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Affordances of Technology



What are the Affordances of Technology?

Dr. Ralph Putnam, associate professor of educational psychology at Michigan State University, has developed what he terms the "Affordances of Technology."  These four affordances focus on "the ways technology offers or supports certain things," specifically those things related to teaching and learning in any domain, not only mathematics.

The first affordance, Providing Access to Information, looks at how computers, the Internet, and the World Wide Web give access to information at unprecedented levels.  Teachers and learners alike can now take advantage of a nearly universal library of knowledge.  As important as the ability to gain information quickly is the need to determine what is useful to teaching and learning and what is not.

The second affordance, Automating, Simplifying, and Transforming Tasks, carefully examines ways technology changes the processes of teaching and learning.  The consequences of automating, simplifying, or transforming a task must be carefully considered as to whether or not the change is for the better.  Unintended outcomes can often be more damaging to the teaching or learning process than the intended effects are beneficial.

Representing Knowledge and Thinking, the third affordance, focuses on how technology can "represent ideas in new and different ways."  Never before have teachers and learners been able to characterize knowledge in so many ways so easily and quickly.

The fouth and final affordance addresses Communicating and Collaborating with Peers and Experts.  Technology has allowed teaching and learning to break out of the traditional mold of four walls and a chalkboard.  Countless technologies furnish opportunities for both teachers and learners to communicate and collaborate over distance and time with each other as well as with peers.

These four affordances offer a terrific framework in which to begin to examine how technology can improve numeracy in K - 12 math classrooms.  Here, each affordance is examined closer with specific attention paid to how each plays a role in improving numeracy.  You can look closer at each affordance in terms of numeracy by selecting each of the links above.


(Source: Putnam, CEP 805 Teaching and Learning Mathematics with Technology, Fall 2006)