BOX 9.7 Learning with the Geometry Tutor
When the Geometry Tutor was placed in classes in a large urban high school, students moved through the geometry proofs more quickly than expected by either the teachers or the tutor developers. Average, below-average, and underachieving high-ability students with little confidence in their math skills benefited most from the tutor (Wertheimer, 1990). Students in classes using the tutor showed higher motivation by starting work much more quickly—often coming early to class to get started—and taking more responsibility for their own progress. Teachers started spending more of their time assisting individual students who asked for help and giving greater weight to effort in assigning student grades (Schofield, 1995).
It is noteworthy that students can use these tutors in groups as well as alone. In many settings, students work together on tutors and discuss issues and possible answers with others in their class.
It is easy to forget that student achievement in school also depends on what happens outside of school. Bringing students and teachers in contact with the broader community can enhance their learning. In the previous chapter, we discussed learning through contacts with the broader community. Universities and businesses, for example, have helped communities upgrade the quality of teaching in schools. Engineers and scientists who work in industry often play a mentoring role with teachers (e.g., University of California-Irvine Science Education Program).
Modern technologies can help make connections between students’ in-school and out-of-school activities. For example, the “transparent school” (Bauch, 1997) uses telephones and answering machines to help parents understand the daily assignments in classrooms. Teachers need only a few minutes per day to dictate assignments into an answering machine. Parents can call at their convenience and retrieve the daily assignments, thus becoming informed of what their children are doing in school. Contrary to some expectations, low-income parents are as likely to call the answering machines as are parents of higher socioeconomic status.
The Internet can also help link parents with their children’s schools. School calendars, assignments, and other types of information can be posted on a school’s Internet site. School sites can also be used to inform the community of what a school is doing and how they can help. For example, the American Schools Directory (www.asd.com), which has created Internet pages for each of the 106,000 public and private K–12 schools in the country,