In August, my podium received a major upgrade.

Similar in cost to the low-resolution projector and interactive whiteboard (probably less if you consider installation), this Wacom Cintiq is an amazing tool. It combines the tablet and separate screen I've used before and gives me a chance to see the room better. It also acknowledges that dragging one student up to "interact" with the board is an antiquated practice that should stop forever. I don't care how advanced your presentation file is, one kid at the board is just one kid at the board. Notes you have hidden behind a draggable box are still just notes.

This technology is for my benefit. Swap to desmos. Swap back to some notes. Swap to an image search. Swap to a movie. Ok cool, but isn't that kind of selfish? I thought education technology was all about the children.

Well yeah, but if the lesson is nothing but working problems off a PDF you haven't done the student any favors.

With or without technology integration, the magic does not happen because you teach the same content with a fancier delivery system. My high dollar Cintiq does not guarantee the students will care about what I have to say or ensure they will be 20% more "engaged" as a result of watching me.

Engagement is all about how you plan, not how many draggable objects are in your slides (or the clever questions you ask about some episode of Mythbusters you find "engaging"). Do your students talk to each other regularly? Is it more important to let them interact with one problem on the board or with their peers? What opportunities will they have to drive the conversation? When will they be puzzled? How do we entertain their tangent questions? Will your plan survive if one kid wants to talk about the space shuttle for 10 minutes?

How often does the place explode into a mess of colored paper?

Students are begging to interact with one another. My goal every week is to give them an opportunity to speak math to each other as much as possible. They can verify their assumptions. They can teach a peer who's confused. They can get clarification as I wander around. And yes, chatter on and be off task, but integrate this practice frequently enough and they're so thankful to be DOING something even if it's math.

My tablet is a means to convey information. It happens to make it easy to do and internet-enabled. It offers me the convenience of saving things for later. But if a student's primary means of interaction is demonstrating a problem to 25 silent (and uninterested) bodies, you don't get what it means to interact.

Quality lessons stand on their own whether they're taught in chalk, dry erase, or pixels. The medium is the least important item in the chain.

AuthorJonathan Claydon