A new report says our math teaching methods are not adding up. The C.D. Howe institute said math scores across the country have declined between 2003 and 2012. The steepest drop occurred in Manitoba. The report cited Canada’s performance on the OECD’s Program of International Student Assessment (PISA) as evidence that a fundamental shift in math instruction may be necessary. Discovery-based learning to blame for students’ declining math skills. The report blames the decline on discovery-based learning – a method introduced in the late 1990s where students do more independent work using pictures, drawings and objects to solve problems. “What we are seeing in schools is a lot of things like multiple strategies and convoluted methods and what happens is that children’s working memory gets overloaded and they are unable to learn the information properly,” said report author Anna Stokke. Instead, Stokke said 80 per cent of learning math should be traditional: adding, subtracting, and memorizing times tables, with direct instructions from a teacher. Stokke said in 2013 Manitoba began reintroducing times tables, column addition and long division. Manitoba’s Education Minister said the province is waiting on the results from recent tests since the changes were implemented. Read more here and a related story here
Watch the above video for a recap of a great and successful day at the University of Manitoba’s 6th annual High School Computer Science day. Schools from all over the province came and we won 3 of the 4 trophies.
Education technology is getting a lot of attention these days. The Obama Administration proposed nearly $4 billion to help wire our schools. Meanwhile, more than $600 million in venture capital poured into ed tech last year – a 32% increase over the prior year. Teachers have also embraced the use of technology – almost unanimously. In a recent survey, 96% of teachers reported that technology is making a significant impact in their classroom. But despite broad adoption and educator enthusiasm, two opposing narratives have emerged regarding the use of technology in our schools. As is often the case in policy and politics, neither side fully reflects the reality on the ground. On one side, there are those who believe that education is the last frontier for innovation. Just as technology has disrupted, transformed, and improved most major segments of our economy, education will undergo a tech revolution. They believe that market forces and private capital will bring new efficiencies to K-12 and post-secondary education systems grappling with shifting demographics and shrinking budgets. To them, technology adoption is an end in itself. On the other side of the debate, there are those who are less sanguine about the prospects for education technology. They see education as a fundamentally different enterprise and believe market forces are at odds with the democratic promise of American public education. They worry that energy invested in deploying education technology diverts attention from efforts to reduce class sizes, invest in teachers, and address the vast socioeconomic disparity that pervades our schools. They see investing in technology and supporting great teaching as opposing sides in a zero sum game. More recently, data privacy and security have become a rallying cry to halt or slow adoption of technology in our schools. What’s interesting is that these opposing views don’t break easily along traditional party lines. The education data privacy debate, for example, is evidence that education innovation often makes for strange bedfellows. Activists on the far left see data privacy concerns as an argument against the corporatization of education. Opponents on the right are concerned that big data in education will enable government growth and intrusion into their child’s education. What’s often missing from this discourse is the most important goal of public education: outcomes. Whether one cares most about social mobility that drives economic competitiveness; serving special needs and gifted students; improving infrastructure; or closing the achievement gap, the only metric we should use to evaluate the role of technology in public education is the success of our students. Of course, technology isn’t a silver bullet, but it has central role to play in improving outcomes—and identifying the right role for education technology isn’t the role of the private sector, alone. We need to put politics and perception aside, and encourage more teachers to lock arms with entrepreneurs to help ensure that educators’ voices are heard as entrepreneurs build tools to support great teaching and learning. Educators can help education companies better understand their needs, and craft solutions to address real-world challenges and opportunities. Technologists and investors can help educators see persistent problems differently, and work collaboratively toward solutions. We need patient investors that take the time to understand the market, and are willing to spend time—and money—on research that tests the efficacy of their products. Schools of education can also play a critical role. They are preparing the next generation of educators—and have a responsibility that extends beyond the university and into the classroom. Leading education school deans are now collaborating to transform the way we prepare educators. Earlier this spring, we helped launch a unique ed tech accelerator with the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education, in order to bring educators together with entrepreneurs, investors with academics to cultivate a more collaborative, outcome-focused discussion about education technology. We need more educators and district leaders who are willing to put solutions to the test – and developers and investors willing to accept accountability for their impact in the classroom. The good news is, there are signs of collaboration. We are inspired by the potential for a more thoughtful discourse on education technology – and look forward to the real-world impact for our nation’s teachers and students. Read more here