It is not unusual for costly graphing calculators to be a part of back-to-school lists. The arguments go something like this. We need students to have a separate non-computer graphing calculator to know they really know how to use a graphing calculator.Wait, what world are we preparing our kids for? The only business place in the world in the 21st century where you'd see graphing calculators being used to do work is Texas Instruments. The one who sells the graphing calculators.
In the modern world graphing calculators are available free via apps and software for phones and computers. Even if you ban student devices, for the cost of a graphing calculator, schools can buy a much more powerful smartphone onto which you could do much more than just access a graphing calculator.
In essence a tool has been created for the classroom, that has no use outside the school walls whatsoever. Sadly, as the Atlantic exposed back in 2011, what this all boils down to is that the mega-billion dollar testing industry dictates the technology that can be used. That however should not dictate how a student accesses that technology. If parents and educators are buying into the idea that we must throw children into the past to take assessments, that is unfortunate. However, even if they do, save those antiquated devices for testing day and allow students to use modern technologies they have access to in the world the rest of time.
This simple shift to using free tools would shift millions of dollars from the pockets of Texas Instruments into the hands of our students. Desmos CEO Eli Luberoff put it best when he said this in his interview with business site Quartz: “We think students shouldn’t have to buy this old, underpowered device anymore. It’s a huge source of inequity, and it’s just not the best way to learn.”
Lisa Nielsen (@InnovativeEdu) has worked as a public-school educator and administrator since 1997. She is a prolific writer best known for her award-winning blog, The Innovative Educator. Nielsen is the author of several books and her writing has been featured in media outlets such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Tech&Learning, and T.H.E. Journal.