Thursday, September 16, 2010

Technology even a Luddite can love

Just a quick peek in--it's the beginning of the year, and things are lovely, with the exception of a very local, very sad loss that will remain both local and sad--Bloomfield is a true community. We miss you, Michael.


A few fish moved in this morning, a lot of roly polies will soon follow. I've brought back my wooden flute, seeds, a rattle back, a huge horseshoe crab shell, and a variety of other tchotchkes that make a science class a science home.

But that's not why I write.

Social media gets expensive--I buy this, I sign up for that, and before I know it I've frittered away both hours and money on shiny things that I will never use. My wife thinks I'm a magpie.

Even a stopped clock, however, is right twice a day. Some twit dude named @fnoschese tweeted something about using plain vanilla whiteboards in class. No batteries. No lights. No code.

And only $2.

I'm cheap. I'm a neo-Luddite. And I like shiny things.

When I tutor one-on-one, I love using scrap paper. I scribble, the student scribbles, I scribble some more, the student scribbles some more. When we're done, I offer the pile of scribbles to the student. Usually the pile is tossed.

I cut up two 4 x 8' white shower boards ($25.87 including tax) into twelve 24 x 32" white boards.

Best money I've spent on a classroom, and I've spent a lot.

Mistakes are no longer permanent red marks. A quick swoosh with an eraser or back of a hand, and the board is clear.

Mistakes do not simmer for a day or two; I walk around and we work together to fix misconceptions
on the spot.

I know
immediately where the students stand, a bit humbling when you realize maybe your brilliantly scripted lectures posed as directed discussions are no more effective than the textbook you sneered at with your fellow twits on late summer eves.

And (drum roll please....) the kids dare to think. I mean think as in "Look at me I'm coming up with solutions and I want to share them!" think.

I am not saying anything Frank Noschese doesn't already say more succinctly on his blog Action-Reaction.

The only downside? Fresh cut shower whiteboard smells like a wet dog for a day or two. I only had one student complain, but my wife made me keep the boards in the trunk until I got them to school.

Two freakin' dollars. My Smartboard could have paid for a thousand of them. My Smartboard isn't bad. My Luddite boards, though, are better.

Did I mention cheap, too?

Photo by Adrian Pingstone, released to public domain.


Anonymous said...

Wow! I'm flatter that you've spun your whiteboard experience into an entire post. I hope you'll keep us updated on how things go!

Anonymous said...

Whoops. That should be "flattered."

doyle said...

Dear Frank,

I cannot thank you enough--and now the Luddite white board is spreading through our department.

It really works--but you know this already. Now if I only could get rid of the wet dog smell....

Barry Bachenheimer said...

Dr. Doyle-

Your post just echoes what I continually say- technology is a tool...not the goal. Understanding is the goal.


nashworld said...

What's really funny to me is how Mr. Nash... the techno (insert something here- you get to pick) actually uses paper nearly every day.

(I'm doing this one in 3rd person, BTW.)

He begins with students scribbling... they argue. They debate. Sometimes on giant paper, sometimes on the whiteboards (it just friggin' depends. They beg for "the answer." And then- they ultimately get turned out to find things digital.

The bring back amazing things. They bring back ignorant things. They do this while I'm watching, and I'm paid to shepherd them to a better understanding. I'm ultimately there to help them make meaning.

I don't give a rip what tools a person uses if they can get kids to care about this experience we all share on Earth. I want them to first pay attention to it. Once they care, you can use a rock and a stick... or you can use a wiki.. or a whatthehellever.

Regardless of what they bring back from this firehose of information we all celebrate, my kittens still toss it limp onto the top step of the porch for my approval.

And that- is when I get to actively begin doing what I used to start the day doing some 18 years ago. I love hearing myself talk. I'm someone's smart, special boy. And yet, it's not about me. I learned that many years ago. I remember that general period in time.

I adore the democritization of information afforded by the Internet. I also love spontaneous scribbling on paper. This 1st day of October in 2010, I don't care how you do it... just engage children in deep thought. Help them to make meaning. We cannot do this for them. We have erred in that attempt for half a century (or so I hear).

I too love technology. Who cares what one picks? It just has to fit. To roughly copy a phrase by Doug Johnson (tech dir. for Mankato PS) =>

"No one ever buys a 1/4 inch drill bit because they want a 1/4 inch drill bit. They buy a 1/4 inch drill bit because they want a 1/4 inch hole."