Reaching Deep Conceptual Understanding through Technology

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Caitlin Riegel
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Maritza M. Branker
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Technology has been linked to increased student motivation in the twenty-first-century classroom (Rau, Gao, and Wu 2008). In addition to engaging students by using a familiar medium to present content, technology allows educators an opportunity to focus on reaching a deeper conceptual understanding. Specifically, educators teaching AP Calculus, a course designed to provide the same content as a college level calculus course, can use technology to promote understanding of material that high school standards do not mention as crucial, but are nonetheless considered fundamental and included in college textbooks. If AP students do not achieve a thorough conceptual understanding of content considered fundamental to calculus, the result may be a piecemeal view of the subject, a lessened appreciation for its applications, and a lack of preparation for postsecondary mathematics education (Bressoud 2004). Instructional technology can help teachers present material to meet the standards outlined by The College Board (2015), as well as provide students with content knowledge that will prepare them to meet collegiate expectations. When instructional technologies are used as contemporary tools and resources “aimed at deepening students' understanding of content” (Drijvers et al. 2010; Zazkis and Nunez 2015, p. 126) they can also increase deductive thinking by communicating, demonstrating, and explaining advanced conceptual material. Furthermore, instructional technology can connect with current pedagogy that emphasizes technology in education (ISTE 2008) when used as blended learning tools that teach “some fraction of the content through online sources” and implementing “non-lecture based activities” (Zazkis and Nunez 2015, p. 126). In all, the use of technology in calculus can provide a more holistic view of the mathematics without sacrificing class time needed to meet the standards.

Contributor Notes

Caitlin Riegel, ceriegel@niagara.edu, is an adjunct professor in the College of Education as well as the mathematics department at Niagara University in New York. She is interested in teacher candidate preparation related to educational technology, integrating technology into educational practices, and twenty-first-century learning.

Maritza M. Branker, mbranker@niagara.edu, is the head of the mathematics department and director of the actuarial science program at Niagara University. She is interested in finding more effective ways for students to engage in mathematics and to develop an appreciation for the beauty and power of the discipline.

(Corresponding author is Riegel ceriegel@niagara.edu)
(Corresponding author is Branker mbranker@niagara.edu)
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