploiting Technological Change

An exposition of the way IT (smartboards) have made possible, or will make possible, new ways of teaching or learning in a specific discipline (physics and maths)


Smartboards in physics teaching may be summed up as making it possible to do more things, and do them more efficiently and convincingly than before. I have used smartboards throughout this year in teaching mathematics and physics and have found them invaluable. In particular, they make it easier to convey and demonstrate ideas – both conceptual and technical. In this post I’ll be discussing some of the keys ways in which they have improved my capacity to teach.

Read the rest of this entry »

Second Post / VELS & ICT

ICT provides a rich and flexible learner-centred environment in which students can experiment and take risks when developing new understanding (link)

To a certain extent I think that this is true. As a maths teacher-to-be I love how advances in graphic calculators in the last decade have made certain areas of mathematics so much more accessible to students. Students no longer have to work an equation (linear, quadratic, cubic, exponential…) out the ‘hard’ way – the calculator, if asked correctly, will solve for whatever variables you require. This of course allows far more complex equations to be worked with and useful practical applications to be more readily achieved. However this all comes at a cost: during my teaching rounds I have seen students of all year levels punching things into their calculator without fully understanding what they are doing, and losing the ability to evaluate whether an answer is reasonable or a mistake has been made.

I see students in the early years of high school automatically turning to their calculators for simple addition and multiplication problems, and in later years solving financial arithmetic problems without knowing what they are actually calculating. We provide the students with the ability to take shortcuts so it would of course be hypocritical to blame them for taking them. Not only this but the scope of mathematics that is taught in schools is constantly expanding – to spend too much time on laborious by-hand calculations would be inappropriate, out-of-touch and inefficient. I do however wonder if it is possible to find a way of ensuring that students’ actual understanding of the mathematical processes they are carrying out is not completely lost when we provide them with these shiny tools…? I’ll admit I don’t know the answer.

The situation is further complicated by a tendency among students to see calculators as tools, not opportunities: just because they can or have been provided with the opportunities to ‘experiment and take risks’ is no guarantee that they will have an interest in doing so. And again, this is fair enough – why should a student be fascinated by moving a parabolic function around a graph? Those who already love mathematics will see the appeal but for the majority of students, maths can be trying enough without being encouraged to experiment or take risks; such students will be perfectly content with knowing how to get the correct answer to set questions. However, it is impossible to cure a maths teacher of wanting to develop understanding, not just rote learning. As such I think it is vital to keep on encouraging students to play around with their calculators – to see what effect it has on an equation to move a parabola around a screen – to help them to see this technology as the opportunity it is to develop solid foundations, cement ideas and explore possibilities. There is no easy way to do this but to keep on doing it, to let our enthusiasm shine through, to integrate technology into our lessons as often and naturally as possible.

First Post

as above