Tuesday, May 9, 2017

CLIME's New Vision

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.
*Integrate means to combine (one thing) with another so that they become a whole; Integral makes that whole complete.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Will the High School Math Experience for Students Become Better Any Time Soon?

Matt Larson
In his latest message to the NCTM community President Matt Larson writes:

For perhaps the first time in our history there is clear and growing consensus concerning what constitutes effective mathematics instruction, kindergarten through college.  

He emphasizes “through college” because based on the latest reports he confidently says:
And the next time someone says to you that some practice “isn’t what students will do in college,” make sure you share with them the evidence that postsecondary mathematics instruction is beginning to change in ways that are consistent with long-standing recommendations at the K–12 level. As K–12 teachers of mathematics, we certainly don’t want to prepare our students for a past that is in the process of changing and will increasingly no longer exist.
Good news also on the high school front. In another post Larson writes:
It is with great excitement that NCTM announces it is embarking on the development of Pathways through High School Mathematics: Building Focus and Coherence (working title).  This new publication will 
  • Address the purpose of high school mathematics and include guiding principles such as access, equity, and empowerment; 
  • Define math curricular pathways leading to college pathways and career readiness, as well as active participation in our democratic society; and 
  • Provide narrative descriptions of course exemplars, including their big ideas, that could populate the pathways. 
The goal of high school mathematics education must always be to expand options for students in ways that appropriately accommodate the post-secondary goals of different students. 
The NCTM Board of Directors has appointed a nine-member task force representing the constituencies that make up the larger mathematics education community at both the K–12 and post-secondary levels.  The task force’s charge is to develop and present these high school pathways with the same level of focus and coherence that currently exists in the NCTM Curriculum Focal Points and the K–8 Common Core State Standards. 
This is promising news because CLIME has usually found that the worst part of the high school experience for students is boredom. Also, I hope to see more attention paid to student interests and differentiated paths. The high school experience can be an exciting time for students.
Hopefully, the work of the task force will help to achieve a more positive experience for students.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Post Conference Debrief

Click above to see a more readable version.
This is a wordle of the 108 sessions that had a technology theme at the NCTM conference in San Antonio. If you eliminate the largest words (Students, University, CC [i.e. convention center], School, and Session) from the picture you start to see patterns that tell you something about one of the conference's main themes: Technology. So it's no surprise that it is the most dominate in the wordle.  The words learning, Learning and Learn tell you that the presenters want you to learn while you are in their session. How much did you learn? You can share your learning via a blog! Also you can "join" the MTBoS movement especially if you have never blogged before.

My “short” trip to NCTM

My plan this year regarding the NCTM annual meeting in San Antonio was not to go. I did my annual routine with the technology sessions making note of them via a CLIME blog. So I decided that would be enough since I started a very ambitious 8 week “course” entitled change.school led by Will Richardson and Bruce Dixon. But I changed my mind because David Wees was going to attend the NCTM affiliate events (At-large Caucus and Delegate Assembly) for the first time representing CLIME and I didn’t want him to go alone. So I made arrangements to stay only through Thursday morning and fly back home on Thursday afternoon. That was the plan until Delta stepped in and cancelled my flight. The good news was that I was now able to attend the conference on Friday. 

The highlights for me were:

Ed Burger (#580) - Very slick presentation (4 out of 5 stars). Mostly promoting his book “The Five Elements of Effective Thinking” One of the reviewers summarized it’s proposed strategy as Think…fail…question…understand…change…learn: the path to the genius of learning.

Patrick Vennebush (#294) - who works for Discovery Learning - (5 stars). He presented interesting and engaging  problems that use crowdsourcing.

Eli Luberoff (#458) - CEO of Desmos (5 stars) shared a new project with the audience: A Sketchpad-like Geometry component which got oohs and aahs from the audience.

Cathy Yenca (#529) (5 stars). Did a nice job of mixing a variety of online tools and activities to weave a nice presentation.

