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Tech teaching methods aid students' math skills, study shows

Jennifer O'Brien | June 27, 2017
Research unlocks new opportunity for Australia’s burgeoning STEM skill problem

“There is a quiet strong, commitment from governments all over the world, including Australia, to ensure that more people are going into these professions  given the changes in our work. And in fact one of the biggest pushes is to encourage more girls into STEM,” he said, explaining girls tend to have lower spatial reasoning skills than boys. One of our passions, with many of our projects, is to improve spatial reasoning skills to set them up better for the future.”

 

Design-process thinking 

Lowrie said the research program involved two separate projects developed within the primary and secondary school environment.

The primary school component incorporated a teaching and learning program with digital app integration, utilising Samsung technology.

The results pointed to an effect size of 0.5 which means students’ mathematics skills improved to the level typically achieved in one year, in just a few weeks. The intervention group increased their spatial reasoning score by 12 per cent while also recording an improvement in the mathematics test with an increase of 20 per cent.

Meanwhile, the secondary school component focused on student-led STEM enquiry projects whereby Samsung technology served as a data logger as well as a data analysis and storytelling tool (i.e. video).

Lowrie said the key outcomes saw an increase in design-process thinking and inquiry-based learning among the students; demonstrating good technology can enable significant, real-world STEM investigations.

“This research has allowed us to open the door to opportunities for action-based educational experiences and greater collaboration with educators and the wider STEM industry,” he said.

 

Education Minister weighs in

Education Minister, Senator Simon Birmingham said the collaboration between Samsung and the University of Canberra highlighted how businesses and researchers could join forces to deliver real potential benefits for Australians.

“The Turnbull Government is focused on ensuring all students have the support they need to succeed and we encourage contributions like this one from Samsung and the University of Canberra because they have the potential to give young Australians even more opportunities,” Birmingham said.

The findings point to opportunities for the continued development of classroom STEM practices; combining practical activities and analytical thinking.

Samsung Australia head of corporate social responsibility, Tess Ariotti, said the findings hold significance not only for educators and policymakers, but also for the wider community.

“As concern for Australia’s education standards continues to evolve, we’ve joined forces with the University of Canberra to start a conversation with the government and community around implementing tangible change across the national curriculum.”

Looking ahead, Lowrie said he wants to acquire education-related games - rather than pure entertainment ones  - to be included in the ‘spatial reasoning’ program.

“We know the 10-week program has worked really well - and we know the three-week program has worked - so we have to try to find a sweet spot now. I want to get some traction from industry to start to develop apps. The apps that we took were basically entertainment apps and they weren’t specifically designed under strong pedagogical or theoretical lines.”

 

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