November 5th, 2012 by Dan Meyer
The simplest thing, “Take a picture of one of the proofs you just wrote and email it to me.” turns into twenty minutes of troubleshooting cameras that don’t work, and picture files we can’t find in order to attach them, and how to login to your school email account.
This isn’t an exhibit of doing mathematics or of technology enabling a classroom. This is an exhibit of an entire classroom spending time and administrative capital accommodating the limitations of computers, of technology disabling a classroom.
The tools need to get out of the way. When I use the Internet to communicate these words across time and space, I’m not consciously aware of all the technologies that facilitate that communication. They are out of my way. Computers are a natural medium for communicating words. In Kate Nowak’s class, the tools are consciously in the way.
Over the past couple of months I’ve heard “yeah, that’s cool, but I can do the same using x, combined with y and converted using z, backing onto Dropbox” far too many times.
With plain text, we go to a computer first to type it. Many of us have noted how he hardly ever handwrite anything longer than a phone number or address these days. The same can’t be said for math notation. Some can write math using LaTeX but that is far from ideal. Even mathematicians who are LaTeX experts do not handwrite it on paper or a whiteboard. They use standard math notation.