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Topic: Understanding Distance, Speed, and Time Relationships Using Simulation Software
Related Item: http://mathforum.org/mathtools/tool/13171/


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Subject:   RE: Understanding Distance, Speed, and Time Relationships Using Simulation Software
Author: Craig
Date: Jan 24 2008
On Jan 23 2008, cantsy wrote:
> Thank you for the wide range of ideas on how to apply this to the
> classroom.  I find these very interesting but find it difficult to
> see how to actually use it in the classroom.  Do you just throw it
> in here and there to show the concept?  or Do you spend a class
> period looking at a variety of aspects and allowing the students to
> discover these or direct them to it?  I'm looking for ways to apply
> more technology to the classroom to create interest and take the
> learning to a deeper level.

How you use an individual tool, or a whole lesson activity, really depends on
what you want your students to learn and what resources you have available.  As
a math teacher, the answer to "What do I want my students to know?" is VERY
rarely "this applet was cool" or "I had fun in the computer lab today."

When I see a new tool (such as this one) I think about how it relates to what I
want my students to learn.  I (usually?) try to keep an open mind, and even see
how other teachers use it, just in case my imagination or math understanding is
too limited.  Then I think about how I could use the tool to help students
master my learning objectives.  Does the tool (perhaps in combination with
others) have enough richness to justify trooping the whole class into a computer
lab to explore with it, or is a smaller-scale demonstration in the classroom
sufficient?  

For this PARTICULAR tool, with my PARTICULAR students, showing it in class and
asking some of the questions in the discussion thread was effective.  For other
tools I want to have all students use, I write up a list of questions which
students then use the tool to answer.  I almost always include some sort of
"exploratory" question, just at (or even beyond) the edge of the tool's
capability.  Another way I have used a small number of computers in the
classroom is to give students a list of tasks to complete in groups; one or two
of the tasks would involve using a computer tool, but the rest would involve
some other activity, and student groups rotate through the computer
stations.

The MathTools site is a good source not only for tools but for lessons and
activities involving how tools are used.  You mentioned "taking learning to a
deeper level," and that is a very important point to make.  It can be easy to
use technology tools (or any other teaching device or method) at a very
superficial, "eye-candy" level.  Perhaps as you start using technology it
might be at that level; but as you become more comfortable with how it works,
you can begin to ask those deeper questions of yourself, and eventually your
students, that really will take you where you want to go.  


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