By Jael Perales

Classroom Technology at RRCThe Round Rock Campus is set to host the Technology for Today’s Classroom workshop on Saturday, April 28. This full-day workshop will address topics related to technology and education, and that got me thinking about my own experiences with technology as a student.

My first calculator (well, besides my own brain) was the easiest thing I could get my hands on; namely, my fingers and toes. As you would expect, the math eventually became harder than what my 10 digits could manage, so the next tool provided to me was a basic calculator. You know the type, perfect for doing all kinds of adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing, and apparently something to do with %. But this too was insufficient to tackle the math problems of middle school. Once algebra came into my life, the ol’ number cruncher had seen better days. So, once again, I upgraded, and this time perhaps more than I needed to. You see, I began competing in calculator-based academic competitions, so the tool provided to me was the kind that could handle problems beyond my grade level. I was solving equations, converting units, tackling trigonometry…and I hadn’t even met those issues in my own mathematics classes! And yet, even then, I was limited in what I could do. To advance further as a mathematics competitor and eager, young scholar, I needed something that could handle bigger equations, more complex situations, matrices, and, eventually, graphs. Thus came the powerful graphing calculator and, so it seemed, near limitless capabilities.

But, as luck would have it, I went on to college and was presented with a whole new array of problems. Real-world physics problems to be more precise. And I must say, even the powerhouse that was my graphing calculator was unable to stand up to the challenge. At this point, the only other powerful computational engine available that wasn’t the human brain was, you guessed it, the personal computer. I was introduced to a computer program that could handle giant, complex, mountains of math as easily as I can click the mouse attached to the computer I am writing with now. Suddenly, I looked at newer, more ambitious mathematical projects with a sense of boldness I had never known before.

It is only now that I see the neck-and-neck race that had been occurring in my academic experiences. The technology I used in math seemed to be the deciding factor in what level of math I could study. Or was it that the level of the math determined the tools that were required? It is no secret that technology and education go hand in hand. What one can teach is often directly related to what one can use to teach and learn. When the abacus was the primary tool for doing math, what a student was expected to learn and do was miles behind what most elementary students can handle today. The educator was limited in what he or she could teach. But, as we have all seen, when the technology available to both students and educators advanced, so too did the level of information being taught. In other words, I can teach a 3rd grader how to handle multiplication problems with a calculator that the student may have never been able to accomplish with just an abacus.

Classroom equipment has also experienced significant upgrades. I remember my teachers working out math problems on an overhead projector and showing slightly dated science videos on VHS. Now, teachers can display a computer desktop on a hardwired screen and use their hands or other devices to draw students in with high-tech visuals and up-to-date streaming videos. Advances such as this allows teachers to draw on a wealth of knowledge and visual aids like never before, which not only improves the way they can teach and keep students engaged, but also allows them to teach content that would otherwise have been too high-level.

And you, ever plugged-in college student, how much more useful to you is an educational environment that synchs up with the technology you are accustomed to already? Class projects posted on a social media platform, textbooks on e-readers, and class participation using smartphones. These are just some of the many ways educators can interact with students in and out of the classroom. And “out of the classroom” learning is key in expanding what educators can teach and students can learn. In reality, technology is even expanding the classroom itself.

For educators, the first response to this reality is pretty straightforward. With all the technology out there, where does a teacher or professor even begin? A good place to start is at the upcoming Technology for Today’s Classroom workshop. The event, sponsored by Kappa Delta Pi, Dell, and ePals, is a full-day technology workshop with hands-on exploration and sessions that address 21st Century Learning.  The current list of speakers includes teachers from AISD, PISD, RRISD, DELL, and ePals, with more to come. The event will be held on Saturday, April 28, 2012 from 8:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. at Texas State University Round Rock Campus. Registration is free for all Texas State Education majors, but space is limited. Go to http://www.planetreg.com/E4414551083153 to register. The registration deadline is April 22, 2012 at 10:00 p.m. I encourage you to take advantage of this great opportunity. Expanding what educators can do in the classroom is the key to expanding the capabilities of students. I personally can’t wait to see the abacus of tomorrow!

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