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Re: Re: Re: Mathematica and Education
I think your points are very valid and well presented. I don't know enough about the economics of the CAS software business, but they may be pricing themselves away from their market. I know people who love Mathematica but can't afford to keep up with the latest versions. I believe that Mathematica can be revolutionary in technical education but it is not now achieving that goal and there are serious obstacles in getting there. I am not a teacher and can only comment at second hand but I also think the present educational model is far from the quality that could be achieved for students interested in technical careers. David Park djmp at earthlink.net http://home.earthlink.net/~djmp/ From: ggroup at sarj.ca [mailto:ggroup at sarj.ca] To: mathgroup at smc.vnet.net David, I agree largely that Mathematica (or any math software) can be used to great benefit. One point that I believe your argument takes too lightly is the availability of the technology. Your example of spinning wheels becoming obsolete is not really valid. Manufactured clothing is available everywhere, and there is sufficient variety that it is available at prices that are accessible to pretty well everyone. Mathematica and even computers are not. There is a large cost to buy and maintain both a computer and a license. You can argue that computers are starting to become cheap and common enough that we can drop computers as a significant cost. Fine, but a Mathematica license is not cheap. Overall value doesn't always win the day when there are many other financial obligations to consider. So what is the student to do when they go to work for such a company? Or even if the company does buy a license, it may not provide a home license for the employee to use. Even if they do provide a home license, you suddenly run into a whole bunch of other issues, like who owns the IP of anything you might produce. No such barrier exists with the pencil and paper model. I think the crux of the argument is that if you are taught well, it doesn't matter much how you were taught. There are benefits of all approaches. The problem lies in the fact that in reality, regardless of the system, students will not be taught nor learn optimally. With course loads and all the other pressures of student life, there is no way that most students can devote enough time to get the most out of any teaching system. Similarly, with all their other obligations, few professors have the time to devote to being truly excellent instructors. So you have to fall to a compromise; knowing that the average student is only going to absorb a fraction of what you're teaching in the time that is available, what is important? From my experience, all technology, no matter how reliable, has some sort of failure in a teaching environment (how many times have you seen the projector not work correctly?). Dealing with these problems has merit, but it robs valuable time from instruction of other concepts. How many times have you seen a university/college level student go to their professor to figure out how to sharpen their pencil? Do these problems with technology outweigh the potential gain by systems like Mathematica? I don't know. I do know that the effectiveness of any teaching system boils down to the quality and motivation of the instructors and students and sadly, even the administrators.