Integrating Mobile Devices in the Mathematics Curriculum: A Case Study of a Primary School in Cyprus

Integrating Mobile Devices in the Mathematics Curriculum: A Case Study of a Primary School in Cyprus

Maria Meletiou-Mavrotheris (European University Cyprus, Nicosia, Cyprus), Efi Paparistodemou (Cyprus Pedagogical Institute, Nicosia, Cyprus) and Christiana M. Christou (Cyprus Ministry of Education and Culture, Nicosia, Cyprus)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 19
DOI: 10.4018/IJMBL.2019070102
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The case study took place in a primary school in Cyprus (student ages 6-12), which implemented a two-year multifaceted professional development program aimed at the effective integration of tablet technologies within the mathematics curriculum. The program adopted a systemic, school-based and collaborative model of professional development that focused on the broad preparation and ongoing engagement of all key stakeholders. This article focuses on research conducted during the first year of the program implementation. It portrays the initial state of mobile device use in the case study school ecosystem, describes the process of tablet integration within the school setting, and interrogates the self-reported reflections of a core team of six (n=6) teachers in the school regarding their professional learning experiences as a result of participating in the program. Findings suggest that the model of professional development adopted by the program effectively contributed to the integration of mobile devices into the school setting and to teacher professional learning.
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The exponential rate of adoption of tablets and other mobile devices witnessed worldwide in recent years has dramatically increased children’s access to and use of technology. Research indicates that children as young as two can easily adapt to the intuitive interface of touch-enabled devices and use them with much greater independence compared to desktop computers (Geist, 2012). The ease of using tablets has resulted in a large percentage of children becoming frequent users of mobile devices, which they tend to use mainly for playing games, often for enormous amounts of time. This increased popularity and proliferation of mobile devices in children’s daily life has led to a widespread interest among educators in how this massively popular youth activity could be brought into the classroom to capture students' interest and facilitate their learning. Responding to this trend, there has been an explosive growth in the number of educational apps available on the market. Many of these apps target mathematics education.

Although the collection of available educational apps is vast and continuously growing, their successful deployment in the classroom is highly dependent upon the knowledge, attitudes, and experiences of teachers. Implementing mobile mathematics learning brings huge challenges to the teaching and learning culture and, to be successful, it requires major changes to traditional forms of instruction. Teachers need to be proactive, choosing high quality educational apps, supporting and scaffolding pupils, and providing appropriate feedback. However, as several studies have indicated, when tablets and other mobile devices enter classrooms and other learning environments, their impressive immersive capabilities are often overlooked or underdeveloped, and they are used in very traditionally structured, stand-and-deliver classroom settings (Attard, 2015). Thus, for teachers to be able to effectively integrate mobile devices into the learning process, they should be offered high quality professional development.

Acknowledging the transformative potential of mobile devices, but also the crucial role of teachers in any effort to bring about change and innovation (Weber, 2015), the explorative case study described here focused on school-based teacher professional development on the effective integration of tablet technologies into mathematics instruction. The case study explored the design and implementation of a multifaceted professional development programme that took place in a public primary school in Cyprus (student ages 6-12). Guided by Phillips’ (2016) revised Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) model as a conceptual framework, the programme sought to provide the group of teachers in this school (n = 33) with the knowledge, skills, and support systems necessary to implement inquiry-based, problem-solving curricula fostering meaningful and authentic integration of tablet technologies into mathematics instruction. It adopted a systemic approach to the mobile devices’ integration process by involving a range of key stakeholders in the process: students, parents, school leadership team.

The investigation of the design and implementation of the professional development programme in the case study school extended over a period of two years (Fall 2016-Spring 2018). The research presented in the current article focused on the first year of the case study and had the following objectives:

  • To portray the initial state of mobile devices’ and other technologies’ use in school and at home, and key stakeholders’ (teachers, students, parents) beliefs, attitudes, and practices in relation to the instructional integration of mobile devices, so as to gain a holistic picture of the school ecosystem at the commencement of the programme;

  • To explore the process of tablet devices’ integration within the case study school setting during Year 1 of the programme, and the ways in which the adoption of a systemic, school-based model of professional development impacted the process;

  • To interrogate the self-reported reflections of teachers engaged in the professional development programme in order to detect their perceptions regarding the effectiveness of the adopted professional development model.

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