Friday, March 23, 2018

Slice of Life 2018- 23 of 31

For the month of March, I am participating in the Eleventh Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge. That means that I am writing every day for the month of March in the good company of the Two Writing Teachers community. 

Thursday's Morning Edition on NPR challenged me to think about one specific technological tool that hasn't experienced what they called "creative destruction." I didn't have enough time to think of the answer, and I'm pretty sure that I wouldn't have come up with this particular gadget if I'd been given the rest of the day. Stop reading and see if you can come up with one small technological gadget that hasn't changed since 1994.

Here are a couple clues:
  1. It costs about $100, and the price hasn't changed. 
  2. It has no internet capabilities which is one of its selling features. 
Any ideas?

Here's an even bigger clue:

Almost every high school student in this country who takes advanced math is required to have one.
It's the only technology besides a pencil that SAT takers can bring into the testing environment. 

If you're still wondering, it's the graphing calculator. 

SO: Let's think about this.
In real life environments, we want students to be resourceful and collaborative, and to not only know how to use cutting edge devices, but also to know how to access them. In a fourth-grade writing workshop, I watched ten year-olds use, Google language apps, screen-sharing, side-by-side digital charts, and any other tool they could independently access that would make their writing better.

Does anyone else think there's something ironic or antiquated about the fact that on the highest stake tests of most students' lives, their only tool is one that was cutting edge almost 25 years ago? It just has me scratching my head about some of the systems and institutions that remain in place, possibly preventing our country's educational system from keeping up with the rapid pace of change around them. I even wonder about who's profiting since two companies produce and sell about six million calculators a year.

Would we ever say to a carpenter I want to see how you cut this wood, but you can only use a handsaw?

I'm being purposefully provocative, and I really am interested in some thoughts and debates about this.

Happy Slicing,


  1. I had no idea what it could be. "Creative destruction." It's a valuable process, isn't it? Now, you have me thinking and wondering. Hmmm...

  2. I often have the sense of massive, antiquated machinery grinding onward ... transformation begins with dismantling a small piece at a time ...

  3. I have no idea -- does the calculator make you do more of the work? I am wondering if it somehow demonstrates knowledge of process. You have pulled me into math -- not my area!! But I did have fun trying to figure it out... my first guess was a beeper (guess being married to a pediatrician biased me!)

  4. I heard that interview, too and I was also struck by it. Glad to know that piece got other people's attention.

  5. I’m not bothered by graphing calculators not having evolved into a form of technology that likely would change a student’s need actually to learn math. I’m not a mathematician, but I suspect that to progress to higher levels of learning math there’s something inherent to what students need that a graphing calculator offers.

  6. Wow so interesting. I would have never come up with that!