Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Twitter Math Camp (#TMC15)

Twitter Math Camp 2015 ended last Friday. Mary Bourassa is one of the organizers and is not afraid that calling this conference a Twitter event will scare away most "reasonable" thinking math educators. Why? Because this may be the best math event anywhere. Just ask any MTBoS member who attended the conference!

Here's one. Christopher Danielson was a participant, speaker and early blogger of his experience there.

And another. Meg Craig. Important things you need to know (about TMC15)

More experience sharing via blogs is coming. Just follow the hastag #TMC15 and keep up with the commentary.

VIP Matt Larson (president-elect of NCTM) is now on Twitter! He also attended TMC 15. Things they are a changin'.

Hot off the press: Math Forum Joins NCTM!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Logo Under Fire - a little history

I got some email about my previous blog (A Conference Experience Like No Other) asking me why Logo faded from the limelight after much hype about its potential to transform education.

When Logo first came on the scene after Mindstorms was published (1980) enthusiasm about its potential for educational reform grew. Not only was Logo the first significant piece of educational software that included programming, but was also a catalyst for much discussion in schools about its potential for effective teaching and learning. Other educational software began to emerge from publishers like MECC and Sunburst but it was mostly of the CAI and drill & practice variety. Computer Literacy emerged as an important competency and learning how to program was a big part of it. By 1983 already there was grumbling about programming. Fred Hechinger in a New York Times article (July 26, 1983) wrote that the school's approach to computers was wrong in focusing on programming and drill and practice. He quoted Marc Tucker (prominent at the DOE at the time) as saying that teaching BASIC to kids makes them think crooked, if at all. Teachers were also not happy with having to learn to program in BASIC or Logo for that matter because it was time consuming. But still there were plenty of Logo enthusiasts who saw Papert and Logo create a new culture in the classroom that was student centered and teachers were "guides on the side." Critics began to surface and Papert had to come to the defense by explaining Logo's role as a microworld for learning which can be used ineffectively without proper understanding of how Logo should be used. There was one significant study that was done by Roy Pea and D. Midian Kurland of the the Bank Street College Center for Children and Technology that probably did the most damage.
"Among other things, Pea and Kurland tested children who had been exposed to Logo in specially set classroom situations. Since they wanted the study to mimic the effects of discovery learning. Pea and Kurland gave the teachers stringent guidelines to curtail their learning. At the end of one year, student who had worked with Logo were tested to see how their planning skills had been affected. Students in the control group which did not have Logo were given the same tests. The results showed no differences between the two groups leading the authors of the study to conclude that Logo does not help teach planning. Further the results caused them to question whether Logo supports other kinds of cognitive development, as its promoters claimed." (Note 1)
As you might expect this study made Papert furious mostly because he thought the students in the Logo experience group learned a little Logo and not much else so the results were not surprising. Pea fired back defending the experience by claiming that Bank Street was well versed in guiding students so that they have the Logo experience. There were other studies that showed positive results of the Logo experience, but the damage was done. Papert and MIT hosted several Logo conferences (Logo 84, 85 and 86) that I participated in that were intended to counteract the negative press. At the final session of Logo 86, Brian Harvey author of several Logo texts, held a session entitled "Whatever happened to the Revolution?" referring to Logo, of course. Geraldine Kozberg, director of staff development in the St. Paul, MN school district, who kept the Logo spirit alive in her district for the next 10 years spoke about Brian's talk at Logosium 96 conference in St. Paul. She had the same title as Brian's: What ever happened to the Revolution?" You can read her transcript here. Well worth it.

CLIME also had a transformation of sorts around the same time as Gerry's speech. In 1994 CLIME changed its name to Council for Logo and Technology in Mathematics Education to reflect new constructivist sofware developments in math especially Geometer's Sketchpad. The name of our acronym however remained the same (L is not changed to T) in honor of the Logo movement and Seymour Papert that inspired so many of us. Also the lack of technology sessions at annual NCTM conferences led to the reframing of CLIME's mission statement. (Note 2)

1. A Conversation with Seymour Papert: Logo Under Fire (Classroom Computer Learning, January, 1985)
2. In 1997 of CLIME does one more name change. It becomes the Council for Technology in Mathematics Education. Though Logo is dropped from the name, its spirit lives on. It just means that Logo has a lot of good company on the software shelf these days.


