Cutting Edge Technology and 21st Century Schools

I was wondering how you did with my second blog post? As a parent, were you able to acquire your child’s score and analysis from the 2017 spring state math assessment or the online local support program your child can use to support his/her individualized plan to improve mathematically?

Most school systems today have cutting-edge technology that allows students to work toward their individual goals, with teachers facilitating their learning. There are K-12 online programs (e.g., IXL, i-Ready, Knowre, Khan Academy, DreamBox, Castlelearning) that evaluate your child’s math skills and conceptual understandings; then prescribe a path of study and practices that your child can do by him/her self.

Each online program is basically evaluative. Some are focused more on skills/practice, or courses, or practice for state exams. Some online programs are more suited for Pre-K to grade 5; and some address secondary math courses such as pre-Algebra, Algebra, Geometry and Trigonometry. Google the suggested programs and review the pros and cons.

If your school district has purchased a math program from a textbook company (e.g., Pearson or McGraw Hill-Glencoe), there are online support systems for them. All of the publishing companies now have textbooks online (which lightens up backpacks!). If you find there is online support for your child’s textbook program, then ask the principal if the teachers have been trained to use the program. Email the principal and as for a reply in writing.

The benefit of online learning is the instant feedback that is provided for the child. Feedback that is often lost in a class of thirty students. This includes a connection to an explanation of a solution to a problem that the child has difficulty solving. The feedback mechanisms for online math support programs are available 24/7, complete with an up-to-date progress report that is sent your child’s math teacher suggesting next steps. Often, the online programs provide parent support, such as the Khan Academy, that offers refresher courses for parents on problem-solving.

In a perfect education world, cutting-edge technology can offer students opportunities to take a more active role in learning mathematics. During the school day, teachers facilitate the online program, providing the support and mentoring that students need. Some schools have set aside time periodically (once a day to once a week) where students are convened in a technology lab to work on the individualized program prescribed by the online system.

Theoretically, prior to your child’s lab visit, the teacher will have had time to review your child’s data report, and use that report to direct classroom instruction and provide further support that is targeted at what your child needs to understand the math lesson. Most of the time, the outcome for support does not get to the teacher in a timely fashion, especially for secondary math teachers (who teach 150 students a day). In grades 6-12 it is virtually impossible for a teacher to review each student’s progress, due to the time needed for review for so many students.

Some schools send their students to a technology lab that is facilitated by another teacher. The structure of the antiquated school day/week often does not allow the classroom and lab teachers to consult.  The data sits for weeks and is not used to direct instruction. This is nobody’s fault; it’s just the industrial model warehousing students (nine 40 minute periods a day, five days a week). It is very frustrating for teachers to have 30 students functioning at all different levels in a lab where there may not be 30 computers to facilitate the class and address every child, especially when children forget passwords, are not motivated to learn by themselves and have a chance to chat with their neighbor.

As a parent, you can support your child’s online learning mathematics by (1) identifying the online program that is being used; (2) making sure your child can access the program at home and knows how to navigate the program to experience success (i.e., your child sees the value in working online); (3) inquiring to find a way to check your child’s progress; and (4) if your school does not embrace cutting-edge technology (for whatever reason), you can sign up, as a family, for free programs with Khan Academy.

Some of the pushback I get from educators is that not every child has access to a computer/Internet at home. I have been in some needy districts and have observed that every child has a full-service cell phone (not a flip phone). There are education centers, such as the public library, that have computers and Internet access. If your child cannot access the Internet away from school, you need to inform the school and advocate for support.

Hurry, the spring 2017 state math test results for grades 3-8 have just been sent to the schools. It’s a good time to get in touch with your child’s school and access his/her test scores (that are probably on the principal’s desk).



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