Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Better Today?

Yes, we have a wide variety of technologies available to us today. Has this made us better teachers? Do students learn more quickly because of it? Do they better understand what they are taught?

If we restrict our attention to mathematics, I suspect that the answer to each is "No".

In geometry, software such Geometer's Sketchpad does help a bit. We can easily construct diagrams and easily transform them. This allows for quicker generation of conjectures and quicker refutation of false conjectures.

But for the most part my class is conducted as it would have been 100, or 1000, years ago. What we develop is the ability to reason well, and for this all we need is pencil and paper. Those simple tools, and the simple static diagrams we produce with them, were sufficient for Archimedes and Descartes. They are sufficient for us too.

Technology is often a crutch, and a distraction. We think that it can overcome the problems of the classroom. It cannot. Those problems are not ones of proper pedagogical technique. They are problems of culture. We live at a time and place when many place little value upon academic achievement, indeed when many hold such a thing in disdain. That is our problem, and technology can't fix it.

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