Thursday, June 18, 2015

A Conference Experience Like No Other


"At the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) conference this past April, educators Dan Meyer, Zachary Champagne and Mike Flynn devised Shadow Con, an effort to change the way in which attendees, non-attendees and presenters interact before, during and after a conference. Between three hosts, six presenters, over 425 physical attendees and thousands of others online, it was a conference experience unlike any other." Kristin Gray

Two unique features of each talk was first that the speaker had a fellow tweeter share via #shadowcon15 highlights of their approximately 10 minute talk. Secondly, at the end of the talk the speakers had to come up with a "call to action" which would motivate listeners both live and online to share their experiences of the conference and inspire these educators to follow through on the message of the talk.

Last night I listened to what amounted to a debriefing of this "conference within a conference" by the speakers and organizers themselves. After it was over, I got the feeling there was a movement afoot. Next week the organizers are meeting with the current president and president-elect of NCTM to share their excitement about what occurred at this conference. I'm very interested in what develops.

You see, this has a special meaning for me because 29 years ago at an NCTM meeting in Washington, DC (1986) approximately 125 educators - incuding me - responded to a call by John Van de Walle to come to an "after hours" meeting for folks interested in Logo, a programming language for kids developed by Seymour Papert , an MIT mathematician. Out of that exciting meeting a group was formed later to be named "The Council for Logo in Math Education" which a year later became an affiliate group of NCTM. I became its first president. We had our annual meetings during the NCTM annual conferences in a room provided to us at no cost by NCTM. Also CLIME got an invite to do a presentation at the conferences from 1988 through 2007! Here is a brouchure for our 1995 meeting in Boston.

Clime meeting - Boston, 1995
We also had a newsletter. The first one was sent out in March of 1987 and included a two sided Call to Action which we called CLIMEaction. In it I wrote:

In order for CLIME to grow and flourish, many people need to work together and separately, taking small steps that collectively impact math education. CLIMEaction is an attempt to rally you to take concrete steps to help our organization pursue its vision of what math education can be like.
Each of you is doing something of interest with Logo. If we can  get everyone to share, then you can gain from the collective wisdom of the group. I know this is summer and some of you will find this June issue buried under piles of unread mail, we would appreciate it if you can give some thought to what your contribution can be. Some of you expressed interest in helping but were not sure how. On the other side are some suggestions and some questions regarding this issue of the CLIME newsletter. Please take the time now to respond. We need your input and your help! -Ihor Charischak

That was 1987. And for the next decade we had an energetic group of math teaching Logo users collaborating and sharing which was a joy for me to experience. But the number of CLIME members never exceeded 300. Snail mail and a lack of easy communication made it difficult for the organization to grow. And then Logo lost its allure especially when other software like Geometer's Sketchpad took center stage and pushed Logo onto the back burner. Logo in its many forms still has a strong niche following, but nothing like in its hayday of the 80s and early 90s. 

Now its 2015 and the tools for communication are here. And a new group of enthusiastic math teachers are anxious to share with other math teachers via social media. And once again, NCTM has taken notice. The organizers of Shadowcon 2015 are meeting with the president and president-elect of NCTM next week and I expect some exciting collaborative outcomes. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A Paradigm Shift at NCTM

As I was preparing for a talk on Math Future about my recent book, I was struck by the interesting, but contrasting parallels between the impact that Seymour Papert's Logo movement and the emergence of Dan Meyer and his 37,000 followers on Twitter made on NCTM.

