Technology Hardware/Software

Technology is definitely a two edged sword. Web browsers make a lot of information available to students, but a large fraction of the information on the web is ill informed or deliberate deception. Likewise computer programs and hardware can be beneficial, or they can actually be destructive. An example of beneficial technology is the motion detector. When used in inquiry labs, student's ability to understand motion graphs increases more than with paper and pencil tasks. Another beneficial technology is an electronic polling system. Students can be polled anonymously, and their responses can be shown as a histogram. This allows frequent formative assessment in a low stakes setting, and can be associated with increased understanding of concepts. It only works well when the questions are "thinking" questions rather than fact based questions.

The ETS study "Does It Compute? The Relationship Between Educational Technology and Student Achievement in Mathematics" is worth reading. It uses rigorous testing. The following quote is a good summary of the findings "The results from this study suggest that, as technology advocates have asserted, technology does matter to academic achievement, with the important caveat that whether it matters depends upon how it is used. The level of use of computers seems not to matter, and extremely high levels of use may even be counterproductive. Possibly at such high levels students are using computers in unproductive ways, such as playing non-educational games. But when computers are used to perform certain tasks, namely applying higher order concepts, and when teachers are proficient enough in computer use to direct students toward productive uses more generally, computers do seem to be associated with significant gains in mathematics achievement, as well as an improved social environment in the school." Essentially this study showed that math drill and practice programs degraded thinking skills, but math programs that allowed inquiry and exploration could improve thinking skills.

Reviews

CTI Software Reviews - Reviews from lecturers in the United Kingdom.

Computers in Physics - This contains reviews up to 1998. After that it was merged with Computers in Engineering and Science

Superkids Educational Software Review

While these and other reviews may help you by giving you more information about the products, you should always question whether improved learning was measured by pre and posttests of the material. The best material should be able to cite papers in refereed journals that show by pre and posttests how much additional gain may be attributable to the technology.

Hardware/Software

This is a biased list of products that I have found to be useful, or that have been shown by research to be beneficial when properly integrated into the curriculum. See also the web page on movies, and on simulations.

Personal Response System (PRS) - This is a set of infrared remote controls with receiver that plugs into a PC. Students can vote on questions anonymously. You get a complete record of the responses, but students only see the distribution of answers.

Classroom Performance System (CPS) - This is similar to PRS

ClassTalk - Similar in function to PRS above, but allows more detailed responses and is more expensive.

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