Starting from the Student..thinking aloud

I was asked the other day to comment by my tutor, on a research digest article, regarding Interactive Whiteboards, by the NCETM (The National Centre for Excellence in Teaching Mathematics) This document is really interesting not for what it has to say about the use of technologies in Mathematics lessons, but in the assumptions it makes regarding teacher perceptions of the role of talk as a tool in ICT mediated learning contexts. This was of particular interest to me since this has formed an integral part of the literature review for my dissertation, which uses digital video to explore aspects of what learning looks like in my ICT mediated mathematics lessons. It has helped me reframe the perspective of my discussions, and provide context and relevance to some of the issues I had, previously raised about an overly generalised outsider perspective on how ICTs are used to mediate learning.

What seems at the moment more relevant to me, in terms of understanding what learning might look like, is in the material that surrounds the IWB review presented, and what it has has to say about the use talk, in supporting, framing, mediating and developing mathematical contexts. The "transformative potential" of the IWB lies not in the technology, but how we as teachers understand it as mediating tool in learning situations, We seem to shy away from the idea that IWBs are presentation tools, becoming defensive about our perceptions of it, but essentially this is what they were designed for. In the classroom however their transformative potential lies in how we use them as a vehicle to bring together a host dynamic tools within wider structured and tool mediated collaborative or communal work. How as "designers for learning" teachers draw on the affordances of software environments and other tools to engage their learning communities, for example through guided investigation and problem solving approaches within shared and communal tasks.

The current web 2.0 revolution is evolving through social networks, where learning together and communal knowledgebuilding is a key and accepted element. I learn much by visiting other blogs, wondering how certain things were achieved, experimenting and joining in sharing ideas, and seeking support from a diverse network. In the classroom I know this occurs also, but the key to enabling this is how we use the space to share in the knowledge and experience developed by one member of the community, building on this through the experiences we bring for the benefit of everyone, seeing each contribution or idea as part of a larger whole. Using the ideas embedded here, and stemming from engagement with the work of Neil Mercer, I have begun to use his view of talk, as a process of "thinking together," to look at how or whether the IWB and other mediating tools used supported the creation of common knowledge and ideas in my classroom, and the strategies I used that enable or disable this process to take place. Anyway to end on a lighter note, thinking about starting from the student I found this today thanks to Doug Dickinson

A group of young children were sitting in a circle with their teacher ...
...she was going around in turn asking them all questions.

"Davey, what sound does a cow make?" Davey replied, "It goes 'moo'."

"Alice, what sound does a cat make?"Alice said, "It goes 'meow'."

"Jamie, what sound does a lamb make?"Jamie said, "It goes 'baaa'."

"Jennifer, what sound does a mouse make?"Jennifer paused, and said, "Uhh... it goes... 'click'!"

Submitted by Dave, Bolder, Co to My Kid Sister's Sayings .

I have to say this really appealed to me, as a similar incident occurred when a colleague from Chile was drawing with his son. They had made an elephant, and were colouring it in. My colleague asked if he could paint the elephant grey, and his son reached over dipped his finger in the paint and pressed on the elephants body. Unfortunately unlike the PC based "paint" this did not result in a flood fill, which is what his little boy had expected. So talk, what we say and how we interpret it does have a bearing on the common meanings we make!

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