Conestoga College believes that the use of information technology in the math classroom enables students to develop ideas, solve problems, and understand the commonalities among different concepts. The Conestoga College Institute for Technology and Advanced Learning plans to offer a program that strengthens math competency by creating an engaging and collaborative environment focused on helping students to relate their learning experience to real business applications.
In order for students to be engaged in their learning, they need to feel that what they are being taught will be useful to them in their careers. The intent of this project is to use technology to create an engaging and collaborative environment for the students and relate their learning experience to real business applications through Conestoga’s Centre for Entrepreneurship. To create an engaging environment, we utilize HP Tablet computers, an interactive white board, online learning tools, e-texts, videos and collaboration software in our “Business Math Lab” to teach Business Math to seven classes of first year Business Certificate and Diploma students. In order to connect the math which the students are learning to real world business applications, we have enlisted the help of professionals such as entrepreneurs and financial services professionals to make videos that share with the students how math is used in their particular industry. The first phase of this project involved the development of a “Business Math Lab” which includes 45 HP Tablet computers, an interactive white board, and use of online learning tools, e-texts, videos, an online learning community and collaboration software. We received our tablets in November 2011 and used them for the remainder of the semester. This gave us some time to work out any issues that arose with regards to technical and procedural issues. We started a new semester in January 2012 using the tablets in five cohorts. These were all first year Business Math classes. A majority of the students had some exposure to the tablets in the previous semester and one class was completely new to this method of teaching. In the second year, we increased the number of cohorts using the tablets to 7. We use Dyknow interactive software as a teaching tool. It enables us to connect directly with the students. The lessons are transferred to their screens in real time and the teachers are able to get instant feedback on student understanding of the concepts. Students can make their own notes and save them to their school hard drives. Other online tools being used include an e-text and instructional videos (developed by both the textbook publisher and classroom professor) and an online “whiteboard” that allows for extra math help in the evenings while students are at home. Given the time commitments required for our entrepreneur and professional services guest speakers, we came to the conclusion that it would be more practical and scalable if we were to create a video library of these entrepreneurs sharing how they use specific math topics. We have developed 5 videos to date and have determined that additional resources are required in order to produce a high quality finished product. Because our current lab is a shared classroom, there are limitations with respect to the use of this room. A dedicated facility would enable us to create an environment that promotes innovation, collaboration, and connectivity as fundamental learning processes. We now have that opportunity. The new Centre for Entrepreneurship at Conestoga College has been funded with over $1 million private sector support. The Centre includes the RBC Ventures Lab, a modern classroom in which we will move , the HP Catalyst Project this summer. Phase 2 of our project involved using the tablet PCs for interactive financial and entrepreneurship workshops that would be offered through Conestoga’s Centre for Entrepreneurship. Through our new home in the RBC Ventures Lab, we will implement this phase starting fall 2013. The tablets also enable us guarantee access to technology for our Small Business Ventures Program that will be offered through the Centre for Entrepreneurship. This program will be available beginning September 2013 for university and college graduates and individuals with a minimum of two years of work experience in a field related to their new venture. Students will learn to develop and implement business plans, and will develop their knowledge and skills in such areas as: accounting and financial management, marketing, corporate responsibility, human resource management and succession planning. We hope to achieve the following project enhancements through expansion of the HP Catalyst Initiative: • Creation of a library of video clips of the entrepreneurs discussing the use of mathematics in their businesses, so that all many students can benefit from making the connection between Math and Business; • Development of financial literacy workshops and entrepreneurial workshops that will make effective use of the tablet computers; • Professional Development for teachers to help them learn how to use technology in their classrooms to its full potential; • Collaboration with other Business Math students from across the globe – to discuss uses of math in everyday life and to participate in cross-college projects.
Findings & Achievements:
Tablet Use & Engagement in the Classroom
The level of engagement in the classroom is the most direct and immediate change that has happened as a result of the tablets being introduced. The instant feedback that can be obtained through the Dyknow software (either by “polling the students” on understanding or having them submit a page of work for review) is invaluable from a teaching perspective. It tells the teacher right away if they need to adjust their lesson plan. Overall, most of the students enjoyed using the tablets. They liked that the lessons were in close proximity to them, rather than on the board farther away. One student remarked that it was difficult to get distracted because the computer was right there in front of him and he had no choice but to pay attention.
Naturally, we have a few students that prefer pen and paper. We have found that by encouraging them to use the computers to display the lesson and giving them “permission” to write notes in their notebooks if they prefer, they are not feeling pressured to use the tool. As a result, some of them have started to use the tablet on their own to make their notes and relyi less on pen and paper.
Teaching using Technology
An unanticipated by-product of this project has been the realization that the teaching styles of individual teachers must be adapted in order for the students to fully accept this technology in the classroom. Additionally, it has been noted that students may become confused when a large variety of teaching methods are used in the classroom. Some students also express frustration regarding the appropriate times to utilize the tablets vs. traditional methods of pen and paper when a standard has not been set among various faculty members. Lessons need to be created in such a way that they fully utilize the potential of the tablets and technology that is available. Teacher training must include not only how to use the technology, but also ways to teach effectively using technology.
Initially, the plan was to have entrepreneurs come into the classroom and share how they use math in their business practices. Last year, we had 5 classes using the tablets and it was quickly apparent that asking someone to come into 5 classes in one week was going to be problematic and time consuming. We came to the conclusion that it would be more practical and scalable if we were to create a video library of these entrepreneurs sharing how they use specific math topics. These videos could then be implemented in all our business math classes, not just the ones involved in the HP Catalyst project. They could also be shared among other partners in the HP Catalyst initiative. We have developed 5 videos to date and have determined that additional resources are required in order to produce a high quality finished product.
Personal Notes for at Home Study
Although the lesson is pushed out to each tablet and teacher notes are posted online for students to download, each student can make their own notes as well. They can save them and open the file at home (Dyknow is free for them to open their notes with), save it as a PDF (if they don’t want to download software or are unable to) or they can print the notes on the HP printer that was part of the grant award.
As part of the project, we initiated a research study that will track attitudes towards math and student success rates in our math classes. We will be reviewing the data collected in the Spring/Summer of 2013.
Collaboration within Catalyst:
The Centre for Entrepreneurship works closely with community organizations throughout the Kitchener-Waterloo area. These include the KW Greater Chamber of Commerce, the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce, and the Guelph Chamber of Commerce; the Waterloo Region Small Business Centre, the Canadian Innovation Centre, and financial institutions, among others.
Opportunities such as the HP Catalyst Ning, the Online Poster Session and the HP Catalyst Summit allow for Catalyst members to learn about other projects that might compliment their own – either as a resource or as an opportunity to expand.
The development of a resource bank of best practices and case studies would allow members to not have to “re-invent the wheel” or perhaps act as springboard to new ventures.