Gerhard Fischer and Hal Eden: “Design, Learning, and Collaboration” — Spring Semester 2007

Assignment 13: “You Being the Expert”

background papers for this assignment: read at least one of the articles

Analyzers and summarizers for assignment 13:
1. Brian Brown
2. John Bacus

due: Monday, March 19, 2007 (10:00am contributors, 2:00pm summarizers)

You are an expert on issues about learning in a technology-rich world. The Boulder Valley School District approaches you to have your input how the school district should deal with hand-held calculators in their schools. They ask you to consider 4 options and request that you develop a principled argument which of the four options is the best one and should be chosen

Hand-Held Calculators — What Should the Boulder Valley School District Do?

position 1: ignore the existence of the gadget; we are not interested in technology, but in important mathematical skills; recommendation: do not use hand-held calculators in schools

position 2: keep the curriculum the same, make children learn arithmetic, multiplication tables, long division, drawing square root by hands; recommendation: after they have it all mastered, allow the use of hand-held calculators.

position 3: invent/ create new calculators, new curricula, new scaffolding mechanisms that make learning these skills more fun and create a deeper understanding of underlying concepts — recommendation: using these hand-held calculators, the learners would acquire the skills and the knowledge and eventually become independent of the gadget (“scaffolding with fading”)

position 4: find new ways to distribute responsibilities between humans and machines such that humans do the qualitative reasoning, use estimation skills, relate the mathematical result to the real world and machines do the detailed quantitative computations recommendation: establish new divisions of labor, rely on distributed intelligence

Additional Interesting Reading as inspiration for the homework

THE FEELING OF POWER by Isaac Asimov Worlds of Science Fiction, February 1958 Copyright 1957 by Quinn Publishing Co., Inc.
Inspiration moves in strange paths. As we look farther and farther into the future, it becomes possible to ask stranger and stranger questions. If society grows more and more computerized, what happens if human beings forget how to do simple arithmetic? Questions of this sort are NOW being asked, but the following story was written in 1957, well before anyone (except perhaps a few science-fiction writers) was thinking of such things. It might be the job of scientists, someday, not to discover, but to re-discover.
here is a copy of the article: asimov-feeling-power.doc

Please do the following:

• develop a principled argument for your recommendation (can you provide evidence, data, …?)
• discuss the major weaknesses of the other choices
• relate your argumentation to the article(s) of your reading assignment