Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Goodbye, math and history: Finland wants to abandon teaching subjects at school

Jerry Becker sent me this.
********************************
********************************
Goodbye, math and history: Finland wants to abandon teaching subjects at school

By Kabir Chibber
       
Finland already has one of the best school education systems. It always ranks near the top in mathematics, reading, and science in the prestigious PISA rankings (the 2012 list, pdf) by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Teachers in other countries flock to its schools to learn from a country that is routinely praised as just a really, really wonderful place to live.

But the country is not resting on its laurels. Finland is considering its most radical overhaul of basic education yet-abandoning teaching by subject for teaching by phenomenon. Traditional lessons such as English Literature and Physics are already being phased out among 16-year-olds in schools in Helsinki.
Instead, the Finns are teaching phenomena-such as the European Union, which encompasses learning languages, history, politics, and geography. No more of an hour of history followed by an hour of chemistry. The idea aims to eliminate one of the biggest gripes of students everywhere: "What is the point of learning this?" Now, each subject is anchored to the reason for learning it.

Pasi Silander, Helsinki's development manager, says the world has changed with the spread of technology and many of the old ways of teaching have no practical purpose. "Young people use quite advanced computers," he told the Independent. "In the past the banks had lots of  bank clerks totting up figures but now that has totally changed."

Many teachers in Finland, many of whom have been teaching single subjects their whole careers, oppose the changes. It is not hard to see why. The new system is much more collaborative, forcing teachers from different areas to come up with the curriculum together.  Marjo Kyllonen, Helsinki's education manager and the person responsible for reforming the system in the capital, calls this "co-teaching" and teachers who agree to it get a small bonus on top of their salaries.

Kyllonen told the Independent: "There are schools that are teaching in the old fashioned way which was of benefit in the beginnings of the 1900s-but the needs are not the same and we need something fit for the 21st century."
Later this month, she is proposing that the new system is rolled out across the whole country by 2020. Will the rest of the world follow the Finns' lead?

-------------------------------------

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A Goal for Math Education: A Wannado Curriculum

In a post last July Raymond Johnson includes 11 major problems in math education that Hans Freudenthal outlined in an ICME talk in 1980. One of them struck a chord with me. Here’s Raymond’s take on that problem:
How do we create contexts for mathematizing? I think there's been a wealth of work in this area, from work based in Realistic Mathematics Education, work on word problems like that from Verschaffel, Greer, and de Corte, and, most recently, Dan Meyer's work. I could go on, as there are many more examples, and perhaps future work will give us a clearer picture about which contexts work best and why.
For me the answer lies in effective curriculum that students actually want to do. I take as a model children’s books that make math come alive for children. The Librarian who Measured the Earth by Kathryn Lasky comes to mind. This could be the nucleus of a chapter in the curriculum unit about how Eratosthenes in 220 BCE measured the circumference using only sticks, shadows and brains. Students can recreate this measurement by participating in the Noon Day project sponsored by CIESE/Stevens every March and September and can learn a lot of important math in the process.

Harold Jacobs wrote a wonderful textbook back in 1970 called Mathematics: A Human Endeavor* which was described as a textbook for students who didn’t like the subject. The book went through 3 editions. Subsequently he wrote a high school level algebra and geometry book that were in same spirit.

Curricular student engagement is the key. Unfortunately all the good stuff that’s out there is considered side dishes or dessert to the main course which is usually boring to the population of students who need more support and encouragement in doing math.

Textbook companies who produce the main courses are not helping in this regard. We need a new paradigm of textbooks that children actually look forward to reading. Wouldn’t that be a refreshing change from the textbooks that continue to be as much fun for children as taking out the garbage?

* (A 4-star review on Amazon:) I'm a 36-year old homeschooling mother who had done calculus in high school and college, and mechanically got some right answers, but never knew why. I hadn't bothered to slow down and notice the beauty and power of the language of mathematics. In his textbook, Mathematics: A Human Endeavor, Harold Jacobs smashed my lack of confidence into a million pieces. He showers the student with so much real-life relevance and humor, that even a slight amount of curiosity about the subject bears delicous fruit. Working through this book will convince any human being, of almost any age, that he or she is a born mathematician.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Blended Learning - the new technology revolution in math education(?)

I’ve been reading Michael Horn’s new book Blended - Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools and realize that we now have new buzz words for what used to be called "Integrating technology into the classroom" (ITC). Now there is a nomenclature for ITC which include sustaining models such as station rotation, lab rotation, and flipped classroom which adhere to traditional educational goals and disruptive models such as individual rotation, A La Carte and enriched virtual which offer students alternative paths to learning 21st century skills in a more open ended, student driven way.

There's a lot to digest here and I'll have more to say about this in future blogs. For a comprehensive overview of the various models of using technology in the classroom I recommend reading Classifying K-12 Blended Learning by the same authors.


