Written by Tim Pope
This entry is Part 3 in a three-part series. See Part 1: Too Much Uncertainty in Math Education is Cause for Concern and Part 2: Uncertainty and the Common Core.
The education community in general, from educators to policy makers to materials providers, has been declaring that paper in schools is dying and computers will become the primary learning tool for students. In the last ten years, technology has begun to emerge as a stronger supplemental tool in most schools (and a primary tool in a few). The majority of teachers are perfectly comfortable, if not preferring, to access their instructional materials digitally. If the schools I spend time in are any indication, LCD projectors have become as ubiquitous as overhead projectors were fifteen years ago. Interactive whiteboards, graphing technology, “clicker” assessment systems, and other technologies are becoming more prevalent in our classrooms. However, most schools still rely on paper as the primary tool for communicating with students both in terms of instructional materials and receiving work products. Uncertainty here? Let me count the ways:
Will technology lead to truly individualized learning or will technology be used to improve the communal classroom experience?
Is the one-to-one student tool a laptop, netbook, or tablet? iPad or Android?
Will instructional materials all be open-sourced, non-curated content from which teachers select or will teachers still use publisher-provided complete programs?
- What is the true cost for technology? Hardware, software, web tools, technology support, professional development are all costs that need to be considered.
There is uncertainty. There are also resources that will help convert uncertainty to risk. Along with professional organizations such as ISTE, web searches will turn up phenomenal educators such as Dan Meyer who are leading the way to help teachers use technology to improve instruction and learning. Through (name your social media tool of choice here), vibrant communities have grown to help teachers implement incredible strategies for using technology to increase student learning.
I could continue to write of other uncertainties in math education. School funding, changes in teacher and school evaluation systems, changes in student demographics and many other issues also lead to uncertainty. It seems the best advice is to make sure we are embracing the first mathematical practice standard of the Common Core: Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.