Dan Meyer & Robert Kaplinsky (#119) - How to Apply and Present at NCTM Conferences (on video) which I watched after I got home. Very valuable information for perspective speakers. Being able to watch videos like this after the event is very valuable. It extends the conference experience for those who missed the sessions in real time. I found myself rewinding the tape and making notes (which I wouldn’t have done in real time).

I went to a few more sessions with titles that included key word(s) such as crowdsourcing, productive struggle and “tools to transform learning” but wasn’t  impressed. I guess that will always be true at conferences. Though the titles/descriptions are attractive, they don’t live up to the hype that the title/description convey. For example:

Intro to Coding: Scratch session (#537). Unfortunately the “light” Wifi provided for the conference wouldn’t allow me to open my Scratch files. So I sat there frustrated. Left early.

If you have a great idea for a presentation don’t hesitate to submit a proposal for the next annual conference (Washington, DC April 25-28, 2018). Please submit your proposal by May 1 here

On the CLIME scene, David Wees and I will be reviewing/updating some of the initiatives for the upcoming year that David highlighted in his CLIME blog last year.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

NCTM San Antonio Conference Technology Preview

Last May (2016) I wrote a blog entitled Encouraging Effective Use of Technology in sessions at the NCTM Conferences. Some highlights follow.

Comments from that blog post:

David Barnes: I think that while some sessions need to put technology out there in front, what we should be working towards is sessions where it is seamlessly integrated as well. […] So the question for you and your crew [CLIME readership] is what makes a quality technology session? What does it need to do. […] And what are some things that it should not do?  What types of tech session would you be okay with saying that doesn’t really fit within the program?

Dan Meyer:  I don’t consider myself a technologist, though I do work for a technology company. But I love technology to the extent it energizes pedagogies that I love. […]  I never feel cheated by a tech session if the tech session focuses on larger themes that transcend tech brand or even technology itself. If it's a technology session I want to know what the big pedagogical ideas /before/ you show me how a particular tool can realize them.

So that brings me to the eve of of the annual NCTM meeting in St. Antonio. Do the tech sessions reflect our latest thinking on seamless integration that realizes big pedagogical ideas? After sorting out the technology sessions and reading them, I come to the conclusion that the answer to the question is: YES. First some data.

Total sessions: 772 (this number includes 64 exhibitor sessions)
Total tech sessions: 106 (includes 29 sessions not highlighted as a TECH session)

This is almost 14% of the total which is average for annual meetings. (The most ever was 38% in Philadelphia, 2012 the last time technology was a theme at an annual meeting.)


NCTM Conference app can be downloaded here. The app keeps improving all the time. You can see all tech sessions using the tech and tools filter.

Twitter handles instead of emails in session descriptions. What does this mean? Have we turned a page on communication? Aren’t emails more likely to be answered than tweets? Interesting question. I’ll try a little experiment by contacting the 50 technology speakers who listed their twitter handles and see how many responses I get. (If you get this link from my twitter feed please let me know. (@climeguy).)

BYOD. There are 12 sessions where the speaker(s) encourages you to bring your own device. This allows for audience participation which is a definite plus.

Key tech words/expressions. Desmos was by far the most mentioned tech application. Others included Geogebra, Scratch and Sketchpad. See a list of all the technology key words in the descriptions of the technology sessions here. (If any of the key words intrigue you can download either the PDF or Word document of all the tech sessions and search for it.)

Crash course in tech math ed. Imagine if you could take in all of the 106 sessions? You should be able to get college credit for that. Almost every possible topic in using technology in math classroom is there.

Here’s an example:

366 TECH Reimagining Curriculum-Based Mathematics Tasks with Technology. But where do you find tasks to fit your mathematical goals, or the time to add them to your lesson? Start with existing activities. BYOD. Sounds like my effort with CIESEmath back in 2007.

Not enough of ones like this:

59 PROF The Crafting and Use of Technology for Professional Learning A variety of digital formats for professional learning such as MOOCS, blogs, forums, and online courses with both synchronous and asynchronous designs have been tried in the past with varied success. This session will present research results and potential new possibilities for the future that allow teachers more control over their own learning.
Maarten Dolk and Cathy Fosnot

So I believe we have turned a corner in having sessions that encourage a seamless “integration” of technology in the classroom. What’s still on the back burner is discussing the future of technology in math classrooms where the focus is more on student motivation and collaboration. That’s what Maarten Dolk and Cathy Fosnot will be focusing on in their session on Thursday.

