Monday, July 17, 2017

Youtube's Take on the Future of Education

I’ve been spending some time looking at Youtube videos about math education and education in general and came up with two  interesting ones with contrasting points of view. First there is “This Will Revolutionize Education” (7:06/1,558,501 views) where the speaker's main conclusion is: "For as transformative as technology seems to be (…) what really matters is what happens inside the learner's head and making a learner think seems best achieved in a social environment with other learners and a caring teacher.” Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Not terribly earth shattering. Hard to disagree with that one. But a revolution? I don’t think so. We have had great teachers for ever. (You can find out what it takes to be one with a simple google search.)  In other words, the speaker in the video still believes that this low tech approach will spurn a revolution. Unfortunately the great teachers live on the high end of the bell curve and in all of the years of school reform movements the bell curve hasn’t shifted all that much so I have little confidence that just focusing on improving teachers will make the revolution happen any time soon.

On the other hand CGP Grey in "Digital Aristole: Thoughts on the Future of Education” (5:43/1,511,488 views) doesn’t claim that a revolution in high tech tools will alter the teacher performance bell curve, but rather will send the average teacher from their central position at the front of the class to being a guide on the side. And if the curriculum materials are more engaging for students they may actually learn more than the average student in a more traditional setting. What the author suggests is that every student be given a “digital Aristotle” since having a real Aristotle
available for 1-1 tutoring is not humanly possible, too expensive and not as gifted a teacher as Aristotle was. The Internet has opened up the possibility for great learning. But this doesn’t mean teaching the same old curriculum with shiny new things. Also having personal tutors like Salman Khan available doesn’t guarantee effective personalized learning. What Grey does envision is adaptive technology that will personalize learning in a way that will motivate, inspire and empower students to learn things they are interested in. His vision of a digital Aristotle for everyone will tutor students individually and adapt appropriately over time to produce the most effective resources for each individual student to determine scientifically what works best. He uses Khan Academy as an example of where we are now, but in the future the software will result in a more personalized and effective learning modality that is better than what the average teacher can do with students today.

Being the president of a technology oriented organization you might suspect that I would lean towards Grey’s vision and less towards the human revolution promoted by the previous video. But I’m inspired by both visions. The problem is that we pundits take sides and that doesn’t help in creating a future for our students and teachers that is better than what we have now. What we need is a future where students are pursuing learning things that they are interested in in a deep way. And the teachers job is to guide their students to achieve not only their goals, but also their dreams.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Math Education Is STEM Education! Really?

Matt Larson, NCTM President

May 17, 2017
What design principles would you include to ensure that an effective STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) program builds mathematics understanding? 
So begins Matt Larson's piece in the NCTM blog. It's definitely worth a read. (Link) He asserts that a good math education is all that's needed for a good STEM program. I disagreed.
I shared my thoughts in the comments section and got 2 replies from Matt. We found some common ground.
Tracey Knerr - 5/18/2017 7:45:32 AM
Thank you for writing this.  In our district, the science supervisor and I have been trying to leverage the Standards for Mathematical Practice with the NGSS and ELA practices.  We use the NGSS Venn diagramvisual to help inform the work everyone is doing.  Unfortunately, as a district, we are not all on the same page and rather than thinking of STEM or STEAM as a way of thinking and doing business most of our colleagues still see STEM as a separate class.  It would be fabulous if all interested parties could come together and discuss a common vision.

Ihor Charischak - 5/19/2017 3:48:35 PM
Tracey: It will be very challenging to have a common vision. What STEM is really about is the integration of these 4 areas and the APPLICATION of math to the other 3 subjects; for example, building bridges and programming robots. Doing the traditional common core math program does not lend itself well to projects which is the heart and soul of STEM education. I'm disappointed that Mr. Larson does not see it that way.

Matthew Larson - 5/19/2017 4:14:18 PM
Ihor: As I indicated in the message I support curricular connections and the application of mathematics to science and other subjects. My point is that in doing so we must be careful to maintain the integrity of the mathematics learning objectives. In too many cases this is not being done. Matt.

Ihor Charischak - 5/20/2017 10:14:04 AM
Maintaining the integrity is a given for NCTMs view of an ideal math curriculum. Good STEM projects would not do any harm to your vision. But it does make teachers concerned about doing STEM projects "right" so they probably won't even try unless they have to and that's not a good way to do it. Sharon's comment below indicates some of the concerns teachers have. You're going to run into this problem again when your high school reform committee plans alternative paths for students. STEM projects would be a great alternative to Calculus for those students who are planning STEM careers. Colleges need to rethink whether Calculus should be taught in high school instead of a solid STEM course.