Saturday, January 10, 2015

Pushing the Technology Envelop in Math Education

Keith Devlin author of "Mathematics for a New Era: Video Games as a Medium for Learning" has thrown down the gauntlet in a recent article for NCTM to become more proactive about the use of technology in math education. In  his Huffington Post article "Edtech Investment Is at Record Levels -- Where Is All the Money Going?" he says that though there is $1.36 billion headed towards Ed tech very little of that money reaches down to K-12 education. Most of it winds up in Higher Education leaving a mere $642 million for K-12 where most of that money goes to few entrenched incumbants like Pearson. Dr. Devlin writes: "The situation may be starting to change a bit. In 2014, a few of Silicon Valley's top-tier venture investors dipped their financial toes into the K-12 market for the first time in over a decade, putting funds into companies such as Remind, Edmodo, BrightBytes, and Clever." So there is evidence that teachers are starting to use more technology in the teaching of math. But it needs encouragement.  NCTM is trying, but there is a rub. Dr. Devlin continues:
"The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), the dominant US professional organization for math teachers, has the use of technology in classrooms as a main pathway to improving learning. The NCTM's Principles to Actions says, on page 5: 'An excellent mathematics program integrates the use of mathematical tools and technology as essential resources to help students learn and make sense of mathematical ideas, reason mathematically, and communicate their mathematical thinking.'
So one way to find out what the vanguard of K-12 mathematics teachers are doing in their classrooms -- and are planning to do -- is to look at the list of presentations given at the huge annual NCTM meeting. How many of those presentations are about, or at least make reference to, technology?  
Ihor Charischak, president of the NCTM-affiliated Council for Technology in Math Education, has done just that. He released his findings in a recent blogpost.
According to Charischak, at the NCTM Annual Meeting to be held in Boston, MA, next April, there will be 733 sessions. He combed through them and identified just 97 that highlight technology in some form. At 13.2 percent, not only is that low, it indicates a continuing drop in interest in educational technology. At last year's NCTM Meeting in New Orleans, 21 percent of the sessions were technology-oriented, a year earlier, in 2013 in Denver, 28 percent of the sessions had a technology theme, and the year before, in Philadelphia, there were 38 percent tech sessions, an all-time record.  
Not only is there relatively little evidence of teacher interest in incorporating any kind of technology in the classroom, but the trend is clearly down. Moreover, what technology interest Charischak could identify was hardly in new technologies: It was predominantly the use of handheld calculators and Computer Algebra Systems (like Mathematica), which where highlighted in the title or abstract of just 15 sessions.  
What these data show is that, to date, practically all that much-hyped edtech funding has had virtually no direct impact on what goes on in the K-12 math classroom. Overall, K-12 math teachers are not incorporating new technology in their teaching."
Dr. Devlin finishes with this:
"Genuinely revolutionizing K-12 education within a decade requires a transformative, national, public-private initiative, perhaps reminiscent of, but much less expensive than, the NASA Apollo Project to put a man on the Moon.  
How badly do we want 21st-century-relevant, first-class education for the nation's children?"

Thursday, December 11, 2014

NCTM Annual meeting in Boston Technology highlights

Now that Black Friday is history, it's time to think about the upcoming annual conference in Boston next April. I realize it’s a bit early, but since NCTM has already posted a description of the 733 sessions, I went shopping for technology sessions that would reflect the vision of the Technology Principle which is now "Tools and Technology" as described on page 5 of Principles to Actions:
"An excellent mathematics program integrates the use of mathematical tools and technology as essential resources to help students learn and make sense of mathematical ideas, reason mathematically, and communicate their mathematical thinking."
I also looked for sessions that promoted Math 2.0, which is my vision of how powerful math-based software combined with the use of collaborative Web 2.0 tools in a dynamic classroom can produce engaging learning experiences for both teachers and students.

Here’s what I found out.
  • There were 97 very interesting sessions (out of 733) that highlighted technology in some form. That was 13.2% which is low compared to previous annual meetings.  Last year in New Orleans 21% of the sessions were technology oriented. In 2013 in Denver 28% of the sessions had a technology theme. Philadelphia set the record in 2012 with 38% tech sessions.
  • 32 of the sessions mentioned technology either in the title of the talk or in the description. 
  • Next most frequent mention is handhelds (TI-Nspire, Graphing Calculator, calculators, CAS) which totaled 15 sessions.
  • Other key words and their frequency (shown below.)
  •  
Overall, I'm disappointed that there are only 97 sessions devoted to technology, but also that there are so few sessions devoted to Math 2.0. But overall there were a lot of interesting sounding sessions. Here's my list of "go to" sessions:

