Interactive Technologies and STEM
Early-Grades Teaching and Learning

R+P in the Classroom: One Teacher’s Journey with Research and Practice

In Auburn, Maine, teachers, administrators, and researchers are exploring together the best ways to use interactive mobile technology for early-grades mathematics learning. In our first observations in Auburn classrooms, the Interactive STEM team at EDC saw apps being used one on one or between students but no tracking about what apps were being used and how.

Using apps available from the Math Learning Center, such as number frames, the team worked to encourage teachers, with their questioning, to elicit from students viable arguments about their thinking as well as to critique the reasoning of their classmates.

At the same time, teachers don’t necessarily have good models for how to do this, let alone how to use the iPad to develop those kinds of skills and practices. How do you build that? How to choose when and how to use the tool but also using it strategically—not just the teacher, in terms of engaging apps and tools—but the students and their ability to start being critical users of the tools. How do you help a student choose the app?

In Auburn, students are now saying, I’m going to use a number frame to solve this problem. It’s amazing to see kids make the switch from seeing the tools as games to tools for math class. Explain Everything allows students to write and record what they’re representing. Students also will video-record each other using the camera on the iPad. We see first and second graders taking pictures of physical manipulatives in one tool and bringing those into Explain Everything and talk about what they did. For first and second graders, the sophistication of the tool was no big deal.

Their math communication is getting deeper and richer, and students are doing a lot of self-correcting. They’ll start to explain a problem and how they were thinking about it, and then say, no, that’s wrong. You can see them erase and see them talk about it a different way. In many cases, the students prefer the app because they don’t have the fine motor skills to draw what they want to represent. Using the iPad and reduce the frustration that comes from being unable to write down what they’re thinking. 

Many different artifacts and rich data from students are produced through this process, which enables the teachers to get inside the students’ thinking and create deeper and more probing kinds of questions and help students develop their conceptual understanding at a very different level. The formative assessment opportunity within these classrooms is getting richer and richer. Teachers are quickly being able to assess where students are at. In addition, they can reply what the student said or did to understand it further.

We are continuing to co-investigate this work with teachers and administrators in Auburn and researchers here in Maine through our ongoing Research + Practice Collaboratory partnership.