David Wees and I will be attending the Affiliates at-large caucus and the Delegate assembly on Thursday morning. More about that later.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Curriculum Reform Done Right

I recently reread Rick Hess’s book The Same Thing Over and Over: How School Reformers Get Stuck in Yesterday’s Ideas. In it Hess argues that “most of today’s reforms thought to be cutting-edge – merit pay, charter schools, extended school days and years, Teach For America – aren’t really cutting-edge at all. And in the long haul, most aren’t likely to result in significant change.” Also he says that “…most of our current strategies to get better teachers into classrooms, including alternative certification, are essentially just “throwing thimbles of water into a river” – which is a slightly more polite way of saying they’re totally inconsequential.”

Why? Because, Hess says, we aren’t willing to start from scratch in our thinking about what it means to be a teacher in the twenty-first century.

Of course in “starting from scratch in our thinking” is something that is tried frequently but always fails because the obstacles to real change (or common sense change in contrast to status quo change as Hess puts it) are so difficult, if not impossible. On my wish list of difficult/impossible, but transformative reforms is something that at its core makes sense to everyone involved that's interested in math education reform. 

My version of common sense reform is much “simpler” than what Rick writes about. It’s about dramatically improving curriculum materials for students. Isn’t it possible to create programs of study that students would actually enjoy reading? My current list of math books that I’m enjoying reading (and some re-reading) are:

Why do I reread them? Because like cinema and theater I love math when it is couched in a fascinating context. In other words because it is intrinsically interesting, engaging and challenging.

Why can’t student materials be written in this spirit? Hess says because status quo reformers just want to tinker around the edges of current textbooks which doesn’t stop alienating most students in their study of math. A colleague of mine Gary Stager (who is definitely a true common sense reformer) calls “curriculum” a dangerous idea. That’s because math curriculum in the form of textbooks are such an abysmal read for most students. And even the students that do well and like math usually are mostly influenced by good teaching that makes the drab material come to life. I’m really tired of the fact that Dan Myer has to make “fun” of actual activities in math books in his blog. (See http://blog.mrmeyer.com/2017/pseudocontext-saturdays-tornado/)

We have the talent to do better, but unfortunately not the will.

If you agree let me know and maybe we can start a movement protesting text book companies for their poor approach to writing textbooks. Instead of resigning to choose the best text out of all the bad choices offered, we force them (are you listening Pearson & McGraw Hill?) to start from scratch and come up with well written books/media that would inspire both teacher and student to read. 

Is this possible or am I just dreaming? I’d like to hear from you.

Hess, Frederick M. The Same Thing Over and Over: How School Reformers Get Stuck in Yesterday’s Ideas. Harvard University Press, November 2010. 

Monday, November 14, 2016

Innov8 starts this Wednesday

This fall (in two days!) NCTM will host its new professional development conference in St. Louis, Mo. Innov8 is not a traditional professional development experience, this innovative and team-based opportunity is centered around acquiring the necessary skills to provide high-quality mathematics education for learners of all abilities. So bring your team and engage in a hands-on and interactive learning experience for math education.


If you are going to this conference I would love to hear about your experiences. I’ll be following on Twitter.

Friday, October 21, 2016

NCTM Phoenix Regional 2016 Technology Sessions

If you are going to Phoenix for the regional conference and are interested in attending some sessions focused on technology, you might be disappointed by the availability if you use the search by topic in the Conference Planner link. Why? Because there are only 19 sessions highlighted there.  I found that there are actually 48 sessions that highlight some form of technology in their descriptions. I list them here. The keyword breakdown is a as follows.

Also the deadline for voting for the Board of Directors starting in 2017 is October 31. Check out @Samjshah post describing the candidates. 

You need to be a member of NCTM to vote. This is an excellent reason to join. NCTM’s voting website is here.