February 6, 2012

On Thursday, February 2, I attended the conference “Why Algebra Matters and How Technology Can Help,” a joint effort between the Silicon Valley Education Foundation and Stanford University. Speakers included superintendents, research fellows, and distinguished educators. They said that middle school math, which is predominantly Algebra, is the most important math needed to succeed in college. Rates, percents, measurement, and Algebra. Not Calculus.

Speakers also said that technology can be a powerful tool for teaching math, since it allows for “any time, any place, any pace” learning. However, math technology is currently oversold and underused, according to Dr. Jeremy Roschelle, director of the Center for Technology in Learning at SRI International.

During the last half of the conference, ten technology executives each gave a five-minute presentation on the technological products they offer that help facilitate student learning. The organizers of the conference called this the speed-dating portion. Indeed, it was just like speed dating since it seems like educators have to choose which product(s) to use.

This dynamic of the current education tech arena seems odd to me. Must technology necessarily compete against each other and grapple for educators’ attention at conferences and other events like these? Or, is there a way to synergistically combine these available resources into one highly effective medium of instruction?

Until this can be achieved, how do educators know which products are best? It seems that their choices will based on their individual teaching styles. Right now, teachers are the single most important determiner of student success. In the future, starting now, these determiners will be teachers and technology. Just as there is a market for teachers, there is a newly emerging market for educational technology. Soon, an efficient ranking system will need to be developed.

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