In educational circles, there’s always a philosophical debate between those educators who favor allowing their students to use tools like TI-89’s or computer algebra-capable software like Mathematica and those who don’t, with those favoring their use citing the ability of the tools to expand the scope of the curriculum, and with those opposed worried about the tools supplanting the instincts that long practice engenders.
I personally am in favor of using such tools, as they allow a classroom to extend beyond simply learning how to do basic procedures to looking at real-world problems which are far harder and far more interesting than the simple “toy problems” which classrooms requiring all work to be done “old school” are limited to. But, even I have to say that the latest blog post by Wolfram|Alpha makes this supporter of new technical tools in classrooms a little wary.
Over on the Bench Press blog, we’ve posted a couple of times on the power of the new “computational knowledge engine” Wolfram|Alpha (brought to you by the makers of Mathematica) and its ability to help provide contextual medical and astronomical information, in addition to answers to sophisticated Mathematica queries.
Now, this should raise the eyebrows of any teacher who finds him/herself wondering if his/her students are “cheating” with computer algebra systems. And, what will raise their eyebrows even further is Wolfram’s latest post entitled, “College is Hard. Wolfram|Alpha makes it easier.”
I kid you not. Have problems balancing equations in chemistry? Just have Wolfram|Alpha do it:
Need to calculate a Taylor Series? Have Wolfram|Alpha do it:
I find myself asking – why didn’t I have this when I was in college?
(Image credits – Wolfram|Alpha blog)