Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Getting Techno-ready, but don't change everything!

Yeah, so I was supposed to post last week.  Best laid plans.  This will be in two parts.  Part one about sales people, and part two about lecturing.

I'm teaching Adv Stats this year, for the first time in three years.  We've offered it, but it hasn't run, due to few kids choosing it.  If ever there were a math course that cried out for technology integration, it is Stats.  Generating most statistics requires a mind-numbing amount of calculation. The TI-83 and TI-84 calculators have a really good Stats package on them, but the small monochromatic screens limit their educational use.  You want drag and drop, colors, icons, all that good stuff.  A number of years ago, I saw a presentation about "Fathom" - for LS folks, this is "Tinkerplots" on steroids.  It is very cool, very intuitive and sets up as a fantastic teaching tool.  We own a license to put it on ten computers. and I have ten students.  Kismet.  I was all set to use it for my regression lessons a couple of weeks ago.  I even knew where the disk was to load it on our laptops.  I called the publisher to see if I needed any new numbers to get things rolling, spoke with three people at the company and learned that if I wanted to use Fathom, they assured me of this, I would need to find a Computer Lab that had ten PC's in it or find a Mac computer that was still running on OS 8.  Good luck with that!  I taught the lessons on my projector and the absence of "hands on" was a palpable loss.  I mentioned my frustration to the kids in the class.  DURING class, one of the kids researched the whole thing on line on his smart phone (okay, I shouldn't compliment him for that choice) and discovered that there is a version of Fathom that works on new Macs and the whole thing costs less than $10 per student for a one year license.  You would have thought while I was talking to all those folks at Everyday Learning - makers of "Fathom" - that one of them would have thought to mention this as an option.   In retrospect, I shouldn't have called, I should have just gotten on line and researched myself.  If you want to see Fathom in action, ask me, it really is cool.

Okay, so I am coming around on the value of using the internet for research and technology for self-expression - although perhaps not on one's smart phone, in class, and without the teacher's permission.  That said, I am still struggling with how to have it augment actual learning in the classroom.  And then old friend Drew Nucci posts this article from the Atlantic Magazine (on his facebook page, yes I facebook too - stick-in-the-mud no more).


Read it, think about it.  We need to change the bathwater, yes, but let's be careful not to throw out that baby.

Some of everything is what education needs!

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