Matthew Larson - 5/20/2017 10:19:53 AM
Ihor - Good points that I will pass along to the High School Task Force. Thanks. Matt.

An Email to David Wees re NCTM Affiliate's Conference

Hi David,
I just signed up for this conference in Baltimore that’s taking place in a couple of weeks. I’ll have our New Vision to do list  in hand which will give the other participants a good handle on what CLIME is all about. I’ll be sharing what happens while I'm there and in a blog post when I get back. Anything else I should bring up while I'm there?
-Ihor

On Jul 10, 2017, at 10:34 AM, NCTM Affiliates <affiliates@nctm.org> wrote:

Dear Ihor Charischak 

Thank you for registering for the 2017 NCTM Affiliate Leaders Conference, to be held in Baltimore, Maryland, July 22-24, 2017. We are truly looking forward to working with you during our time together! Both you and your Affiliate will benefit as we focus on this year’s theme, “Intent to Impact: Addressing Access, Equity, and Advocacy in your Affiliate.” In addition to building leadership capacity, the conference will include opportunities to exchange ideas and connect with the NCTM President, Matt Larson. You will be able to network with other Affiliate leaders in a variety of activities, develop Affiliate action plans, and learn more about being a partner with NCTM.

NCTM Affiliates across the country are faced with challenging issues related to mathematics education. Come together with other Affiliate leaders to consider the most urgent work in your setting through the lenses of Access, Equity, and Advocacy. Learn about tools and frameworks to support your work, and walk away with a specific, supported action plan to address your Affiliate-specific issues. This summer’s conference will launch a collaborative, ongoing learning model to enact your action plan during the 2017-18 school year.

Additionally, as a conference participant, you will have opportunities to— 
  • Develop strategies to empower your Affiliate and individuals within your Affiliate to take action for a high quality mathematics education for each and every learner;
  • Increase your self-awareness of micro-messaging and its impact on your work;
  • Learn how to minimize micro-inequities and maximize micro-affirmations;
  • Create an action plan to address an Affiliate-specific issue;
  • Mobilize the work of your Affiliate through your spheres of influence;
  • Challenge leaders to be deliberate about Equity, Access, and Advocacy in your Affiliate’s structures, practices, and activities;
  • Explore NCTM resources, including the Advocacy Toolkit;
  • Learn about the NCTM structure, resources, and initiatives, and participate in discussions with NCTM President Matt Larson, NCTM Staff, and Representatives of the Affiliate Relations Committee;
  • Discuss, collaborate, and network with other Affiliate leaders.
Free wireless internet will be available in the meeting room. Participants are encouraged to bring a laptop or tablet.

Gina Kilday
Membership and Affiliate Relations Committee
NCTM Board Liaison and Affiliates-at-Large Representative 

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Math Sessions at ISTE Computer Conference 2017

Tech words @ math sessions
The ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) conference is starting today. I haven’t attended one in several years. I stopped going because there were not enough math related sessions and the ones I sat in on were not all that good. 

Back in the early days when the ISTE conference was known as NECC (National Education Computer Conference) I attended many of its conferences and presented at them as well. I always hoped that the conference would make more of an effort to highlight a math strand within the conference. The technology hype was a bit overwhelming even within the math sessions. 

NCTM had a problem with promoting technology as late as 1989. In their Standards document that year it mentioned that some math software might be useful as a tool for teaching math. Also, many math teachers became computer teachers in the 1980s and that didn’t sit well in the NCTM community. It would have been useful for more collaboration between ISTE and NCTM to find common ground. 

In their Standards document in 1989 NCTM noted that computers and graphing calculators should be available to students and the teacher should have a computer in their classroom for demonstration purposes. By the 2000 Standards it was important to note that technology (broadened from just computers and graphing calculators) should be used as a tool in the classroom but not the focus of the lessons. That was the job of the technology teachers assuming of course that the tech and math teachers were operating on the same page.

Since I haven’t paid much attention to the ISTE conference in a while I thought I would take a closer look at what was going on this year at its conference in San Antonio. From the almost 1500 sessions listed, I came up with 142 (10%) using math as a keyword in the search. Many of these had a math or STEM/STEAM theme but it also included other subject areas. 

Here’s a list of (34) math related sessions that I found useful.

