Monday, March 31, 2008

A letter to Skip Fennell

On Technology in Math Education (2.0)
Open Invitation to the CLIME community
March 31, 2008

Last year just as the Salt Lake City (SLC) program committee was about to meet, I wrote an email to Skip Fennell regarding my concerns about technology at the annual meetings. Here it is.

Hi Skip.
My affiliate group CLIME celebrated their 20th anniversary at their annual meeting during the NCTM meeting in Atlanta in 2007. It’s hard to believe that it has been more than 20 years since Papert and Logo made such an impact on our collective consciousness making us aware of the possibilities that technology can have in math education. 2007 was also the first year in more than a decade that there were no computer lab sessions at the annual meeting. Many of my CLIME friends were concerned about the message this sends to the NCTM community, namely, that computer workshops are no longer important or needed.
Since my participation on the program committee as the technology liason (SF, 1999) the labs have always been for me an indication that NCTM takes technology very seriously especially after technology was declared one of the essential principles the 2000 Principles & Standards. Unfortunately, NCTM’s technology principle starts to fade in its impact when the vendors take over demonstrating the power of technology. In Atlanta Texas Instruments once again was a dominant player in the vendor area and textbook companies continued to roll out technology into their packages in a formulaic way.

After some reflection, I realized that discontinuing the labs in their pre-Atlanta form may not be a bad idea after all.  Maybe it’s time to focus on a more relevant way of using computers in today’s (and tomorrow’s) classrooms so that their use reflects current and emerging technologies. The computer lab model is slowly giving way to a newer vision of how computers are used in schools. Laptops and handhelds in a wireless environment are slowly making their way into classrooms. The emergence of portable technology with the possibility of every student having their own laptop will have a tremendous impact on the teaching and learning of math in the coming years.

CLIME’s dream has always been to have a “strand” of sessions at the annual meeting that demonstrates and lives up to the vision of the technology principle. The labs were our best hope for that in the past. But now with more universal wireless access to the Internet, laptops, handhelds, and Web 2.0 sessions at NCTM can embrace the vision of the technology principle in a more unique and compelling manner.

My CLIME group suggested that it would great if we could get a conversation going with the program committee about how the technology principle can be promoted now that the labs are gone. Is this a possibility? What other issues are there that the group might not have considered?
Thanks – Ihor

Skip responded positively to this email and shared my message with the SLC program committee However nothing of substance materialized. So now I’m looking forward to the 2009 meeting as a possibility to make an impact.

I need your help in putting the Technology Principle back on the map highlighting some of the Web 2.0 features that can be used in the teaching of math. I’m heartened by the work of TPCK and want to see more discussion of how it impacts future curriculums.

A final thought:
The technology principle needs an internal organization that will continue to remind the NCTM board that the hope for the future is how well we take advantage of the current and emerging technologies. I realize that you may not be going to SLC or you will have other priorities especially if your schedule is anything like mine. I’m supposed to be at the Affiliate Group Caucus at the same time I’m leading the session at NCSM. So I’m planning to solve the problem by cloning myself!

I’m interested in any thoughts you may have on this matter and what we can do collectively to have an impact in Washington. So on April 9th I will be introducing a new initiative for  CLIME 2008-2009 which will hopefully culminate in a useful expression of our ideas.  We need our collective voices to be heard.