January 27, 2011

Graphing Calculator Use: Activity and Affect

The thesis of this article provides an effective method that captures data on how and why individual students choose to use graphing calculators—henceforth, HGT—outside of whole class situations. I believe McCulloch's purpose is clear and valid. Most recent research on HGT focuses on its effect on student achievement, or else focuses on the teaching and learning of a specific topic in content. This past research drives her interests in this paper:

  1. When students work independently rather than in a large group, what are they actually doing with HGT?
  2. What aspects of HGT do they attend to?
  3. How do emotions, values, beliefs affect their HGT activity decisions?

McCulloch mentions several difficulties and drawbacks about traditional methods of data collection, so offering a new method and determining its effectiveness has well-founded intentions.

To address the problem solving strategies and decision making in detail, a task-based interview is typically implemented. Basically, this means the problem solver—the subject—will think out loud in front of the interviewer. However this design is unsuitable if it is used to collect data about emotions and values. McCulloch's study combines the task-based interview with a video-SR (video stimulated response, a procedure in which videotaped behavior is played back to the subject in hopes that he/she will recall his/her activity). With this combination of designs, the subject will recall both cognitive and affective activity. In addition to capturing the subject's activity, a video capture card was used to capture the screen activity on the HGT. When these three components are put together, the event is recreated.

I think this method should be used for an intensive examination of a subject, but would not be appropriate as an extensive study for a large group or class. The resources of time, money, and equipment are simply not available. The article also mentions other limitations.

McCulloch makes several conclusions from her study:

  1. The methodology used is very effective regarding capturing data from individual students, and opens many doors to future research.
  2. The methodology captures information that was unattainable in the past.
  3. The methodology allows students to reflect and recap their activities with the HGT, providing a learning experience.

I'd like to make one more point about the outcomes of this study. In the article, one of the limitations identified was that the subject's emotions played an important role when reviewing the video-SR interview. therefore… the student will associate [them] with that event in the future (p. 80). I do not see this as a drawback though. In my experience, the concepts with which I associated certain emotions were the ones that I remembered the most in school. Teachers should always promote positive emotions in students and never negative ones, but I cannot ignore the fact that I achieved well when I was tested on the concepts for which I had negative feelings.


  • McCulloch, A. W. (). Insights into graphing calculator use: Methods for capturing activity and affect. International Journal for Technology in Mathematics Education, 16(2), 75–81.

No comments:

Post a Comment