The Reflective Educator

Education ∪ Math ∪ Technology

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Day: January 28, 2013

Alternate definitions of technology

Some alternate definitions of common technology:

  1. Email:

    A technology through which anyone in the world can add to your to-do list.
     

  2. Smartphone:

    A device designed to interrupt your thinking on a semi-periodic but slightly random basis with a buzzing or ringing sound, making completing lengthy tasks requiring significant concentration nearly impossible. Users can even customize the sound with which they will be interrupted! Added bonus: discourages face-to-face conversations when in use.
     

  3. E-book:

    A lot like a regular book except it requires an expensive electronic device to be viewed, can’t be shared, and can be potentially removed from your ownership by the book seller without warning. Oh, and if your electronic device for reading the e-book has a dead battery, you can’t read the e-book.
     

  4. Television:

    An electronic baby sitter for your children that can potentially introduce your children to all sorts of unacceptable behaviours.
     

  5. Computer:

    The most powerful computational device ever constructed by humans. Mostly used for finding and sharing pictures of LOL cats and music videos.
     

  6. Air conditioner:

    This machine cools down people’s houses, which results in people spending less time on their front porch getting to know their neighbours.
     

  7. Digital camera:

    Now everyone can take bad photos of places they have been, which they then share once on Facebook and then never look at again.

Build a better website for learning math

I’ve been thinking about what I think a truly great mathematics education website would look like. Dan and David have produced some awesome mock-ups of the future of mathematics textbooks, and I love their work, but I can think of more features I would add.

  1. There should be space available for students to ask and answer questions, just like MathOverflow. It would probably need to be moderated, and perhaps seeded with people with some knowledge of mathematics willing to attempt to anwer questions, but I suspect many of the interactions would be peer to peer. The level of mathematics discussed on MathOverflow and the sometimes snarky responses to people who ask lower-level questions lead me to believe that this type of discussion space should be have a different community standard – one that expects children to be participating in it.
     
  2. There should be a mixture of styles of problems from the directed-style problems with embedded, mediated peer to peer interactions that Dan and David are dreaming up  to open-ended problems and/or puzzles wherein students choose what tools they want to use to try and solve the problems.
     
  3. There should be a library of exploration spaces available for students. I’m thinking Logo, origami, and other types of similar resources would be available here, along with discussion space to share any discoveries and/or projects students develop.
     
  4. At least part of the site should be dedicated to sharing some of the wonder of mathematics. Perhaps this looks like a blog where some of the most fascinating and elegant mathematical ideas through-out history could be shared. The primary purpose of this section of the site would be to inspire, not to teach.
     
  5. The site could include a toolkit of different mathematical techniques students could use to solve mathematics problems. Alternatively, solving specific problems on the site opens up new tools in the toolkit. Students could also have a toolkit of skills they have developed themselves, and bookmarked to remember for later, much like programmers do as they build their own code libraries.

I can imagine that trying to introduce this all at once might be overwhelming or too challenging, so these features would have to be introduced over-time, but the ability for students to connect with each other to have discussions about mathematics would have to be front and centre from the very beginning.

What other features would you include?

Internet as cMOOC

How I learn about mathematics education

I’ve noticed that my experiences in #etmooc very much parallel my learning experiences on a regular basis, except that they are now branded and slightly more focused on a different topic – connected learning.

  • I participate in weekly chats on #mathchat whenever I have the time.
  • I follow hundreds of blogs on mathematics education.
  • I watch videos on mathematics education and infrequently participate in webinars related to the same.
  • I read books on mathematics education.
  • I work with my colleagues to improve our mathematics instruction on a daily basis.

None of the learning experiences I’ve had through #etmooc have been different (except for the focus). So it leads me to wonder, why don’t more people have these types of learning experiences on a regular basis given that they are freely available?

 

 

PS. I know that people complain about not having the time to participate, which I get. I’m busy too. I have to balance my desire to learn more against my family life as well, and lately, family life has been winning, but I always carve out some time each to learn a little bit more about my field each day. I couldn’t give up learning more about education any more than I could give up breathing.