Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Response to "Careful Now: 21st Century Edition" by dy/dan

This post is actually a comment that I left on dy/dan's blog entitled "Careful Now: 21st Century Edition". The comment ran on so long that I decided to post it here as well. (I also noticed a few typos that I wanted to clean up)

It was funny to see your post about 21st Century Classrooms and particularly making the transitions in Math classrooms. My own blogging for the past two days has traveled similar paths.

I’d like to first comment about Dan’s statement that the post reflects “the 21st-century-learning crowd’s total misapprehension of how students learn mathematics, particularly of how students who don’t understand mathematics at all learn mathematics.”

I think the 21st-century-learning crowd sometimes comes across this way because they’ve become accustomed to defending their positions against those who simply resist change. I’m sure there are some tech-nazis out there who insist that everything done without technology is a disservice to our students. But, most are level headed folks that encourage us to explore ways to enhance what we do using technology.

Judging from the staff development I’ve attended over the past few years, Math teachers must be the bain of the guest speaker’s existence. 95% of the sessions I’ve attended finds at least one Math teacher stating, “That’s great! But, how do I use that in Math?” There really isn’t a viable substitute for paper in Math. Not only is it difficult to write equations with fractions and exponents, there are the process steps of carrying the one and simplifying the fraction that require you to move around the problem to annotate steps you’ve taken. Interactive whiteboards, school pads, and notepads permit you to write with a “pen” just like on paper. But if its just like on paper, how is it “better”? At first, students might be more engaged because they’re playing with the new toy. When the new toy loses its new, we’re left where we started. All these items are wonderful tools and contribute to classrooms in amazing ways. As the “21st-century-learning crowd” we should never imply that teachers shouldn’t use handouts any more. And, as teachers we can’t assume that integrating technology into our classrooms means we have to use it for everything.

Jenny made an excellent point that there are aspects of other subjects, including English, that don’t lend themselves well to the use of technology. Math generally gets the most attention because it has fewer areas that can be completely taught using technology alone.

The similar Blog postings mentioned in the first paragraph are:

Does the School of the Future Buy Textbooks?
Interesting Discussion Regarding “21st Century Classrooms”.

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