How do we best serve students?

Following is a great quote from a frequent contributor to the AP Calculus EDG yesterday about technology in high school mathematics.

“Now, I almost regret pushing so hard for Graphing Calculators. I’m trying to move more toward PCs or Tablets in the classroom with Graphing Calculator apps or Computer Algebra Systems. The fact that Graphing Calculators are required for so many standardized tests such as NYS Regents, SAT and AP exams, makes it almost impossible to move on to the next level of technology. Graphing Calculators are great and had their time. Let’s move on! PCs and Tablets coupled with Scientific Computing:  solving real world problems in Science using Math, programming languages and Computer Algebra Systems. Let’s face it, Graphing Calculators are so 20th Century, no?”

As thankful as I am for the tremendous advancements in mathematics teaching, exploration, and understanding that have been fostered by graphing calculators over the past 20+ years, the reality is that other technologies today (not graphing calculators) often provide learners much richer opportunities to explore and learn mathematics.

When asked about opening doors to richer exploration opportunities for students, I have been frustrated to hear “the powers” at many different levels respond instead with concerns about question security, not enough time for teacher preparation, and worries about students not being required to memorize all they were required to memorize in the past.

It’s long past time to move on.  After all, isn’t education (math, science, or otherwise) supposed to be about giving students access to the best and richest learning opportunities available?

2 responses to “How do we best serve students?

  1. Doesn’t this validate the idea that we should focus on teaching subject matter, not technology? Much of the time spent teaching the apparatus of the classroom is wasted in two to four years when the apparatus changes. We should instead be instructing students to learn the concepts and material that hold truths regardless regardless of the instrument used to access them.

    • In the case of STEM, I don’t believe the two are separable. I think I agree with your statement, Sammy, but it could be interpreted as justification for no technology in classes. My argument is for removing technology boundaries to allow for much richer exploration possibilities for students. Learners should not be limited.

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