Training Teachers in the Effective Mathematical and Pedagogical Uses of Software: Perspectives from the Dynamic Number and Dynamic Geometry in Classrooms Projects

This presentation explores technology training in relation to two DR K-12 projects with a focus on increasing the mathematical and pedagogical content knowledge of teachers.


How can professional development that is focused on technology move beyond the nuts and bolts of the particular tool to a deeper look into the mathematical and pedagogical opportunities afforded by the technology?     This presentation explores technology training in relation to two DR K–12 projects with a focus on increasing the mathematical and pedagogical content knowledge of teachers.

Today's mathematics classrooms contain a variety of technology, from interactive whiteboards to graphing calculators to software like The Geometer's Sketchpad. These technologies are not ends in themselves, but rather a means toward mathematical learning and mathematical excitement. It is all too easy, however, to focus on the nuts and bolts of technology (e.g., How do I attach my whiteboard to a computer? What do these various menu commands do?), especially when teachers have a natural concern for the time commitment and effort it takes to incorporate technology into their mathematics classes. The challenge of professional development is not only to introduce teachers to technology, but also to use that introduction as point of entry for developing teachers’ mathematical understanding and encouraging them to reflect on and improve their instructional practices. Questions that professional development must answer include, How can incorporating technology improve the way students learn mathematics? How can it help students to learn more deeply and communicate more clearly? How can it help them visualize crucial mathematical ideas more vividly? How can it encourage them to explore interesting mathematics in a more independent and self-directed way? 

The Dynamic Number project and The Dynamic Geometry in Classrooms project are two DR K–12 programs that focus on technology—specifically, The Geometer's Sketchpad. The Dynamic Number project is a research and development project undertaken by KCP Technologies to use The Geometer's Sketchpad as a starting point for developing new software tools to deepen students' conceptions of integers, fractions, decimals, real number, and early algebra in grades 2–8. The Dynamic Geometry in Classrooms project is conducting repeated randomized control trials of an approach to high school geometry that uses Sketchpad and supporting instructional materials to supplement instructional practices. It compares effects of that intervention with standard instruction that does not make use of the computer. 

In both projects, it was necessary to design a professional development course and training materials to introduce participating teachers to The Geometer's Sketchpad and to acquaint them with best practices in using the software. This session looks at the methods and materials the two projects employed to train their field-trial teachers. It describes the benefits of online courses, video, message boards, projects, school-year ongoing professional development seminars, campus-level teamwork, and other components of a support system in preparing the teachers to be successful users of the technology. The session examines the challenges shared by both projects and offers suggestions to researchers who are using technology in classrooms as an integral part of their grants.