This lovely wall hanging is posted high on the wall of the Exeter dining hall. It looks like a quilt, but is actually composed of painted wood. This evening, I ate dinner beneath it, sitting at a table with a group of teachers, including the first person I met at the conference. When I said, “It’s so good to see you – I haven’t seen you since the conference began!”, she replied, “Yes, that was yesterday morning.” The days have been so jampacked with ideas, conversation and laughter, I feel as if I have been here for a week already – in a very good way.
I managed to put some homework problems on the board, and explain my answers during my “Hits of Higher Math” class, and even ask a few questions. We moved from Real Analysis to Topology, which I find somewhat more accessible as we have [temporarily] put aside discussions of infinity. I joined forces with another reticent student (he is actually a Political Science person, recently conscripted to teach a math class at his school in Arizona) and we formed a mini-study group, and worked on the homework together today. In the iPad class, we were given a demo of an amazing product called Fluid Math (http://www.fluiditysoftware.com/), which allows you to hand write equations on a tablet, transform them into graphs, and create sliders with which you can manipulate graphs. This is a very bare bones description of what this app-suite can do – it is a tool that will definitely take time for me to play with, and imagine some of its applications in my classroom.
But the big bonus of the day was the evening speaker, Bruce Dixon, founder of the Anytime Anywhere Learning Foundation (http://aalf.org/), who gave an energizing and thought-provoking lecture on Reimagining School with Technology. Beginning with Ron Amara’s quote, “We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run,” Dixon looked at the current uses (or lack thereof) of technology in the classroom, the amazing communicative and learning power that technology provides for our students, and the shifting paradigms in economics and society that constant access to information and each other creates. He posed provocative questions about the current unimaginative use of technology in many schools, and the restrictions we place on internet access in schools which might be impeding educational progress. He suggested that we need to ENCOURAGE our students to talk to strangers, globally, to gather information from appropriate sources, and that we need to not just plan for technology implementation in our classrooms, but REIMAGINE the role that technology will play in education. When the talk began, I thought I understood how I wanted to use technology – now, I can barely write about it – not because I am confused, but because the idea is so BIG, and so IMPORTANT.
Dixon is an incredibly dynamic speaker – he spoke for over an hour without notes. He did have a presentation to which he referred, but he had a room full of 200 teachers hanging on his every word. I had the opportunity to speak with him afterwards, and found him to be incredibly optimistic about the future, despite the actual title of his lecture which was “Is it possible that we are seeing the END OF SCHOOL as we know it?” He believes in the power and talent of our children and students, and also in the power of the participation of educators in this process. We discussed energy and water shortage, Van Hiele levels, making fires with bow drills, and Dan Meyer’s Pyramid of Pennies task (http://threeacts.mrmeyer.com/pyramidofpennies/) – luck us to hear Dan Meyer speak on Wednesday!