This post is written by Jan Casey, RUSMP instructor:

I attended RUSMP as a participant in 1989, a year before Texas Instruments introduced the TI-81 graphing calculator for classroom use. What a controversy graphing calculators created! Many teachers argued that since the calculators graphed functions for students, that students would never learn to graph functions on their own.We saw that this was clearly not the case. RUSMP consciously chose to be on the cutting edge of technology and included graphing calculator training in the summer campus program soon after they were introduced for classroom use. Within a few years, graphing calculators were in most algebra classrooms in Texas. I’ve been a master teacher for RUSMP since 1993 and have had to master several graphing calculators over the years. The vision of technology in the classroom has not wavered; we still train teachers to use the latest calculator as a powerful tool to teach various concepts.

Fast forward to today’s educational world – not only graphing calculators, but computers and iPads are being used in classrooms in many schools. More and more, teachers are asked to learn how to incorporate new technology into their curriculum. Talk about a controversy!! I see nay-sayers quieted as they watch talented teachers turn learning into a much more enjoyable experience for students.. Concepts are not overlooked, and in many cases the learning is deepened through the use of today’s technology.

Technology affords opportunities for students to really think and solve authentic problems. What I see now is an entire generation of children who think with technology. I even notice that the way I think to solve problems has completely changed as a result of technology. It takes much courage and hard work to keep up with and find good ways to integrate technology into the curriculum. I think that it is critical that the same technology we use in our everyday lives be used in the classroom. I’m so grateful that I’ve been able to watch the emergence of technology and can only imagine what children of today are going to be able to do with the help of technology.

Tags: technology

Change is always a little scary. I’ve recently returned to the classroom after a brief hiatus and the amount of technology is nearly overwhelming! Of course, I am not so narrow minded that I overlooked how important that incorporating technology into everyday practice is for my students but I must say, I was approaching it, well…..slowly. But RUSMP has sort of \thrown me into the water\ this summer and forced me to sink or swim. I needed that. I expected to learn some innovative ways of teaching math but I didn’t realize how much technology could and should be a part of that. I still have a lot to learn but I can not tell you how much I have learned already! And I can’t wait to use it in my classroom with my students–from ipads to calculators.

Some things never change! When I first started teaching the use of caculators has always been a concern for parents, teachers, and administrators. We really need to look at all the tools and technology that are being used in education before actually condeming their use. These tools have been available to students and professionals for a while. When the latest tool becomes available everyone wants to learn how to use it. Mathematicians use computers to do their basic caculations to solve difficult problems. Why? So that they can have accurate answers to the problems they are trying to solve. Does this mean that we should ask mathematicians not to use technology so we can see if they can do computation? I hope that this is not the case. Why take 100 steps back when we want to move forward?

This makes me smile. 😀 I know how that mother feels because when I school I remember being told calculators are bad all the way up to high school. I realized it came from the teachers fears of students “cheating” instead of actually learning how to solve. I believe this all goes back to using it appropriately. This attitude is still being shown through how some people react. I remember going to a calculator representative and they told me sorry, this is for 4th grade and up. Way to go Kinder teacher who learned to incorporate it! I will definitely be using calculators next year!

I fully support Jan’s position on technology. A mother of a kindergartener recently complained to me that her son’s teacher was using calculators in the classroom. She truly was livid and horrified; no exaggeration. After re-assuring this mother of my certainty that the teacher was indeed using technology in an appropriate way (since I know the teacher well and could not imagine her using calculators to “teach adding and subtracting”, as was suggested by the mother), I did some sleuthing. Sure enough, the kindergarteners were using calculators to explore and discover number patterns, and they used calculators to keep up with calculations presented in a piece of children’s literature as the teacher read the story. Also, the children played, “Say My Number” where they had to announce the two- or three-digit number appearing on the teacher’s calculator (placed on an Elmo), giving them practice with place value/naming numbers. I reported all of this back to the mother, but I could sense she was still quite uneasy with the notion of calculators in the kindergarten classroom.

What is ironic in all of this is that this same mother was leading the charge on raising funds to obtain a classroom set of ipads for the kindergarteners, yet somehow she saw calculators as “bad.”