Using ICT to enhance learning- the BIG debate! Here’s one idea…

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This evening my department had a wonderful discussion about the potential future direction of ICT use within the department. Many people had lots of great ideas which filled me with enthusiasm and excitement of the opportunities to use ICT to enhance learning.

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to this recently as the day that pupils get their own netbooks to use in lessons seems on the horizon as computers become more ubiquitous and cheap to produce each year.

Whilst the day that pupils have ‘electronic exercise books’ that they write in using a graphic tablet still seems quite a way off, I am convinced that current ICT technology can help us improve our resource delivery to the students. At the moment, if I want to give the students a worksheet resource I either have to go photocopy a class set or scan it in and display it on the interactive white board. The benefit of the students having a netbook would be that you could send them the resource electronically for them to view on their computer screen. They still work in their books since for the immediate future that is how maths exams are assessed, on paper. The beauty of this approach is that resources don’t have to be just worksheets. They could be any media files: videos, audio clips etc.

In implementing any ICT solution I am 100% convinced that ease-of-use is they most important quality to it’s success.

There are wonderful opportunities for dynamic geometry and graph plotting software to support learning. Geometer’s SketchPad, Omnigraph and Geogebra are but a few of the large choice of software packages we have out there. My personal favourite is Geogebra because it is free and it runs in a web browser. However, perhaps the biggest thing going for Geogebra is that you can remove all the complexity of understanding how to use the software and very quickly create an intuitive-to-use web applet in the form of a webpage. What is the point in wasting time training pupils how to construct ‘a line segment to join point A and point B’ etc if the main focus of the lesson is for them to investigate angles in parallel lines? Take away the complexity of the construction task giving them an easy-to-use webpage that is designed totally on the lesson objective. Time consuming? No! The angles in parallel lines investigation web applet that is linked to below took me literally less than 5 minutes to make and I am certainly not a pro with Geogebra.

View the Angles In Parallel Lines Investigation here

The resource is also available in the ‘Geogebra Resources’ page that you access through the ‘Resources’ tab at the top of this webpage.

The debate rolls on. I think we always need to have in mind two things when thinking about ICT solutions.

1. People naturally gravitate towards simple easy-to-use solutions. If you have to explain how to use something more than once people really won’t use it.

2. Some resources focus on engaging learners rather than focussing on being a learning tool. You can’t teach people until they want to learn but we do need to remember that edutainment isn’t learning.

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