5 and 6 equals 12.


This was the message that we would give our quarterbacks as they huddled up to call the next play during a game. The 12th person, of course, was himself. It was a self-check to make sure that he had an entire squad ready for the next play.


Image via Wikipedia

It was the type of mathematics, well arithmetic, that would have saved the Saskatchewan Roughriders the embarrassment of the penalty on the last play of the game, giving the Montreal Alouettes a second opportunity to kick the field goal to win the Grey Cup.

This past weekend was a pretty good one if you enjoy football. Starting on the American Thanksgiving, there was football on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.

It’s amazing the technology that we see on television to enhance our enjoyment of the game. There’s the yellow line indicating where the offense has to get to in order to get a first down. There’s also a coloured line of scrimmage so that you know where the ball was snapped. As I type this, New Orleans is leading New England 10-7 and the the line of scrimmage was superimposed on the field in black indicating that the Saints had the ball.

When there’s a great play, or a close play, we get to see replays from a number of different angles. When it’s really controversial, the technology allows the blowing up of the image so that we can really see what’s happening.

The coaches in the booth have video replay in front of them and a headset to be able to communicate with the coaches on the sidelines. When there’s a chance that an official has erred, the coach has the abilty to throw a flag and ask that the play be video reviewed and a bad decision overturned.

Between games, players get the opportunity to view hours and hours of video tape of their opposition to see what tendencies and trends are for upcoming games.

When the game starts, though, all of the technology is stripped from the players. The closest that they get to knowing where the first down marker is is determined by a look to the sidelines to see markers that haven’t changed significantly since the 1950s. There’s probably more orange in them and there’s an orange mat that the chains are placed on but that’s about it.

After a series of plays, the quarterback gets a chance to see what the formations were by sitting on a bench and viewing still photos. During the Indianapolis game on the weekend, there was an image of Payton Manning, arguably one of the best quarterbacks ever, sitting there flipping through pictures.

Where’s the logic? Is it because they’ve always done it that way? Is it because the focus is on athletic ability?

With all the technology that’s available, why do the officials get to use it but not the players? Imagine how much more exciting the game would be if a running back could steam ahead to get that extra 6 inches because he sees the yellow line on the field. Or, how much more impressive Manning would be if he could see how the defensive backs respond to the motion during an offensive play?

Back to the Grey Cup, 60 minutes of football was decided on a arithmetic slip that could have been addressed so easily by technology.  Wouldn’t it have been better to let the game be decided by athletic ability, planning, and strategy?

Does the same not happen also in classrooms when we deny students access to the technology that would enable them to work at a higher level? If we could assume that mindless factual recall could be handled by Google, couldn’t time be better spent reaching higher and digging deeper? Is there a good reason why a classroom computer isn’t put to good use?

Or, are we happy to accept that 5 plus 6?

You can read the rest of the December edition of GEC Computers in the Classroom here.

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