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Monday, November 5, 2012


So, one of my Geometry sections has 1:1 tablets. We have a set of twenty we are piloting this year, and I believe the intention is to go school-wide next year. I got chosen for this because, you know, I have a reputation.

I had become accustomed to the capabilities and limitations of the classroom tech available at old school. We regularly used a set of Dell notebooks on a mobile cart, and the TI-Nspire Navigator system. So I was at expert ninja level with those tools. I could use them inside and out, I had smooth ways of getting kids proficient with them pretty quickly, I was well-versed in what I could expect kids to figure out vs what I had to demonstrate carefully and repeatedly, and I could use them to actually you know make instruction better than it would be without them.

Starting with new-to-me hardware (Acer Iconia Tablets) and software (Windows 8) has been a frustrating exercise in back-to-novice levels of crippling ignorance. It's back to the first days with the Nspires, where it's impossible to anticipate where the tech will say "no," and no lesson plan survives first contact with the students. The simplest thing, "Take a picture of one of the proofs you just wrote and email it to me." turns into twenty minutes of troubleshooting cameras that don't work, and picture files we can't find in order to attach them, and how to login to your school email account. Meanwhile, my favorite smartass has already sent me an email with the subject GREETINGS FROM DEH OTER SIDE O DEH ROOM, and has spent the intervening twenty minutes taking selfies and is starting to get disruptive because I haven't given her something else to do.

But, shoot, I guess we just all have more things to learn here, che? I have been very consciously modeling what I like to think are productive behaviors, for example Cheerful Curiosity in the face of unexpected technology hiccups and also Not Throwing Any Tablets Out the Window nor Any Children Either for That Matter.

Having one section with tablets and two without, though, are some nice built-in experimental and control groups, don't you think? We're starting triangle centers this week, in conjunction with which I normally teach compass and straight-edge constructions. So, I'm thinking the tablet section will learn the constructions Geogebra-only, and the other two sections will learn them compass-ruler-pencil-paper-only, and we will see what we get. It begs the question if I can possibly fairly assess them all the same way, and if not, can I really draw any conclusions from this little mini-experiment. And I know it's not a real experiment, it's just like preliminary poking at experimentation. But whatever. I make my own fun.


  1. This is an experiment worth following! The 1-to-1 debate has hit our district hard, with the super pretty much forcing iPads on everyone...and then making us all wait years until they're implemented. I can't wait to get started since I work with difficult kids who are in love with technology, but I'm in the minority.

    Please put up regular comments about your thoughts on your new tech!


    big time L.O.L.

  3. I cannot see how you can teach the same subject with these completely different tools. You really should not compare apples to oranges.

    Doing stuff with dynamic geometry is about discovery, visually testing cases, seeking patterns etc. Doing math in blackboard style is about control and logic. Both have to complement one another for mathematical insight.

    Actually constructing with the real hardware is a waste of time.

  4. Rene: Actually constructing with the real hardware is a waste of time.

    If your goal is merely the end result, then of course you are right. But is it possible--just possible--that the difficulties and challenges posed by actual physical implements could lend themselves to asking more questions and thinking more deeply about the processes? And couldn't the over-use of DGS lead to lazy, "black-box" thinking? "It's right because GeoGebra is telling me so"?

    This doesn't have to be either/or, of course. But I think it's a mistake to ditch "the real hardware" altogether. Math is just as much about the journey as it is about the destination.

  5. Clearly 1:1 teaching means that the number of children you throw out of the window is the same as the number of tablets...

  6. My little school is thinking of introducing one classroom set of tablets to rotate among us, and letting the computers in the lab slowly moulder until they are no more than browsers... pretty much there already, running on outdated linux.
    I'm pretty fearful of this, have many more ideas on how to use desktop computers successfully in teaching than tablets, terrified of lessons of tech frustration and damaged touch screens...please keep us updated, would love some evidence either way.

  7. Hi Kate. I've recently been given the opportunity to start some 1-1 classes. A cart...some notebooks...some fear. I have some ideas of where to start (excel and GSP) but I wanted to refer to your 'expert ninja level'- self.

    random questions:
    Where do you usually start?
    What area of math do you feel notebooks would be most useful to you know, improve instruction.

    btw, this is my first comment on your blog and I now have beastie boys in my head because of your spammers disclaimer.

    The girl is crafty, she knows all the moves.
    I started playing records, she knew all the grooves.

  8. Hi Nico,

    I would start by writing instructions to do something simple, so they can get used to whatever the basics are of whatever software you want to use. Then, give it to a colleague who doesn't know the software, and watch where they get confused, so you can edit before you give it to the kids.

    How to make it useful for instruction would take me way longer to explain than I can in a comment. In general though, if we are talking about Geogebra, it's good for seeing lots of examples that lead to inductive reasoning. Also for eyeballing constructions.


Hi! I will have to approve this before it shows up. Cuz yo those spammers are crafty like ice is cold.