Light Offerings

Digital, Maths & School. Two’s company, Three’s a problem

Posted by jturner56 on September 24, 2016

Each week in education is a heady mix of idea conversations, related readings and cognitive wonderings. At times it feels that we are all quantum educators; one can evaluate value and progress, but not at the same time.

This week I was drawn to two diverse readings. In 3 theories why digital learning access is good for students, Dr Liane Wardlow (from Pearson Education) examines three educational theories that she contends “bring huge potential for increasing learning“: Behaviorist, Social Cognitive (through modelling), and Information Processing theory. Within this “teaching should emphasize ways to increase desired behaviors, which can occur through connectionism or operant conditioning

Meanwhile, in Philosophy, beauty, complexity: what you are missing out on if you don’t do the maths, Nalini Joshi, Professor of Mathematics at the University of Sydney opines “Maths in schools is often presented as a rigid hierarchyTeachers present as priests pointing the one, true way to a solution. This is not what maths is about.” The need to “learn to celebrate the complex and creative in mathematics if it is to regain favour” is put forward.

What connects these two contentions? Perhaps the relationship between real Mathematics, School and what many contend should be the primary purpose of Digital use.

  1. Looking at School‘s approach to Mathematics learning, the weaknesses are there for anyone who is willing to look objectively
  2. Approaches to Digital in School are stuck in Assimilation thinking even as society takes on new Accommodations (see Piaget for more on what this means)
  3. The potential within Digital to support more powerful Mathematical exploration of complex ideas in creative ways is well documented for those who are willing to look beyond the School lens and its associated inequalities and failures to meet contemporary or future needs.

By the way, this is not new. Over thirty years ago Seymour Papert (1980) said it so much better “In my vision, the child programs the computer, and in doing so, both acquires a sense of mastery over a piece of the most modern and powerful technology and establishes an intense contact with some of the deepest ideas from science, from mathematics, and from the art of intellectual model building.” It was exhilarating to engage in this conversation again this week, even if the context is little different from twenty years ago.



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