Middle School Math iPod Touch Blog

Integrating Technology into the Middle School Classroom

On the horizon… The Horizon Report – 2011 February 17, 2011

  Horizon Reports tell of emerging technologies and when they are likely to impact teaching and learning. Much of the report focuses on the impact of emerging technologies on higher education, but it is easy to see the advantages of these practices in any educational setting. For example, electronic books could eventually be used in any educational setting, allowing students to highlight and take notes in their e-book making it a much more personalized learning tool. I am really intrigued by the thought of augmented books, whereby using goggles a reader is joined by 3D characters from the book. Sounds a bit like Where the Wild Things Are, which could be really cool or really scary.  Mobiles offer teachers another tool for assessing students, and do so in a more interesting manner offering immediate results the teacher can share with the class using social networks or polling sites.  The top trends included in this report are: mobiles, electronic books, augmented reality, game-based learning, gesture-based computing, and learning analytics.

  I am especially interested in game-based learning because for years research has shown the importance of kinesthetic learning in our youth, and teachers are well aware we need to make learning engaging for our students. Games of all types have proven to be a very effective learning medium for schoolers. I appreciate the authors of the report including all types of games and not simply electronic devices. “The greatest potential of games for learning lies in their ability to foster collaboration, problem-solving and procedural thinking”, but games offer two other great benefits in my classroom. They are a formative assessment tool to assist me in guiding my students through learning a concept or skill, and games offer an excellent means of differentiation.

  Educational games have come a long way since James Gee depicted the correlation between game-based learning and cognitive development. I see a spark in my students when they play games in class because they give their full attention to the game, they show a desire to compete and make improvements in their scores, and often they can collaborate with their peers. As noted in the report, games are appealing to both genders, they offer “the feeling of working toward a goal; the possibility of attaining spectacular successes; the ability to problem-solve, collaborate with others, and socialize”.  The report also foretells of the massively multiplayer online games (MMO) designed for learning. I don’t see the direct application of this type of game in the math classroom. Although, one year ago I didn’t see the usefulness of iPod apps in the classroom either and they have proven to be very effective. Games are innovative, innately motivating, encourage students to reflect on their own learning in order to make improvements and find greater success. I am very interested to see the way gaming changes in the near future.  One trend I enjoy that has already begun with games is gesture-based computing. Some of the best apps are those that require students to tilt the iPod, shake it, or write on it. Wii and Microsoft Kinect allow users to improve coordination, increase overall movement, and have fun playing a game that uses the player’s own body as a gaming device. I can’t wait to see what’s next!