Saturday, March 21, 2015

3D Printing!

3D printing is incredible. With a little bit of programming, anyone can print a plastic model of just about anything. The sky is the limit. But these 3D printers also have a lot of educational applications, especially in a math classroom. One of the great things you can do with a printer is make figures of 3D graphs. 3D graphs are nearly impossible to draw by hand, and students can have a hard time visualizing the graphs even with graphing software. But holding a figure of the graph in their hands gives students that extra dimension and they can really see what’s going on. Another thing you can do is create 3D figures to use as visuals when teaching about volume and surface area. You could create loaded dice and regular dice, then have students use probability to figure out which is which. Really the possibilities are endless.
                Recently, I found out about another advancement in 3D printing, which is a 3D printing pen. Here is a short video describing the pen: This is so cool! You can actually draw in three dimensions. You can instantly create outlines for different shapes. I sometimes struggle with drawing decent-looking 3D objects like boxes or pyramids on the board. But with this, I could draw shapes in 3D and my students would be able to see it right away. It would be really fun to give pens to students and have them create things. They could create and compare different shapes or look at the perimeters of different shapes and how much plastic it takes to make them. Using the pens helps excite and engage students.
                Currently, costs may be a prohibiting factor. A quick search on Amazon showed that base models of 3D printers run around $500 while more advanced models go for much, much more. Currently, 3D pens run about $100-$150 each. However, like most technology, as 3D printers and pens become more and more commonplace, the prices are likely to drop and more schools might buy into them. 3D printers and pens have so much to offer that I can’t wait until we can all use them in the classroom. 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Cells Phones in the Classroom?

I read an article about cell phones being used in the classroom. Though, all the articles I read mostly had cell phones being used as polling agents. Here is one of the articles I read . I have experienced cell phone use in a classroom when I observed a Geometry classroom. The teacher didn't not promote the use of cell phones, but if his students lacked a calculator he allowed them to use their cell phone. The only time he would not allow the students to use their cell phone is when they were getting to more trigonometry based criteria. The only reason he wouldn't allow them the use of their cell phones was that the accuracy of the sine function and cosine function are extremely off within the scientific calculator of a phone. I also experienced one within my Middle School Applications class this semester where we all took a poll with our phones. I was pretty excited to find a cheaper way to get in polls without having a clicker (which is a required device within some of the classes at SDSU). The way Jen Weber had it set up in the classroom was very easy. It was just a location to send a text message to. There was far less technical problems with the polling than my experience with the clickers. One of the downfalls with a phone is that the clicker lights up the moment you send in an option to the poll, where with the phone you are unable to tell if your message was registered.
Thinking about active use of a cell phone in the classroom makes me a bit weary as a future educator, because during my high school years I had a lot of class clowns within my classes. If they had the option of using their cell phone in the class, they would most likely pull too many pranks using their cell phones, one way or another. I do like the idea of using a cell phone enough in class that students will start to view their own cell phone device as a tool for the classroom and not a distraction. For this idea to work the use of cell phones must be thoroughly planned within the lesson plan, because if not worked in just right I do believe students will take advantage of the use of cell phones. If cell phones are not being used for polling, but being used as a calculator instead, I feel more students will use their device for a distraction and not for learning. More teachers seem to be moving toward technology into the classroom, but I hope the teachers are using discretion on when a cell phone is used within the classroom. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

How much Technology is too much?

Recently, I got the chance to meet some wonderful 7th graders from Mickelson Middle School in Brookings, SD. I was very excited to meet with four girls to discuss reading for my Middle School Philosophy class that I am taking. At the end of our meeting, I got the chance to ask them some questions about middle school, and what they could change. Immediately, I made sure to ask them about the Digits Program that they are working with.
I am familiar with the Digits Program mainly from observing the classes and tutoring some of the students. My first two years of college, I was required to observe 8th grade mathematics. As soon as I got to the class my first day, I was shocked at what I saw. Everything was technology base, EVERYTHING! The lesson that the teacher taught was on a smart board and through a program that provided a step by step lesson. The homework was all online. The tests were online. Even the analysis of the students at the beginning and end of the year was online. I don't want to sound like I am old by any means, but this was never something that I was introduced to at the 8th grade level. My junior and senior year of high school was when the smart boards started to show up in my school, but we never based all of our curriculum on the technology.
This leads me back to my encounter with the 7th grade females. At the end of the session, I asked them about the digits program. They didn't really care for it. They didn't seem interested to talk about it at all. So I pushed the subject a little bit more, and finally got the response that I was expecting. One young lady said, "I usually just wing it, and most the time I get the right answer." As a future educator, I was very upset about this response.
So, when is using technology too much? Digits is a program that allows you to answer more than one time on the  homework, so if the students don't get it right the first time, then they got another chance. The second chance comes with a way to solve the problem. The second chance also comes with the exact same question with different numbers. This leads to guessing the first time, waiting to see how to do it, and then plugging in the new numbers that they gave you. Programs like Digits also lead to a lack of students showing their work and no proof of knowledge to actually figuring out the answer. When I tutored, this was a huge barrier for students to break. They would refuse to write the questions down and figure them out with paper and pencil. This was frustrating because I never had physical evidence of them knowing how to do the work. Is it always just a guessing game with these programs? I don't understand how they use this technology and not require work to be shown for EVERY assignment, not just for tests. If students get into the routine of constantly showing their work, they will be more prepared for the tests, because there will be no doubt that they know how to do it.
I understand that technology is growing, and won't stop. Educators need to adjust with the technology though. The rise of technology is to make the world faster, keep everyone moving. With education, including all the latest technology needs to be less of a focus then making sure that students are still learning in the same way and using the technology efficiently. This takes a lot of focus from educators to track the students, but in the end, it will be way more beneficial then just "winging it".