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Saturday, September 29, 2007

Choking Down Technology

I'm going to skip past the part where I apologize for my long absence. I've been busy, let's not over-analyze it.

The most blog-worthy event in recent happenings was my attendance at a T3 conference for pre-service math teachers. I'm not sure "conference" is the right word; in truth, it was a two day sales pitch. I was invited to participate by the faculty adviser for the math ed program. Mostly I was doing it for the free TI-84+ graphing calculator I would allegedly receive at the end of it. ( I still haven't received it, by the way.)

There was only one other pre-service teacher there. Everyone else came from local middle and high schools. The presenter/salesperson is a full-time professor at Drake University in Ohio, but I'd wager that she gets a healthy stipend from Texas Instruments, as well. She spent two days demonstrating all of the fancy things you can do with their various products. The central focus was on the Navigator hardware, which allow all calculators to be networked together. The teacher can view all activity on each student's machine at the press of a button. That image can be projected onto a screen or better yet, onto a Smartboard. It was all glitz and glamor, and the
audience ate it up. I was less than impressed.

The stuff she was showing us was neat, I'll admit it. But it wasn't as revolutionary as everyone seemed to think it was. There are any number of softwares available that could do the same thing with desktop computers. And those machines would still be able to perform a multitude of other tasks, rather than merely being graphing calculators. I asked if TI produced similar software, and was told that they did. Guess what. It costs exactly the same as a calculator.

The slogan of the event was "TI Cares." That's even their phone number: 800-TI-CARES. According to the presenter, Texas Instruments makes all of this technology available to schools because it wants to improve the world, and help train future employees. The fact that they are making money hand over fist doesn't factor into it at all.

If you know me, you know I love technology. I will use it in the classroom, and use it abundantly. I was just hoping to learn something new about how best to use it. Instead, what I got was a tutorial on several of the latest models. There was no discussion on where low-tech might still be superior. No statistics on the efficacy of technology heavy programs. The equipment she brought didn't even work consistently enough for us to do all of the activities that she had planned. All in all, I think I got out of it exactly what I had intended to- a new calculator. Except, I don't even have that yet, so I guess the joke's on me.

1 comment:

Jackie Ballarini said...

I like the idea of Navigator. However I have yet to see a demo where set up was seamless. Really, I don't have time for an hour set up before each class.

I've been to a few CAS meetings, which were more informative on classroom use (when & how to integrate - and when not to).

Hey - are you getting an 84 and 89 or a TI-Inspire?