KOKOMO, Ind. —Imagine that in one class period, you could view colorful fish and sea creatures off the Galapagos Islands, fly over the Paris skyline, and search for pythons in the Amazon rainforest.
With a virtual reality assist, students in a School of Education class at Indiana University Kokomo took this amazing field trip — while learning how to enhance their own teaching of math.
Robyn Dill, adjunct faculty member, introduced future teachers in her Mathematics in the Classroom session to current technology she uses to teach her second graders at Kokomo’s Northwestern Elementary School.
“Technology is an opportunity for people to problem-solve and to grow in their confidence in applying math to real-life situations,” she said. “A lot of times math is thought of as something strictly taught from a textbook. With technology, we can bring math closer to real-world situations, and integrate it into everyday problem solving. As teachers, this allows them to help their students see math isn’t just isolated algorithms and problems, it’s something we use in everyday life.”
Dill noted that being familiar with the latest technology tools also gives students an edge when they interview for jobs at schools that integrate technology in their curriculum.
While most students use technology in their daily lives, future teacher Kati Yotter admits she’s nervous about how to use it when she has her own classroom. The session helped her overcome those fears, she said.
“It made me realize I can learn along with my students, and be a role model of lifelong learning,” the Warsaw resident said. “I don’t have to be the expert at all technology, and there will be people I can ask for help.”
Yotter appreciated that Dill brought in Todd Miller, Northwestern Elementary’s technology integration specialist, to demonstrate some of the tools she and her colleagues use regularly.
“I loved that he had the tools right there for us to try, so we could get some ideas of what we might like to use in our classrooms,” Yotter said.
Their exploration started with iPads using Apple Classroom, showing how they can use it for classroom management, including monitoring what students are doing on their iPads. They used the Padlet app to write and post ideas on a screen, which Ontaisha Geary, Kokomo, said might encourage quieter students to participate more in class.
“This is a way they can share with no name up there, and no judgement,” she said. “It gives an opportunity for everyone to participate.”
Next up, the IU Kokomo students put on virtual reality goggles for their Google Expedition field trip, which Dill told them is a great way to introduce or supplement a lesson.
Students exclaimed in delight as they were suddenly in the middle of a swirling school of fish, while Dill used her iPad to display names of fish and supplemental information. This tool makes out-of-reach experiences available in moments, she said.
“Sometimes, you have to bring the world to them,” she said. “There are some students who don’t have many travel experiences, and you can bring them those.”
They also practiced coding with Lightbot and Sphero robots, programming them to follow simple directions to roll through the library.
In addition to building math skills, Dill said using technology gives students courage to try new things — even if they don’t get it right the first time.
“We try things, and if they don’t work, we try it again,” she said. “We’re creating a culture where it’s OK to make mistakes. People tend to be more forgiving of failure with technology. They’re willing to go back at it and try it again if it doesn’t work. It helps grow problem solvers. They learn that if you don’t get it right the first time, it doesn’t mean you can’t do it. It means you need to rethink it and come at it from another angle.”
She also wants her IU Kokomo students to take chances with technology, and try it even if it’s not comfortable.
“If we wait to introduce a technology in our classroom until we’ve mastered it, our students will always be behind,” she said. “We have to be willing to work out some of the difficulties together with our students, and reach out to colleagues who have expertise.”
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.