#20 - Blended Learning, Blended Pedagogies, Blended Content. Speaker: David Docterman
#59 Integrating Project-Based Learning: Teaching Mathematics across the Curriculum Speaker: Anthony Matthew Rodriguez
#149 Online Teaching and Learning Communities
Speakers: 
Elena Kaczorowski & Elaine Siga
#170 B.L.A.S.T. into Online Professional Development Speakers: Donna D. Williams & Erin M. Nguyen
#187 Motivating Our Students with Real World Problem-Based Lessons Speaker: Robert B. Kaplinsky (Great website)
#194 Powerful, Playful Learning 
Speakers: Susannah Gordon-Messer & Louisa Rosenheck & Carole Urban
#250 Tired of Plain Old Tests and Bell Ringers? Introducing Alternative Assessments Speaker: Niccole Taylor
#260 Imagine, Innovate, and Inquire with Tools and Technology Speakers:
Angela M. Waltrup & Christopher R. Horne
#302 Authentic Learning through Computer Coding: Turning Consumers into Creators Speaker: Dawn DuPriest
#416 Developing Your Classroom beyond the Walls Speakers: Dvora Geller & Scott Bruss
#423 Spreadsheet Math: A Powerful Tool for the Practice of Mathematics Speakers: Art Bardige & Peter Mili
#465 Enhancing Social Presence in Online Math Methods Courses Speakers: Heidi J. Higgins & Tracy Y. Hargrove
#520 Future of Learning: The National Science Foundation's Focus on Mathematics Speakers: Joan Ferrini-Mundy & Karen King
#611 Hour of Code: Inspiring Students to Learn Math through Technology Speakers: Karl Henry Romain & Elizabeth Clifford
#656 Teaching with Technology: Tips for Success Speaker: Nancy J. Sattler
#666 The Algebra Artist: Drawing with Desmos Speaker: Darin E. Beigie

Look here for more details on these sessions. Here is the list of all 733 sessions.

More about the Boston conference as we get closer to the event.


Thursday, December 4, 2014

Personalized Instruction Revisted

Math 2.0: It takes a village
 In a recent book by Rick Hess “Breakthrough Leadership in the Digital Age: Using Learning Science to Reboot Schooling" he writes “The question that motivates this book is ‘Given what we know about learning, how can new technological tools help promote great teaching and learning?’ The good news and bad news about technology and learning are one and the same. Schools have not yet begun to systematically tap learning science through technology to deepen, accelerate, and nurture learning. The “bad” here is obvious. So what’s the “good” news? It’s that, since we mostly haven’t figured out the right way to put things together, we’re in a position to make enormous progress by tapping emerging tools and technologies the right way.”

In a recent report on personalized instruction written by UCLA professor Noel Enyedy revealingly entitled “New Interest, Old Rhetoric, Limited Results and the Need for a New Direction for Computer-Mediated Learning”, the author writes:
It seems that the pace of technological advancement, combined with the clear success stories of how technology has improved productivity in other sectors, is leading policymakers and educators alike to take another look at computers in the classroom, and even at computers instead of classrooms. In particular, advances in computational power, memory storage, and artificial intelligence are breathing new life into the promise that instruction can be tailored to the needs of each individual student, much like a one-on-one tutor. The term most often used by advocates for this approach is “Personalized Instruction.”  
However, despite the advances in both hardware and software, recent studies show little evidence for the effectiveness of this form of Personalized Instruction. This is due in large part to the incredible diversity of systems that are lumped together under the label of Personalized Instruction. Combining such disparate systems into one group has made it nearly impossible to make reasonable claims one way or the other. To further cloud the issue, there are several ways that these systems can be implemented in the classroom. We are just beginning to experiment with and evaluate different implementation models—and the data show that implementation models matter. How a system is integrated into classroom routines and structures strongly mediates the outcomes for students. In light of recent findings, it may be that we need to turn to new ways of conceptualizing the role of technology in the classroom—conceptualizations that do not assume the computer will provide direct instruction to students, but instead will serve to create new opportunities for both learning and teaching.”* 
It will be fun to watch this opportunity manifest itself in the math arena in the coming months and years. I call my vision of this Math 2.0 and I'll be writing about it in future blogs.

*The full report is at http://nepc.colorado.edu/files/pb-personalized-instruction.pdf





Sunday, November 9, 2014

Technology Highlights at the Richmond NCTM Regional

Click above for more information
If you're going to Richmond, VA for the NCTM regional conference you will have some interesting sessions involving technology to choose from. Leading off on Wednesday night is Dan Meyer's keynote session.

Beyond Relevance & Real World: Stronger Strategies for Student Engagement
Highlighting relevance and real-world connections are often seen as the most effective strategies for engaging students in difficult mathematics, but both strategies are limited and can fail in crucial ways. We'll add strategies to our repertoire, looking at research-based methods for creating need and developing questions instead.

You'll notice a new look to the conference sessions website. Larger font size and links to all the relevant social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)

As far as technology sessions go there will be less than usual in Richmond. I counted only 36 sessions out of 291 (12%) that focused on the role of technology in teaching math. (See my list.)

Of the 36 I list these are the ones I would definitely attend if I was going (which I'm not.)

Cure for the Common Core (Love the title) Speakers: Patrick Callahan and Kate Nowak
Common Core and Web 2.0 Speaker: Nicole Shobert

Related previous blog entry