Education Opinion

It’s not new and it’s not improved

By Nancy Flynn — April 14, 2010 2 min read
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Here’s an excerpt from a local newspaper article entitled Learning, FACEBOOK Style:

At first glance, the first graders in Mrs. Stephan’s classroom at Scenic Heights Elementary in Minnetonka appear to be chatting online with their pals, Facebook-style, instead of learning math. As their classmates’ names pop up - listing favorite foods, pets and hobbies - their eyes stay fixed on their screens. Each student follows a turtle that scales mountains, windsurfs and embarks on other adventures, based on how well the child correctly answers math questions.
Minnetonka is one of the nation’s first school districts to try Planet Turtle, a new educational software program designed to drill kids on early math skills. Aimed at the district’s first-, second-, and third-graders, it demands using social media-type tools - forcing kids to interact - rather than working alone with paper-and-pencil worksheets.

And this is somehow a new, revolutionary concept? Drilling math facts using the computer? I remember inserting a math drill disk into an old Apple IIc for my own two children to hone their math facts when they were in kindergarten. By the way, they are now 24. Just because this turtle is programmed on a Facebook-type site does not deem it any more worthy than the old Apple IIc programs that asked kids to do the exact same thing - answer math facts while interacting with some type of moving graphic. I’m all for learning math facts, but the fact that because we can now use a social media site to do it means we’ll learn the facts any better or faster than before is absurd. That wheel was already invented. It’s still the lowest form of instructional technology. I think kids spend enough time on Facebook-type sites as it is. It’s just another excuse to log on to a social network. I wonder if they use social networking sites in Japan or Singapore to learn math facts. Probably not. They are far more concerned with learning math for math’s sake than trying to find yet another reason to log on to a social network during school hours. In Japan there is a sense of urgency about math, not just generated by teachers, but generated by students. When students in the U.S. have that same sense of urgency to truly excel at math, social media sites will be used as they are intended - to be social, extracurricular activities.

Shah, Allie. Learning, FACEBOOK Style, Star Tribune, March 27, 2010.

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