Sep 2, 2009

Move, or Get Run Over! Technology in Education

I saw an advertisement for a slide rule today. The ad made me laugh. "Bow down," it said, "to the original pocket calculator." Yeah, they helped guys in the 60s get other guys to the moon. But I didn't go to high school in the 60s. I went to high school in the groovy 70s where digital LCD electronics were just becoming popular. We joked about a classmate of ours who was age 18 and still a sophomore. We snorted that he must have had a "digital class ring": Class of 76, class of 77, nope, better make that 78...

At the dawn of the digital age, calculators were still very expensive and couldn't do much beyond the basic 4 functions. And yet our teacher was trying to teach us the slide rule. I saw the future and refused to be restricted by the past. I refused to learn it, period. I got a 34 on the math portion of my ACT without a calculator nor slide rule. I did not see the need to learn abacus, either, thankyouverymuch.

Turns out I was right.

I agree with the educator who said (tongue in cheek) that any teacher who spends education money on maps & globes needs to be shot. This is the digital age, the web 2.0 age, the era where the internet has the information you need, and can locate it faster & more efficiently than kids spinning a globe. Some educators feel that learning 50 state capitals is useless, as one can easily look them up. Well, memorization is not a bad skill, but when it comes to actually finding Montgomery on an Alabama map, well, Google Maps beats kid-with-Rand-McNally hands down.

I like chalk boards and white boards, but Promethean boards are engaging and interactive. The students, who grew up on PlayStation, X-Box, and Wii, have remotes that let them "vote" or select an answer, and the teacher can see at once who voted and who did not, and who does and doesn't understand the concept. It's the same lesson, only in a language that students understand.

Let's get rid of the maps & globes, World Book Encyclopedia while we at it, and bring in the iPhone. I have literally a world of collective knowledge at my fingertips and you want me to learn slide rule? Get out of my way. Old methods of learning are quaint. Some are even groovy, but they're the language of a different generation.

Which generation of students are you teaching today?




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