Insights into Students’ Thinking with Handheld Computers

Insights into Students’ Thinking with Handheld Computers

Wan Ng (La Trobe University, Australia) and Howard Nicholas (La Trobe University, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61692-849-0.ch006
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The handheld computer as a pedagogical tool has the capacity to enable students to demonstrate understanding through different modes of representations, for example, verbal, text, tables and graph, drawings, writing or written formulas, concept mapping and animations through Flash or Pocket Slides PowerPoint. Its impact as a motivational learning tool has been described in numerous articles. The purpose of this chapter is to describe its use as a research tool for capturing students’ thinking processes as they construct representations in science and mathematics, or solve problems in these learning areas on the handheld. By using an avi-screen capture software operating in the background to do this, the research is a non-intrusive method of capturing the verbal and screen-based (visual) elements of students’ thinking as they use the handhelds to complete individual or collaborative tasks.
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Theoretical Framework Underpinning Research Into Capturing Thinking With Handheld Computers

Science and Mathematics Learning

Many school students find learning mathematics and science concepts difficult, lack confidence in their own abilities and are disengaged from learning the subjects (Dowker, 2004; Goodrum, Hackling & Renniel, 2001; Hart, 1981; Parliament of Victoria Education and Training Committee, 2006; Pierce & Stacey, 2006; Steward & Nardi, 2003). Contributing to the disengagement are factors such as textbook-based work, repetitive exercises, memorisation of facts, formulas and procedures and a lack of connection between classroom content and the real-world context. These factors leave gaps in the students’ knowledge and understanding of mathematics and science. One of the means of overcoming the gaps is for teachers to have a greater insight into how their students learn and a greater capacity to engage with students’ development of representations of those concepts. Ultimately, learning about science and mathematics is not only about test scores but students’ educational and practical functioning in mathematics (Dowker, 2004) and science, so as to produce mathematically and scientifically literate future citizens who are able to apply mathematical and scientific knowledge and understanding to enable them to think critically about decisions that affect their lives (Goodrum, et. al, 2001; Hurd, 1998; Miller, 1998; Thomson, Cresswell & De Bortoli, 2004)

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