Saturday, October 9, 2010

Don't Drink The KoolAid!!!

I just finished Chapter 2 of my preCalculus for 11th graders (as you can see above)!  This class was recently created to prep the students for AP Calculus AB in their Senior year, so I have to go through the traditional preCalculus topics a little quicker than normal so as to have a bit of time to intro Calculus in May and June!

I got into a little disagreement this week on the AP Calculus listserv (mailing list, EDG, ehatever you want to call it) over SmatBoards and the use of Smart NoteBook.  It all started with someone posting something about their school getting a ton of SmartBoards all of a sudden with no inservice training.  Another post replied with how important training was.  So, once again, my advice to you is, "don't drink the Koolaide, folks!"

Yes, I use Smart Notebook everyday in every math class I teach, but any pen app that exports to PDF will do (see xournal)

Yes, I have used Smart Recorder, but any screencasting software will do (see

Yes, I use a Smart Airliner Slate, but any wireless tablet or remote mouse will do (see wacom)

Yes, I have used a wireless mic, but I prefer an integrated mic on my laptop or PC.

Yes, I have used TI-SmartView, but any emulator will do (see VTI)

Yes, I have used Windows, but I prefer Linux (see ubuntu)

What am I talking about? I use all this stuff to screencast for youtube (again, as seen above). I put all my recordings on youtube for students to review a topic they find troubling or to view a class they missed due to illness or what have you. I don't advocate the use of any sort of Interactive White Board except as a replacement of my whiteboard/blackboard. I never have, nor will I ever prepare power point style presentation before class. I do all my notes in class and record them on the fly! I don't see the need of all the bells and whistles in Smart Notebook unless you want to emulate manipulatives for elementary school students. We're teaching High School, people! The benefit of all this technology is simply for the purposes of recording the classroom experience for posterity (or absent kids)!

Then someone replied all offended saying something about adopting some kind of standard by installing only SmartBoards or PrometheanBoards is important.  How else can the administration provide adequate inservice training?

What I meant to say was: "don't drink the koolaid you get from the Smarttech sales reps and trainers!" They try to make you think that if you don't make a power-point-like presentation using Smart Notebook for every single class you teach, each with a million links and embeded videos, audios or graphics plus all the Smart Notebook widgets, you're just not using the Smartboard to its full potential and somehow short changing your students! 

Do you mean to say that we should just let the teachers decide what technology they are going to use?  Just let each teacher have their own personal amalgam of tools?

Yup, you're preaching to the choir!  I've always had to train myself to use new technology in the classroom since I was usually the first to introduce said technology at my school. 

BTW, I've been teaching, and my students have been learning, math and computer science with technology in the classroom since the 1975.... 

In anycase, I think its time to upgrade my Smart Airliner Slate.  It's great as a wireless (bluetooth) mouse, but I can't see what I write on it as one can on a full-fledged PC Tablet.  So, I was looking at an iPad connecting to my desktop via VNC.  However, the iPad is a little small and doesn't really have a lot of productivity apps.  So, I think it's time for a real PC Tablet.  Such a device would make it easier to write notes on my PC Projector as I would be able to see what I write right on the laptop screen.  

Also, most tablets have an integrated mic so I wouldn't need a separate device to record my audio.  In addition, the tablet will have more connectivity such as wifi, bluetooth, wired ethernet, audio and video.  So, I can connect this tablet/laptop directly to the PC Projector, perhaps wirelessly thereby eliminating the audio/video cables, instead of controlling another PC's desktop remotely!  Take a look at for example.

Teaching with Technology, 


  1. Haha... KoolAid indeed. As it were, my calculus professor up at RPI uses an IBM tablet notebook with powerpoint and the big projector in the lecture hall for taking notes. The other day she apparently couldn't get the projector working (the controls for all the teaching tech in the hall are embedded into the podium at the head of the room), nothing would turn on. She switched to regular overheads while waiting for an IT guy to show up. Halfway through the lecture, the guy shows up. He looks at the podium for a few seconds, bends down and plugs it in. The projector and everything turn on. Yay for simple solutions! :)

  2. The tech guy should have said, "I just touched it!"