In 1986 at the annual meeting of NCTM in Washington DC, John Van de Walle organized an after hours meeting for attendees who were interested in Logo. According to my count there were about 125 educators in attendance. As a result an organization called the Council for Logo in Math Education (CLIME) was formed which eventually (in 1988) became an affiliate group of NCTM. Our hope was that Logo would enter the mainstream of math education and be promoted by NCTM. And, especially, NCTM would invite Seymour Papert to be a keynote speaker at an NCTM conference. The movement was a disappointment and Papert never spoke at an NCTM conference. There were many reasons but generally I would say that NCTM was not ready to support this disruptive innovation at that time that was focused mostly on computer use and was considered inappropriately technocentric.

A more recent “disruptive” activity is what Dan Meyer has brought to NCTM. Using the power of blogging Dan has become the pied piper of mathematics education reform. In Boston his sessions were filled to capacity and NCTM supported his after hours Shadowcon event. This is all good stuff. I’m all for it. I’m just disappointed that Logo didn’t get its due way back when.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Geometer's Sketchpad User News

As you may know Key Curriculum was folded into McGraw Hill last year so now it's more difficult to find out what's going on in the Geometer's Sketchpad community. Fortunately, Dan Scher and Scott Steketee keep the spirit of this great piece of software alive with their blog where they present excellent ideas for teaching math with Sketchpad.  The one pictured on the left is named Around and Around: Investigating Multiples. Click here for more details. If you are so inclined comment on their website and thank them for their efforts!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Boston Math Conference - Friday Morning

On Friday morning I was following a trail of people leading me towards the 9:30 session lead by Dan Meyer. I walked into the ballroom and it was completed packed. So I checked in next door (Ballroom A) which also had hundreds of seats, but were mostly empty. The title (Stop answering questions - countering the Google Generation) intrigued me so I sat in but still thinking I would eventually go next door (Ballroom B) for Dan’s inservice-like session about building better lessons involving modeling. But I wound up staying to hear a most interesting session not so much about stopping answering student questions but rather leading discussions with questions that the teacher poses that keep students from asking questions that lead to dead ends. The model for the teaching was the answer to Jon Ail's question. (See image.) It struck home because teaching with questions was my main method of modeling an effective way to generate a discussion with students. This means that you avoid answering questions of students that would take them of the hook for productive thinking. For example, giving answers to problems that students might have come up with on their own. Caveat: thinking for students can be painful if the context is not within their zone of proximal development said Jon Ail one of the session leaders. So the questions teachers ask must be carefully, contexually crafted.

I'm sure Dan's session was very enjoyable session for his participants, but he probably had a lot of answers to offer. I was more intrigued with how questions can deliver productive discussion and resolution. Actually this is also Dan's message which he posts on his website: Dan Meyer - less helpful.

See Jon Ail's and Tifiny Howard's slides here. Thanks, Dan for making the slides easily available.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

MTBoS and other NCTM Boston conference adventures

"We are math teachers who share what we've learned, cause we don't want our classes to suck the energy from students. Professional development among friends, not just colleagues. Fun! Immediately useful! Interesting!" So starts the description of MTBoS a 
The chart
refreshing new movement in the NCTM world. Armed with a table in the exhibit hall at the annual NCTM meeting in Boston this fledgling group of young social network activist teachers are slowly yet exponentially changing the face of math education. At least that's how it appeared to me every time I passed the booth and could barely squeeze in to say hello to the latest facilitator (of which there were many) at the booth. Led by Tina Cardone's enthusiasm the MTBoS booth was the best place to visit. What did they have to offer? Lot's of free stuff that members created and shared passionately with visitors. "Do you tweet? Do you blog?" If no was the answer then newbie visitors were given a 5 minute overview of the advantages of these socially viable venues. I'm sure many "joined" the movement and signed their names on the chart with their new twitter handles.
At the MTBoS booth

Tonight MTBoS will be doing a webinar having participants share their experiences at the conference. Click here for details.

I hope to "see" you there!

More NCTM conference adventures in my next blog entry.