Interesting. Not one mention of TI calculators. Desmos has three sessions.

Highlight sessions

Sessions I would go to if was there:

How getting rid of desks, replacing them with comfortable furniture and allowing students to work at their own pace changed student engagement and performance in the math classroom. Also included: using OneNote as a platform to allow the classroom to be completely paperless and run in a nontraditional, efficient manner.

Discover how to use technology to redesign tasks by giving students choice in selecting tools to create products that demonstrate understanding and allow them to share their creations in an interactive virtual community. We'll focus on web-based tools that support differentiated mathematics instruction with the Mathematics Practice Standards.

To prepare students for an ever-changing future, we must focus on developing skills that encourage persistence for students to pursue their passions. This panel highlights how leaders can support a vision of transformation extending beyond the classroom to develop a growth mindset, deep connection to and love for mathematics.


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Mathematical Mindsets

Mathematical Mindsets is all the rage these days primarily due first to the work of Carol Dweck who introduced the idea in Mindset: The New Psychology for Success and now Jo Boaler who turned it into its current name. I considered myself good at math initially back in the 2nd grade because my mom praised me for doing well in arithmetic (getting an A on my report card). But I didn’t believe I was a math genius because of my habit of making too many “silly” mistakes in regurgitating what the teacher was teaching us. Other students got higher scores than I did, but  I managed to hold my own with a B+ average. Then one day in the 4th grade my teacher challenged us with a question referring to baseball. “How do you determine a pitcher’s earned run average (ERA) in baseball?” she asked. No hands went up except mine. Being an avid baseball fan and having collected and analyzed all the players bubblegum cards, I had memorized the formula for finding that statistic. The teacher was very impressed. But then she asked me “How did you figure out that formula? “I didn’t,” I said. “I saw it  in a book about baseball.” She was disappointed, but so was I. So I went to the library, found the book and this time I read the explanation.  It took me a while to understand it, but I managed and then excitedly shared what I learned with my teacher. "That’s great," she said, "but next time don’t just memorize the formula, understand it." Given my passion for baseball that was not a problem for me anymore. I never forgot that advice for the rest of my life. It’s no good knowing anything of interest without understanding it deeply. From then on I was a “math person*” which in Jo Boaler’s terminology meant I had a mathematical mindset.

As a math teacher I tried to get many students who were set in their ways about disliking math to want to appreciate the power of math. They did while they were in my class. But once they left and went back to doing math the old way, they stumbled back into their “fixed” mindsets about math. So why did a significant event in my life change my mindset in a positive way, while my students who clearly enjoyed my class did not have the same transformation? One thing that helped was that I had good feedback about my math “ability” as early as the 2nd grade. So good experiences are needed right from the beginning of learning math.  I have a 5 year old grand nephew who can count (proudly so) to a hundred. His father is a born again math person who struggled most of his life with an aversion to math. He became math savvy while he was employed as a car salesman. I look forward to my grand nephew having a mathematical mindset throughout his school career.

The activities that Jo Boaler shares in her book are all good ways to develop a mindset that will hopefully continue to grow throughout a student’s school years.

*To me a "math person" is someone who has a mathematical mindset, works in a field that requires math in problem solving and is proud of it.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A Radical Educational Idea You Can Adopt Today

Image source: @bryanmmathers
The sketch on the left shares a radical idea. Something right out of A. S. Neil’s Summerhill.  Not very likely in our current reality of testing and grading. But someday maybe a boat like this can float in many bodies of water.

I’ve been listening to David Bodanis’s book Einstein’s Greatest Mistake and was pleasantly surprised that Bodanis told the story of Flatland where 2 dimensional figures such as circles, squares and lines are the inhabitants that could never imagine a 3 dimensional world. Einstein’s genius was recognizing a new dimension that goes beyond the 3 dimensional world we inhabit. He was after a unified theory of the universe when he realized along the way that the universe’s structure could be curved. This realization eventually led to his ground breaking general theory of relativity. It made me think about a statement made about the latest iteration of the NCTM standards Principles to Actions (PTA) which followed the 2000 Principles and Standards and the 1989 Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics. PTA was almost as good as you can get claims the current president of NCTM and will survive the test of time.  Each iteration of the standards has taken a new dimensional look at mathematics education and suggested what teaching and learning math should be. But is there a "dimension" that’s missing? I challenge the following statement in thinking about a new paradigm: "Good teaching is a prerequisite for good learning in schools."

