The more that I can integrate technology into my lessons, the more my students enjoy it. Of course, I also enjoy them more! Working with math concepts can become tedious at times. Imagine being given a set of data and told to calculate mean, median, and mode. Once those are done, you must create a graph that fits certain requirements. The majority of work involved is just that...work. There isn't much thought or analysis involved. The data sets involved tend to be smaller since the students would otherwise become frustrated. Now, imagine being given a slightly different set of data, for which you must do the same calculations and then analyze the differences between the two data sets. Put middle school students in this situation and it will result in moans and groans, along with whining and complaining.
Now imagine that you have an interactive online tool that lets you manipulate data at will. You can add or delete outliers, change the scale or intervals of a graph, or even switch to a different type of graphical representation at the click of a mouse. The tedious tasks are gone and you can immediately see the results of any change in the data. You can now concentrate on what happens when data is added, deleted, or modified. You can see the difference that changes in scale and interval make in the appearance, and perhaps interpretation, of the graph.
Which option is more appealing to you? The same one that is more appealing to our students. When students are allowed to use technology to investigate data and create an artifact depicting what they have learned, they are more engaged in the process. More engagement leads to a deeper understanding of the concept. Instead of spending all of their time on the individual calculations, the students can spend their time manipulating data and analyzing how that changes the result.
Today's students have grown up with technology. The tools that are available in the classroom have the potential to give students more time to explore higher-order thinking and analytical problem-solving. To deprive them of these skills is to fail to prepare them for a 21st century world.