The 21st century has changed the way teachers teach. There is undoubtedly an increase in the use of technology. When it comes to teaching with technology, there are two types of technologies – content specific and content neutral. Content specific technologies are technologies that are specific to a certain subject area, such is the case of mathematics, graphing calculator, Geometer’s Sketch Pad, and Mable. Content neutral technologies are technologies that are not specific to one subject area, but rather they are used to allow students to make sense of a certain learning objective. Example technologies are document camera, multimedia projector, interactive whiteboard, and some mobile learning apps.Technology to support learning in STEM is critical to student success.The purpose of this article is to provide STEM teachers with helpful hints to integrate technology effectively. The motivation to use technology depends on the desired outcome.
Four types of motivation to use technology are:
When technology is used to stimulate curiosity, the student typically initiates conjectures about an event. Sometimes these conjectures can be examined without the use of technology. However, some students may have trouble with content, while missing the point of examining the conjectures. Allowing students opportunities to examine their curiosity with technology, allows students to focus on their curiosity, rather than get lost in content. One example is to use Geometer’s Sketchpad to investigate the sum of the three angles of a triangle. Another example is to use Vernier Technology to determine if a bridge breaks at a beam or joint first.
Promote problem solving
Students working with non-routine problems, is a goal for many STEM teachers. Students use technology when working with larger numbers and/or real-world scenarios. Typically, a desire of problem solving is to allow students opportunities to demonstrate their analytical ability. Technology can be used to help facilitate this for the students. One example is to use a graphing calculator to graph data to make sense of a real-world scenario. Another example is to use a movie-making app to create a movie to explain photosynthesis.
Students make connections in every STEM subject. Making connections is a way for students to make sense of new content. Students refer to an idea that she/he knows, then new content is added on. Using technology is a great way for students to explore what is already known and let the technology take that exploration to the next level. One example is to use the free software program SketchUp7 to allow students to create 3D designs based on parameters and recreate the same design with modified parameters. Another example is to input data into Microsoft Excel to explore correlation and R-squared.
When students’ complete assessments (i.e., unit test, quiz, Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), or American College Test (ACT)) with the aid of technology, the technology allows the students to arrive to a solution quicker and able to show higher order thinking. Most assessments are timed and not every student works at the same speed. AP and IB programs, along with such assessments as the SAT and ACT highly encourage students to use technology when appropriate. One example typically associated with the IB HL curriculum ask students to write the inverse of a matrix and solve simultaneous equations. Of course, both can be accomplished using pencil and paper, however, with the aid of a graphing calculator; a solution is arrived at much quicker. Another example found in the AP Biology curriculum, students are to calculate chi square value to the nearest hundredths. To answer, a four-function calculator with a square-root feature is all that is needed.