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November 16, 2006

Images of the Possible - Geometer Sketch Pad

I am not a math person, and so I was not excited about using the Geometer Sketch Pad program. My partners and I laughed about our skills and tackled what we thought would be the easiest assignment LittleOnes. We were successful and progressed to the fourth grade levels. Some of the concepts that were covered even at the second grade level were far beyond what my current students know and can do, and certainly beyond what I could have done at the elementary levels. I took geometry in high school and we were remembering the difficulty of measuring angles with a protractor. This program gives kids the ability to look at the principles and the functions, without being encumbered with the slow, cumbersome and inaccurate tools we used. We all liked the instant ability to see that no matter what the angles were, the total of the degrees stayed the same. How long would that one principle have taken us to discover in the old way of doing things. I can visualize that it could create some problems for the teacher. The quicker students would be done with the assigned tasks and would move on to play with the program. It was even a temptation for us, and I am sure that it would be for students too. As for challenges for the student (and to some degree for the teacher too) it offers a temptation to use the calculator to do some of the tasks that we did ourselves. Measuring lines and angles and doing the math all have value too. Not everything should be that easy, so there would have to be some balance between learning the basic skills and then letting the calculator do the work you already know how to do, instead of leaning on the calculator to do the things you DON'T know how to do. Once the basics are mastered, this program would allow even very young students to move through geometry very quickly, and thus cover much more ground in a single year than we would ever have imagined. We all laughed when Joan suggested that perhaps this would have changed our career trajectories, but after playing with this, this idea doesn't sound all that far fetched.

Google Earth

I hade used Google Earth before we used it in class only because it came loaded on our new Mac. I was impressed with how many other things could be done with it, things that I had never even considered. I enjoyed having a "pro" walk us through it and explain some of the features that had escaped me on my solo wanderings through the program. I also enjoyed the explanation as to the sources of the data. I had wondered why it was so obviously not current information and was glad to learn this. I also enjoyed looking at the three-dimensional views of Minneapolis. I am anxious to show my family what I have learned. But... then again, I can barely get some of them to use MapQuest. =)