Thursday, October 24, 2013

"A Solution In Search of a Problem"

For a few years now I've had an Elmo document camera (like a video camera) connected to both my computer and an LCD projector; with this setup I can project what's on my computer screen or whatever I put under the document camera.  Think of it as an improved overhead projector!

I've been less than happy with the LCD projector; color, which is fairly important in a math class, especially when graphing, appears washed out, and the bulbs for those projectors run into three digits.  I've said for a while now that I'd rather have a large screen TV up on the wall--the image would be crystal clear, and the cost would be equal to one Elmo and one bulb.

I now have a 70" Sharp television, and it's beautiful.  It's *so* much easier to view, everything just "pops".  My principal also gave me an iPad and a mount that essentially allows me to use the iPad camera as an Elmo.  Additionally, I can project anything from the iPad up onto the TV.  Think of the possibilities!  Anyway, my principal asked me to try all this out and see what I think, and let him know if perhaps this is a direction the school should move regarding technology.

OK, I've only been using this setup for less than 2 weeks now, so it's possible I haven't had enough time to be sold on it yet, but to be honest, I'm just not seeing how an iPad makes my teaching or my students' learning any better.  The iPad seems like overkill when I use it as a glorified Elmo, and since being a document camera isn't its primary purpose, it's not even as convenient to use as an Elmo is.  I've been told, "there are all these apps you can use, and..." but it's so much easier (and seemingly more effective) for me to write on paper than it is to use apps.  If I'm teaching graphing, I'd rather do it on paper under a document camera than to use a stylus or, even worse, my fingertip, on an iPad.  When I work a problem out it's easier to do it naturally, with paper and pencil, than it is to try to use the iPad as a glorified whiteboard. 

It's like I'm trying to force the iPad to fit into my teaching, and it's not working, and I'm not really inclined to change my teaching so that the iPad fits in.  It's supposed to be my tool, not vice versa.  And I haven't even mentioned the once- or twice-daily glitches that I encounter; they're not horrible, but they exist, and they take 30-60 seconds to fix, which is more than enough time for a class to start getting off-task.

I mentioned to some students today that what would be ideal for me would just be to get the Elmo image up on the TV.  One student remarked, "The iPad is a solution in search of a problem."  He's quite right.


Joshua Sasmor said...

Darren, I've been working with an iPad for four years now, and I must tell you that the only time I graph on there is for implicit graphing, a 3D object (both using QuickGraph) or a vector field (using MathStudio). I haven't used my desktop copy of Maple in a few years because I have the apps, but that's still not something I'll use to teach with...

Darren said...

I use Graph.exe to graph on my computer, and it's great.

Anonymous said...

For the past two and a half years I used an ELMO, one I purchased myself, with my computer and projector. When the school district enacted security on the computers, I had to remove my personal ELMO from the computer and projector; I ran its output to the TV in my classroom. I received compliments from other teachers on the quality of the image on the TV versus the projector.

As I am an elementary school teacher, I find that using an iPad works to spur student interest in science and social studies more than actually teaching concepts, even when outputting to a TV.

Based on personal experience, I'd say that a $700 ELMO is more flexible than a $500 iPad for presenting information to an entire classroom. Don't get me started on SMARTboards, by the way.

Mr. W said...

I think I posted this here before, but I started using a Note 10.1. The stylus is a wacom stylus, so it is near perfect writing. I can move freely around the room since it is wireless. And I save the notes as pdf files and upload them to the school's website. It is nicer than using my whiteboard, makes my triangles and circles perfect, and I use so many different colors the notes now look better.

Elaine said...

I've been able to use geogebra to help my kids grasp some geometry theorems pretty quickly, as a replacement for making them construct a bajillion parallel lines and transferrals.

I actually prefer my projector, because I have it project onto my whiteboard. Then I just raw on/over the image. I had to stop doing that this year, though... I have a legally blind student that I post all the class notes for at the end of the day, and the stuff on the board doesn't get recorded! Having a tablet instead of the Mobi and desktop and elmo would make that task easier... (Though to be honest, I'd rather an android tablet like the Google nexus 10, over an ipad...)

maxutils said...

Whiteboard and pens. Much cheaper, just as good if not better.