This has been a great week! March 4-6 has been the 2012 NC Middle School Conference in Greensboro. It has always been a great event meeting new people and hearing the rich, new information shared by experts from all over NC.
The keynote this year was Dr. Willard Daggert, the CEO of the International Center for Leadership in Education. Dr Daggert is an entertaining and inspiring speaker. His keynote was a great speech on where we need to go in education, particularly since we are working with systems that were outdated 10 years ago. His talk inspired a good number of us to attend his follow up discussion on the What, Why and How education change needs to come about. We can never hear enough about the need for change but his take on it was unique and eye-opening.
I want to share an interesting piece he used to make some of us squirm in our seats a little [which I love]. He introduced us to WolframAlpha. WolframAlpha is an answer generating tool. If you type in a question or concept, it works to generate a specific solution for the question posed. Its important to note that this is not a search engine like Google or Yahoo wherein a concept is entered and the search engine searches the web for the different sites or content that relate to search topic. With WolframAlpha, if you search for an answer to a question, you get an answer – not a webpage!
I downloaded and paid for the app on my phone and the description of the app started with how it parallels to the computer from Star Trek. If you’re a Trekkie you know that all you had to do was pose a question or problem to the computer and it would produce an answer in no time flat. WolframAlpha is a step in that direction. I experimented with it today with some math problems. Daggett showcased ‘2 + 2’, I went deeper with ‘2x +6 = 10’, then ‘2x + 6y = 10’ and then I asked it to find the derivative of problem. For all of these, the answers given were not one word answers – they covered all angles and possible investigations a student or interested party would need or want to know.
This is a game changer because we have to look at our practices and what we are doing in the classroom. If we are assigning simple answer problems, our kids have minimum work to do with WolframAlpha to find a simple solution. WolframAlpha should be a motivator for us to do a better job at challenging kids. I encourage every educator to play around with this tool. We should familarize ourselves with it because rest assured, our kids know about it. This is a great step for us in that this tool will help take care of the procedural work and allow us to focus on the higher order skill and strategies our students need to be challenged.