For the first time in my memory, the entire middle school math department attended a national conference together. For myself, it was the most productive and worthwhile conference I have attended. I concentrated on three areas. First, a new (free) piece of software called Geogebra that is modeled after the Geometer’s Sketchpad. It is dynamic algebra software meaning that changes are made dynamically to functions, graphs, constructions, and other mathematical representations. And, currently, Steve has put it on both labs and I have had students download it at home. They now can explore assignments using Geogebra and submit their work online.
The second thing I focused on was the Smart Board and new ways to use it. I learned a lot and found myself agreeing with this quote regarding the use of this great technology, “Engage, not entertain.” In the end, learning is the goal. If it is entertaining as well as engaging, that is good.
The third area that I concentrated on was the adoption of a new algebra book. I spent a lot of time with the people at Key Curriculum Press. I talked to the owner of the company, who did a workshop at their booth about a new product they are going to offer where their sketches from the Geometer’s Sketchpad are linked to the textbook that is being used. They have correlated their software with most textbooks that I know of. This software is not free. I also talked to the author of the book that I have adopted for next year. He gave me some insight into how the book was developed and some of the content of the text. I spent a lot of time there-I felt like a groupie!
I would like to end with a quote that was used by the gentleman who developed the Geogebra software. This is not his quote, but it is from a study where they looked at the science of instruction:
“What we have learned from all the media comparison research is that it’s not the medium but rather the instructional methods that cause learning. When instructional methods remain essentially the same, so does the learning, no matter how the instruction is delivered.” (Clark and Mayer, Learning and the science of instruction, 2007)