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Nicola Yelland
Senior Lecturer

Dr. Nicola Yelland is a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Education at Queensland University of Technology (QUT). Her teaching and research interests are related to learning and teaching with new information technologies. She is interested in the ways in which computers can enhance learning for students and provide opportunities for teachers to reconsider their traditional methods of teaching. She conducted studies of students' cognitions while they are engaged in computer based tasks, students experiences with video games, and the professional development of teachers with technology.

I wanted to come to TERC for a sabbatical as it was a place where much innovative work with applications of technology had been conducted The Glass Wall project was of interest to me because it related to my research with technology, one aspect of which has considered gender in students' use of technology. I was also an admirer of the work and writings of Andee Rubin, one of the chief investigators on the Glass Wall project.

I was at TERC for 6 months. During that time I attended research team meetings and visited the after school program to gather data. It was a great experience as it provided me with the opportunity to see how U.S. schools operate, and how the after school facilities and programs compared to the ones in Australia. The follow up meetings were both stimulating and informative. The team discussed the data we had collected and the ways in which the students reacted to the various pieces of software available to them. The work is important since we need more information about the ways in which children access and use computer software for learning - particularly mathematical learning.

Additionally, the significance of the project lies in its consideration of learning and mathematics education with a focus on the use of computer technology. It has been said (NECTL, 1994) that an effective strategy for improving any country's mathematical literacy must take into account the influence on children of culture outside of school, of the ways boys and girls spend their leisure time, and of the roles that mathematics and computers play in boys' and girls' lives. Children spend only about 10% of their first 18 years in school (NECTL, 1994), so it seems inevitable that popular culture and leisure time activities should exert a strong effect on student activities, attitudes, and capabilities. As educators we are concerned with all students' needs and ability to learn mathematics (MSEB, 1989). Thus, understanding more about mathematics learning opportunities outside of school should be a matter of the high priority. As our society becomes more technological, the importance of mathematical literacy as a "foundation for democracy" (MSEB, 1989, p. 8) increases, and both computer and mathematics experiences assume greater importance in students' quests for meaningful work and fulfilling lives.

The project's aims and outcomes will be significant to our understanding of mathematical learning and popular culture. The project will promote equal access to "powerful ideas' (Papert, 1993) by providing much-needed knowledge about how girls might become more engaged with learning and the new information technologies via one aspect: computer software. The project is also centrally concerned with influences of technologies on teaching and learning, and with programs and learning environments that did not exist until a decade ago. Finally, the project addresses the changing relationship between school, work, and home as learning loci, since computer software are primarily used outside of school, but talk, play, and even writing about them often migrates into school.

At the present time Andee Rubin and I are hoping to extend the project to include students in Australian after school programs as we think this will enrich the findings of the project. It will be interesting to consider both the variations and similarities of the project in terms of the ways in which Australian children interact with software in informal settings which primarily have American foci contained within their design.


  • Mathematical Sciences Education Board and National Research Council (1989). Reshaping School Mathematics: A Philosophy and Framework for Curriculum. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.
  • National Education Commission on Time and Learning (1994). Prisoners of Time. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.
  • Papert, Seymour (1993). The Children's Machine: Rethinking Schools in the Age of the Computer. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.

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