Investigating the appropriation of graphical calculators by mathematics students
The primary aim of this researchis to investigate students' use of graphical calculators for high school mathematics. I see appropriation of the technology to be central to this and therefore I discuss the term appropriation and outline the definition of appropriation I will adhere to. In particular I followed six students through the academic year September 2003 to July 2004 with a view to establishing how, why and when they used their graphical calculators and what benefits they gained from its use. I selected the two schools from where the students came and the students volunteered to take part in my project. My research is broadly socio-cultural as I collected data not only from the students but also about the context in which the students learn. I used a case study approach, focussing on a small number of cases -a case being a student-with-a-GC-in-school. Overall I adopted a naturalistic paradigm for my study and collected qualitative data about the 'natural setting' – the classrooms and schools - and made every attempt to minimise the disruption to the students during their daily routines. The data was collected through a variety of methods- interviews, observations journals and key-stroke data from the students' graphical calculators. The key-stroke data are central to my work. The key-stroke capture software used provides an exact record of a student's use of the graphical calculator. This method of collecting data is not widely used or known and I have dedicated a chapter to outline its main features and make a critical analysis of it as a data collection tool. I see appropriation as a central issue to students using a graphical calculator and as such I reflect on the evidence with this at the forefront. I report on what are the signs that a student has appropriated their graphical calculator and what are the barriers to appropriation. I found that the six students appropriated their GC to varying degrees. The extent of their appropriation was influenced by a variety of factors including the tension between the old tool and the new tool, the teacher, the institution, the curriculum and personal aspirations. I examine these factors in detail and examine the stages of appropriation of each student.