Some Suggestions for Math Technology Professional Development

Demonstrating TinkerPlots at NCTM 2012I have been really focused on math technology professional development lately, which makes sense of course, since that’s what I do for a living. But after last week’s NCSM and NCTM conferences (see Karen Coe’s recent post), where professional development came up often (see my personal blog), and after responding to numerous email inquiries this week, I decided to share some Key Curriculum Professional Development options and offer my suggestions on how to get the most bang for your buck (luckily, many of these options are free).

Free weekly webinars. Each week we offer a free technology webinar, focused on a specific mathematics content, ranging from elementary concepts through calculus, using one or more of our dynamic mathematics programs: Sketchpad, TinkerPlots, or Fathom. The presenters are all current or former mathematics teachers, and they focus not only on using the software, but also on teaching strategies and elucidating the mathematics. All webinars are recorded for on-demand viewing and are posted with downloadable files that you can be use in your classroom. Suggestions for use as professional development:

  • Individual teachers/administrators can attend or watch the recording to improve their knowledge (of technology, mathematics, and/or pedagogical approaches) and gain new ideas to try in the classroom.
  • Teams of teachers can attend together or watch the recording together (during department time or collaborative planning time), discuss strategies and try the lessons in their own classrooms, then meet again and share experiences.
  • Teacher leaders, coaches, etc. can use the recordings and documents/lessons to conduct school or site-based training or model in the classroom.  The training might be focused on specific content or teaching strategies and can support technology integration in math classrooms.

Six-week moderated online courses. Long-term professional development, where you have time to practice and try things out and get feedback and support, is really the best way to learn and integrate something new. Change takes time. Our online courses allow time to learn new skills slowly, get support and help from both the course resources (videos, tutorials) and from a moderator who is a current or former mathematics teacher and an expert in the software. During the course, you share questions and ideas with an online community of colleagues. These courses teach how to use the software in the context of mathematics—including how dynamic software may change the way you understand mathematical concepts—and provide you with resources to use in your classroom. We have courses for Statistics (Fathom), Elementary Mathematics (Sketchpad), Middle School Mathematics (Sketchpad and TinkerPlots), Algebra (Sketchpad) and Geometry (Sketchpad) and a brand new course coming in June for advanced Sketchpad users, Constructing Dynamic Demonstrations. Suggestions for use as professional development:

  • An individual teacher can take these courses for personal growth and ideas on how to integrate technology in specific math courses. You’ll gain skill in the software and also review or learn math content, and more importantly, explore ways to help students learn that content.
  • Schools/districts can support individual teachers/coaches/teams of teacher, using these courses as a train-the-trainer model. After completing the course, the selected teachers can use the course content to train others in their schools or districts, creating internal capacity. When teams of teachers take the course together, it creates a collaborative group of teachers learning together, trying things together, and supporting each other, making change and effective technology integration a sustainable endeavor.

Sketchpad activity modules at NCTM 2012Free tutorials, movies, and lessons. We have Sketchpad, Tinkerplots, and Fathom resources designed to help you learn the software in your own time and at your own pace. There are movies that demonstrate how to do specific skills, which can be rewound and played over and over as you play along with the software. The tutorials have step-by-step instructions, with some tips in video form. We also provide ready-to-use lessons, with teacher notes, lesson plans, sketches/files—a complete lesson focused on math but also allowing you to learn the software. Many of these resources are built into each software program or available on our web at no cost. Fathom and TinkerPlots come with hundreds of pre-made, cross-curricular data sets. Sketchpad has an entire Learning Center built into its Help menu, with not only the tutorials and sample activities, but also movies of teachers and students sharing their experiences with Sketchpad. Suggestions for professional development:

  • An individual teacher can use these resources to learn and try things in their classroom at their own pace. This allows them to take control of their learning and how they implement technology, slowly, focused.
  • Teams of teachers (content teams, math departments, etc.) can utilize these resources to learn the software together. Look at specific movies/tutorials at department meetings, or during planning. Do a lesson study with one of the sample activities—focus on the standards and where the activity fits in your curriculum, try it in the classroom, and come back and share results and student work.
  • Math coaches and math instructional leaders can use these as coaching activities, modeling activities and support for technology integration.
  • Movies, tutorials, and sample activities can be grouped together and used in focused professional development events sponsored by schools/districts. It’s possible to use these resources together to introduce the skills of the tool, give teachers time to practice and work through a number of activities, and then choose activities to implement.

My suggestions are just a few possibilities of what can be done to create effective math technology professional development. Professional development means developing new skills and strategies and continuing to learn and grow in your profession. Start exploring all the possibilities.

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