Using The Geometer's Sketchpad in the Math Classroom to Improve Engagement, Transform the Learning Environment, and Enhance Understanding
The Geometer's Sketchpad (GSP) takes the traditional pencil-and-paper geometry class and transforms it into a dynamic learning environment. By using the tool's dragging features, students can observe countless examples of different figures quickly and easily. With GSP, the classroom becomes a student-centered rather than teacher-centered environment. Students in this environment feel a sense of control over their learning, even when the teacher is the person designing the sketches. While teachers must devote some time at the beginning of the year to training students to use GSP, the class will earn this time back in the long run because the dynamic aspects of the tool prevent teachers and students from having to draw a new figure by hand each time. The dynamic nature of The Geometer's Sketchpad may lead students to improve their engagement with the material. The research shows, however, that this improved engagement wanes over time; therefore, teachers must be cautious not to overuse GSP. GSP also provides teachers with opportunities to have students participate in partner work. Teachers should ensure that each pair moves at a pace that allows both students to comprehend the material. Because student interest waned when classes used The Geometer's Sketchpad every day for an extended period of time, I recommend using GSP as a tool to supplement more traditional lessons and hands-on activities rather than as the primary instrument of instruction. In this way, students continue to receive the benefits of GSP throughout the year without becoming bored by its constant use. More research is necessary to determine how teachers can use The Geometer's Sketchpad most effectively in the classroom. Instead of using teacher and student interviews as evidence of GSP's effectiveness, researchers should seek quantitative data that shows how specific uses of dynamic geometry software lead to greater performance on standardized tests. The Geometer's Sketchpad holds great promise as a technology that can energize the geometry curriculum; however, teachers must carefully design its implementation so that students reap the greatest possible benefit from its use.