Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Draconic Practices

For a long time I have been an advocate of technology in the classroom, and I have finally landed in a situation in which once again technology is seen as holding back and preventing students from learning rather than providing assistance. This instance of course has to do with Purude Universities policies regarding the use of calculators. You see in draconian wisdom they thought that it would be prudent to simply disallow the use the ever popular TI-83.

Now I would like to stress that I am well aware of the logic behind this decision, you see for all of us out there who simply can't stand the lack of full equation support on a one line calculator there is someone out there who will download a program to the calculator and use it to easy mode their way through courses. My problem with this is that college has never prevented stupid people from reaching the workplace before, and if you want proof of that all you need to do is look at a CS major, half of them don't know what a variable is, they just know who to talk to for homework and a good deal about copying.

Another perhaps more important section of this is that it is helping no one by forcing them to downgrade their mathematics skill, making us use a 1 line calculator won't help us to understand the concept any more than with a TI-83 or equivalent, all it serves to do is cause us to take our sweet time making sure we type in everything correctly the first time and praying that the massive equation we typed in wasn't wrong at some point. With a TI-83, we could look over said equation and simply place the cursor where need be to fix any problems. And if someone does program their calculator to do integration or the likes than all the more power to them, I would think that shows more skill and understanding of the math not less as math is the basic and fundamental point for all programming, so if they are programming the equations in they probably have the core theory down pat.

My point falls back to this draconian practice of eliminating technology for fear a student will not learn, and than forcing students to believe that by letting them suffer through intolerable basic math that they are keeping their wits sharp. All it does is serve to distract from any core curriculum that the class may have been trying to teach because while you are teaching the ideas of an infinite series your students are still trying to get the first 3 nonzero integers in that series to add together with the correct parentheses.

So there you have it, I haven't bitched in a month or two, but this has become an annoyance, and I just thought that I would bring it up

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