Daniel J. Brahier
Department of Educational Curriculum & Instruction
Bowling Green State University
Bowling Green, OH 43403
MUSINGS ON TECHNOLOGY AND THE CHANGE PROCESS
In the first week of July, I was reading USA Today on the Internet when I stumbled upon an advertisement for a concert to be broadcast "live" on-line on the 4th of July. I visited the web site and downloaded software onto my computer that would allow me to listen to a an audio-feed of the show the following night. On the 4th of July, I clicked on an icon of the band and sat in awe, listening to a live program being broadcast from Dallas over the Internet. Admittedly, we have all listened to music on the radio, but we're usually restricted to listening to stations that are within 50 miles or so of our homes. In this case, I was listening to a broadcast from a radio station over 1,200 miles away, and the sound was transmitted over a phone line, translated by a modem, and playing through my computer speakers! My father was at my house that evening, and listening to the show with me, he remarked that "this is how I felt the first time I saw a television." If it is possible to "click on" the name of any radio station in the country and listen to its live broadcast through my computer, I thought, then the possibility for sharing audio and video to enhance instruction is almost unlimited!
This evening, I made a one-hour presentation to parents of the 32 students in my eighth grade Algebra One class for this year. In my presentation, I demonstrated the power of the TI-83 graphing calculator by showing them how it can be used to analyze families of curves, to simulate the tossing of a dozen coins 100 times and make a bar graph of the results, to find a line of best fit for making predictions, and to generate a Sierpinski Triangle by playing 1,500 rounds of the Chaos Game in less than a minute. Once again, I saw 30 jaws "drop" as the calculator performed its almost unbelievable display of power. One parent said, "If only they'd had this thing when I was in school," while another remarked, "Can I take this class this year too?"
There is little question that the development and availability of new technology has and will continue to push us to rethink what we do in the classroom, at all grade levels. However, research on the use of technology, conducted by Cuban (1993), identified a common phenomenon that was referred to as "tinkering" -- that is, teachers bringing an innovative device into the classroom without fundamentally changing the structure of their instruction to make best use of the tool. Giving students graphing calculators with which to play on Friday afternoons or using the classroom computer as a game site to reward children that complete an assignment early are hardly examples of the integrated use of technology that has been promoted by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.
Web sites now exist that allow teachers and their students from all over the world an opportunity to conduct identical experiments and to share and pool collected data. Graphing calculators have reduced the need to do much of the symbol manipulation that was traditionally engrained in the secondary curriculum. And laser disk programs allow students to use a barcode reader to instantly identify key information for solving problems. But to what degree are these tools really being used to their fullest potential? Have the teachers implementing technologically-based lessons into the mathematics classroom overhauled their syllabi or simply used technology as an "add-on" topic? Are the findings of the Cuban study still valid today?
What have you done in your elementary or secondary
methods or content courses to attempt to keep up with the rapid changes
in technology? Are your students making use of the power of the Internet
in research and professional dialogue? Does your syllabus and the way that
you assess your students reflect that you place a value on the use of technology?
If so, how? If not, what has kept you from emphasizing the use of technology?
Please address your comments, reactions, or submissions to Bill Speer or Dan Brahier at the addresses listed in the column heading. We look forward to hearing from YOU! E-mail reflections will be distributed to other electronic respondents without delay, rather than waiting for the next newsletter.
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