Monday, February 05, 2007

[TIPS] - When technology isn't the answer

I had the opportunity today to sit in on a statistics class at a local high school. This was a class of about 22 juniors and seniors. The class was focused and attentive and engaged as the teacher reviewed for the upcoming test. He was diagraming on the board quickly and jotting down bits and pieces of information that the students supplied as they tried to solve various problems. He would listen patiently as the students would talk their way through solutions and he asked probing questions to get their responses to harder questions. "I don't understand. You tell ME.", he'd say. It was an excellent lesson from bell to bell, and I got the sense that the students would have stayed another 43 minutes had they had that option. They had calculators in one hand and pencils in the other - and EVERY student had a pencil!! Holy cow!
This teacher is slated to get a room full of laptops computers one day soon, and I wondered to myself if the computers would end up getting in the way of lessons like that. Would too much time be spent trying to teach students how to work an applet that would do just what he had done? Would too much time be wasted dealing with computers that for one reason or another not load the page? Would the student's attention be so divided in a lesson like this that they'd lose more than they would gain?
I guess I was worried that this teacher might end up trying to force fit the computer into lessons. It's an art, I think, to know when to call upon the computer and when not to. I hope that this teacher and others like him will know that it's OK to keep the laptops in the cart. In math, especially, I hope that they don't lose site of the fact that math is learned through practice,and that means pencil to paper. A computer can certainly help students to visualize things but it can't replace concentration and good old fashioned WORK.

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