Newsletter for the Section on Statistical Education
Volume 3, Number 2 (Summer 1997)
I have been asked to write about my personal experience attending the IASE Roundtable Conference on Research on the Role of Technology in Teaching and Learning Statistics held in Granada, Spain from July 23-27, 1996. My most vivid memory is of the warm summer evening when our wonderful hosts, Carmen Batanero and Juan Godino, took us to an outdoor cafe for tapas and then to a hill overlooking the city of Granada where we had more tapas. This same hill was the setting for a classical guitar concert arranged for us by the Mayor of Granada and presented in a beautiful outdoor garden.
Concerning the conference itself, my biggest surprise was to learn that there was a lot more going on, in the development of computer software for teaching statistics and research on its use, than I was aware of from attending meetings in the United States. This was a truly international meeting that showed that exciting things are going on in this field all over the world. We can thank the modern miracle of e-mail for the fact that Joan Garfield both knew exactly the right people to bring together and was able to bring them together in such a wonderful setting. Thanks again to modern technology you will soon be able to read the proceedings of this conference both in hard copy and on the Internet.
The participants were a wonderfully congenial group and by the time we left we were all best of friends. I will especially remember this conference as the place that I met Dani Ben-Zvi from the Weizmann Institute of Science. In addition to telling us about his interesting research using technology to teach Israeli junior high school statistics, Dani's good spirit and great questions brought out the best in us. When Dani realized that many of us were talking about, but not showing off, our software, he ran all over the University collecting Macs and PCs to put on a special "show and tell" session where we could show people how our technology really worked.
My final impression from the conference was that it is really difficult to decide how effective computer software is in teaching statistics. A lot of things we do to improve our teaching are based on our own interests and what we like. They are not the result of careful studies to determine their effectiveness. What we learned at this meeting is that such research is now being done and promises to give us some answers to the very hard question: "what works?". Editors' note: An edited collection of papers presented at the conference along with summaries of group discussions will be available soon. Contact Joan Garfield for more information.