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".