Monday, September 23, 2013

CLIME - A Look Back to the Future

Back in April, 1988 I wrote an article "Teaching Math with Logo" for Teaching PreK-8 that included the following:

"In April, 1986 at the annual meeting of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics a group of math educators who were interested in Logo, a computer programming language, met informally and decided to start an organization which eventually became known as the Council for Logo in Mathematics Education or CLIME for short. These educators taught math at all levels and were from all parts of the United States and Canada. What had brought them together was a belief that Logo could make a significant difference in the quality of mathematics education.

Now there are many other resources - including Cuisenaire Rods, geoboards, rulers and compasses, to name just a few - that math teachers use to help them teach. But to my knowledge no one has ever started an international organization for the purpose of promoting their use. What, then, makes Logo so special?

One way to answer this question is to say that Logo, unlike other resources, comes with its own philosophy of education. This philosophy was introduced to the world by Seymour Papert in a book called Mindstorms: Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas (Basic Books, 1980). In it he said that children seem to be innately gifted learners who acquire a vast quantity of knowledge long before they go to school. What blocks them from learning is not the inherent difficulty of the ideas, but the failure of the surrounding culture or environment to provide the resources that would make the ideas simple or concrete. In other worlds, one reason why math is difficult to learn is because the culture outside the classroom does not provide the materials or experiences that would support the students' classroom lessons."

That was 1988. Since then CLIME has evolved from the Council for Logo to the Council for Technology in math education. This change was made to acknowledge the development of exciting new environments (like Geometer's Sketchpad) which made me realize that Logo was not the only game in town, but that there were other software environments that encourage this kind of dynamic learning that Logo made possible. With the advent of the handheld tablets and smart phones powerful new math apps are being developed. (For example see Keith Devlin's latest entry Wuzzit Trouble.)

It's been a tough time to be an educator with all the hoopla about the common core and its subsequent imprisonment of laptops and handhelds for testing which will keep the technology away from creative teachers who could use them in dynamic ways. So its easy to see the technology glass as half empty.

In his book "Logo Theory and Practice" (1989) Dennis Harper quotes me as saying that "a Logo environment is  more of a spirit rather than a thing-something that can only be satisfying if experienced, rather than just languaged." (p.26)

And I still believe that today. I recently wrote to one of CLIME's steering committee/board members Robert Berkman that we need to look at the glass as half full and keep a positive attitude because the Internet does have a long tail (and tales) and there are literally hundreds (thousands?) of places, people and environments where adults are helping our young people "construct modern knowledge" something another one of CLIME's board members Gary Stager promotes in his annual Vermont workshops and in his new book "Invent to Learn."

I've been privileged over the years from the guidance of these and other remarkable people who have been good friends of CLIME and members of the CLIME steering committee over the last 25 years. I want to publicly thank them for their help. (You will be hearing from some of them in future CLIME blog posts.)

See a short summary CLIME's journey since 1986.