Technology is just another tool.

I recall doing some research for a paper in grad school about technology. I don’t remember the source but it did discuss that technology was any tool  that enabled the user. We think of computers and all the fancy electronic gadgets of the world as technology but it is no more so than a pencil or scissors. Those items didn’t count as technology for the assignment but my Professor agreed that they were tech by definition.

In my time teaching, I have come to depend on computers as a crucial part of my classroom but do not see them as necessary to all. I am currently working on plans that remove the computer from the classroom and have it for outside, where it can best help students. I would love to be able to use the great education tools like geogebra more in the class but it often struggle with a lack of student engagement. They are afraid to play with the program and want to follow directions.

Directions…I firmly believe that many students are too programmed to seeing math as a list of directions. Each problem comes with a set of instructions to solve. This view quickly leads to a lack of retention and demonstrates no understanding when they see a test as fifty different systems and not as fifty variations of the same over arching rule set. Students who follow this method are not inclined to play with numerical concepts or experiment with mathematical logic. The study is a chore and one that must be done for some reason about the future. Standardized tests somehow reinforce this line of thinking though it leads to poor test takers for they are not flexible in problem solving and struggle with new questions.

How does one change the student mindset so that math becomes the profoundly interesting study that it is and not a painful exercise in drilling and boredom? Games are a great avenue if they are properly designed. They need to encourage thinking through play. People are not afraid of mistakes when they play and are interested in the rules of the game for they are the source of the challenge. I believe Whole is a great game in that it allows for plenty of experimentation but the parameters are key parts of the mathematical system. There are a wealth of other great games and plenty of avenues to make more for your class.

When students develop a strong understanding of how numbers and patterns work, then they will be intrigued by the possibilities of geogebra and embrace the challenge of complex problems. My personal goal for this upcoming year is to enact a system for students that build that strong foundation. I plan on using some of the Visible Thinking concepts, the most important of which is to make students write about what they are doing and why. This process will challenge them to think past the step of directions and provide me with another avenue to help guide them.

Technology will have its place for the is little more powerful than pen and paper.

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