Sunday, April 26, 2009

Is technology all that?

I had the opportunity to visit the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics annual conference in Washington DC. Unfortunately, few DCPS mathematics teachers were able to attend because of DCCAS testing. I went after school on Thursday evening and Saturday until 12:00 just before the conference ended.
I was struck by the number of exhibits that relied on expensive technology. Texas Instruments, Key Curriculum Press-to name but a few-all have fabulous calculators and software that can be used for teaching.
The exhibits both excited and depressed me. I have a single computer-though access to a computer lab- and a white (not Smart) board that is nearly impossible to clean due to its mottled surface.
I have TI84 calculators-excellent tools-though they do not all feed into a central system. If they did, and I had a Smart Board, I could see all my studnets' work on my screen as demonstarted at the Texas Instruments' booth. I need also point out that I began the year with 25 TI84's and am down to nine.
Are my students at a disadvantage? Am I remiss for not pursuing grants to allow me to purchase these resources? How essential are these tools for teaching math? How technologically behind are DC Public Schools when compared to other schools around the nation?
I think we can assume that in wealthier school districts many of these tools are available. I also know that some, though few, DC schools have Smart Boards.
Suffice it to say that many of the teachers I spoke with referred to their Smart Boards casually-as if they had always had them. I assume they were purchased by the school district and the teachers were trained to use them. I do not assume that the teachers themselves raised their own money through technological grants, though some may have.
Not all the latest, and presumably expensive, gadgets are worth buying, but some are. The DCPS central office should ascertain those that are, buy them for the teachers, and train them to effectively use them.


usereason said...

Don't forget that students can learn plenty of information without technology - just like we did growing up.

I like the T184s, but you can't have 25 of them, at least try to get some less expensive, more basic calculators. The kids need to develop calculator skills.

I believe in technology, but teachers have to be willing to invest time and energy into learning how to use it and maximize it. I know a DCPS school that is getting Promethean boards next year and LCD projectors, but I did not get excited for them because I don't believe that some of the teachers will not take the time to use the technology properly and often.

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