 Teaching and learning are going through an identity crisis. There was a time when it was easy to distinguish the teacher from the learner. But times and roles are changing in today’s schools. The main function of teachers is to facilitate learning. The assumption of course is that the students are doing all the learning. That’s not true any more because in the modern classroom teachers and students can switch roles. We’ve known for a long time that a great way to learn something is to teach it. As a result teachers have honed their craft well, but the same can’t be said for students. Especially the ones sitting in the back of the room looking out the window. But those kids can’t look out the window so easily any more since they are busy collaborating with their peers preparing to present to the whole class what they have learned. Teachers in the meantime are coaching, facilitating, and observing students making sure they are on track for their upcoming presentations. Occasionally the teacher will jump on stage and share something very cool that is of interest to everyone. This scene is an example of personalized learning at its best. A win-win for teacher and students. So if PTA is describing a third dimension of “teaching and learning” I’d like to suggest a 4th dimension paradigm shift which turns the 3rd dimension on its head calling it “learning and teaching” or good learning leads to good teaching. It’s a subtle distinction but an important one. It begs the question “when (and how) do students learn?” In schools that's usually the teachers job and the good ones make the students learn.  (Not always. See Alan Schoenfeld’s When Good Teaching Leads to Bad Results: The Disasters of “Well-Taught” Mathematics Courses.)

The bottom line is that students learn well when they are interested. (The chief enemy of learning is boredom which is way too prevalent in schools particularly in math classes.) The challenge to good teachers is to adjust their teaching and support a vision where all students are interested. Our curriculums need radical reform for this to happen. (More about this in future blogs.)

When motivated, students try their hardest, reach out for help, and receive supportive help from teachers. This happens best in student-centered learning environments.

Here’s my list of criteria for student-centered, personalized learning environments.
  • Math is learned best in a community of learners where students are engaged in authentic activities that illuminate important powerful ideas (intellectual tools) in math.
  • The environment can be, for example a school, which is a hub for personalized learning.
  • The curriculum is a project based design for a creative, student driven learning path.
  • The community is constantly evolving with teachers, students, administrators and parents acting as change agents.
  • Choice and voice for student agency are prized.
  • Learning styles are respected.
  • Commitment to ongoing professional development for teachers so they can be the best coaches/guides for their students.
  • School time is flexible designed for anytime/everywhere learning.
  • Students learn best when they are interested in the topic being investigated.
  • Technology is a tool that is a platform for personal learning.
These ideas are not new. John Dewey, Jean Piaget and Seymour Papert wrote extensively about how kids learn and what we can do to empower them. So that begs this question: What can we do today in our classrooms to make motivated learning happen?

The Shift from Engaging Students to Empowering Learners

Great video! ****

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

CLIME's New Vision

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To dos
           Blog about new perspectives of technology in mathematics education e.g. Technology as a platform for learning and teaching. Technology is more than something integrated into an old style curriculum. But rather it is integral* to a modern learning curriculum that is designed for 21st century learning. What this actually looks like will be shared by the CLIME community as we investigate how to improve math learning and how technology supports that.
Make CLIME a learning, social media hub for discussing modern math learning issues with a focus on learning with math educators interested in technology as a platform for math. Further details to be determined.
Encourage young teachers (e.g. MTBoS folks) to participate in the CLIME hub and thus become a part of the NCTM network. 
Emphasize that technology helps bridge the divide between the haves and have nots. CLIME will collect stories how districts are making sure that ALL their students have access to computer devices.
Research and share promising curriculum initiatives (e.g. Interactive Mathematics Project – IMP – now distributed by It's About Time) and new resources like Desmos’ new Geometry tool. 
Share modern learning classroom models. Example: David Thornburg's From the Campfire to the Holodeck: Creating Engaging and Powerful 21st Century Learning Environments.
Suggest alternative curriculum paths for learning and teaching. The MET schools (Bigpicture.org) is an example. Here’s a sample of a student’s experience enrolled in a BP school.
Stay in touch with Matt Larson and follow NCTM president’s messages suggesting alternatives to current math education trends.
Share CLIME’s motto: Good Learning drives Good Teaching via a technological platform which means…. Using tech tools is a great movitator for learning. Teachers respond by supporting the learning through coaching and just being “a guide on the side.” Teachers provide the context as they custom tailor four areas of student engagement: curriculum, resources, environment, and assessment through the integral use of technology.
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*Integrate means to combine (one thing) with another so that they become a whole; Integral makes that whole complete.