The Math Forum
1 May 1996

Preliminary Proposal

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Back to About the Math Forum || Brief Description of the Math Forum _____________________________________

Math Forum Goals

To establish an effective virtual center for the development of math education on the Internet.

Implement and export user-tested designs for organizing and navigating online resources. Develop "paths" through selected resources that organize material according to standards and present classroom models with clear learning objectives and assessments.

Focus on prototyping, disseminating, and spinning off successful elements.

Enhance user control over resources which, in tandem with recommended models, support local construction of knowledge and educational materials.

Further develop as a forum, a central gathering place where Internet math discussions can enhance the development of mathematics education.

Market and promote high quality Internet math resources. Enhance the value of the Math Forum as a service to other providers and support the dissemination of successful efforts.

To enable teachers to participate in the development of high quality Web math materials.

Search out good exemplars of mathematics education that use Web technology.

Pilot processes for teacher evaluation, annotation, and discussion of resources and help others develop strategies for assessing the quality and effectiveness of Internet math materials.

Act as catalyst and support for the development of exemplars through work with our teacher groups (Princeton Coalition, NSN Testbed at BBN, and the Forum Teacher Associates) as well as appropriate systemic initiatives.

Accumulate and disseminate a corpus of knowledge and related software tools for generating such materials and building up a self-sustaining group of developers.

To extend the use of the Web for teacher education and professional development.

Work with appropriate groups to develop model pre-service, in-service, and continuing education programs for schools, education departments, and systemic initiatives.

Support efforts to conduct online courses with the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards Assessment program at ETS, Bank Street, and others.

Initiate interactive services such as Ask A Master Teacher that can guide users through and help the Forum develop sound pedagogical paths through activities and curricular materials. Collect, package, and disseminate learnings and supporting software.

To coordinate and mediate teacher and student Web projects.

Scale up the successful and educationally significant labor-intensive Web projects of the Forum and others (Ask Dr. Math, Problem of the Week, etc.). Collect, package, and distribute implementation models and related software tools for such projects.

Work with OII, James Levin, and others to identify effective mentoring programs and investigate the feasibility of scaling up or disseminating such efforts.

To build community.

Overall strategy: to build convenient, lively forums supporting the needs and interests of new and experienced users, ranging from specific curriculum implementation efforts to broad pedagogical issues.

Broad math community:
Establish and bring together areas of overlapping interests of researchers, teachers, parents, and students. Cultivate effective moderators; facilitate public forums.

Educational reform community:
Work with organizations such as NCTM to develop substantive areas of the Web devoted to effective reform linked to the best of what has been developed. Facilitate user efforts to learn from these reform projects. Support the development of the Web presence of other groups involved in mathematics education and curricular reform.

Internet math provider community:
Continue meetings and electronic dialogue; develop an effective organization for sharing techniques and software and for coordinating agendas. Develop a consortium that can manage the Forum as a research and development component of its work.

Project Design

Begins January 1997, ends December 1999

Act as catalyst for the effective organization, assessment, and development of Internet-based math education resources while cultivating relationships with other mathematics providers and organizations in order to disseminate and hand off successful projects to others.

Our project design demands a dynamic process in which all elements feed each other throughout. Our structure is a flexible one, built around a staff that has shown itself to be responsive to changing realities and emerging technologies as we maintain our main focus on improving the coherence and quality of mathematics education on the Internet.

First year: 1997

Prepare teachers and organizations to set up projects, assess resources, produce materials, and participate in professional development and support activities.

Implement revised site design in light of evaluation results from the proof-of-concept phase and a database structure that enables more flexibility and automation in the creation and organization of Web pages.

Prepare for generating teacher involvement and contributions; secure commitments and train Web math education mentors, facilitators, resource evaluators, and materials developers.

Evaluate model activities from the proof-of-concept phase; plan for production and quality control of Web math resources, coordinate with other Internet math providers.

Design teacher education projects with Bank Street, ETS , and others. Gather learnings from the Online Internet Institute and other Internet-based courses and mentoring experiments.

Develop a coherent public forum environment integrated with archiving, subscription, and page creation services. Convene electronic conferences of public forum developers and plan for next-generation forum facilitation and support vehicles. Research new topics, participation trends, and forum structures that can support different levels of participation and Internet readiness.

Establish an intern program with a few organizations such as NCTM and MAA to provide project coordinators for online mentoring and forum facilitation, interactive teacher and student services, and the assessment and pedagogically coherent organization of online resources. Initially interns are to be paid out of the Math Forum budgets, but each year partners will assume more responsibility until the interns become their full-time employees.

Conduct outreach to district, state and regional systemic initiatives to inform them of Forum efforts. Recruit promising partners in dissemination.

Document the state of the site in the initial phase: how much activity, generated by whom, demographics of participation, how the site is used, user satisfaction. Conduct user polls, analyze user feedback, hold introductory workshops to observe new users, and host online focus groups for evaluation of new services and different types of participation.

Second year: 1998

Implement the strategies developed in year one, promote promising efforts, and evaluate site use and participation. Cultivate relationships that will support dissemination, and facilitate the export of successful components.

Promote the Forum and the high quality sites it supports through regular participation and announcements in online venues and via collaboration with other providers and organizations hosting conferences that target the Forum user population.

Work with online communities to pilot, add to, critique, and model successful classroom integration of online resources.

Support the implementation of the online professional development program of the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards and others. Initiate mentoring services such as Ask A Master Teacher.

Focus on the development of forums for reform efforts; foster parent and community involvement. In conjunction with the work of the Online Internet Institute and others, experiment with 2-3 different facilitation and support models. Arrange for interns to summarize issues raised in public forums for presentation at math education conferences.

Work with collaborators to identify and cultivate potential developers to take over our successful pilot efforts and Internet services. Broadcast the dissemination and spin-off program over the Internet.

Work with collaborators in designing a consortium to manage and fund the Forum as a research and development component of its work in coming years.

Document the state of the site in this implementation phase as during the first year.

Third year: 1999

Draw conclusions from the evaluation, revise projects, package results, and hand off to others. Identify areas for future investigation.

In line with evaluation results, make any necessary revisions in the Forum site structure, teacher participation mechanisms, public discussion facilitation models, online teacher education efforts, and interactive projects and services; test new versions.

Package the resulting models and software tools for dissemination efforts.

Work out dissemination and spin-off relations. Support partners' proposal efforts and connect them to lead teacher practitioners and Forum Web materials developers who can assume driving roles in start-up ventures.

Cultivate commercial support of the Forum in return for access to its user base and use of its resources and expertise as packaged for dissemination.

Establish fees for the use of Forum services such as marketing and promotion, Web project consulting and training, online inservice packages, and public forum support.

Initiate the transition to the management of the Forum by the consortium.

(1b) Project alignment with national education goals, the NSF education mission, and recognized standards for science, mathematics, and technology

Like the NSF in its educational mission, we focus on the quality and effectiveness of mathematics education. Our site includes much information on the NCTM Standards, the MAA's efforts to complement the Standards with its Quantitative Reasoning report, and the AMATYC Standards, and we have much material devoted to the various reform movements that have grown up from the Standards. We have begun conversations with ETS to develop an online presence for the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards Assessments. One of our main foci will be the development of paths through online resources that reflect current standards and guide users to corresponding models of implementation.

(2) Justification for reviewing the proposal outside the normal program structure

Many of this project's components fall into a number of the suggested categories: national (and international) scope, investigation of effective integration of online resources in the curriculum, engaging parents and communities, fostering communication around the mutual impact of K12 Standards on undergraduate reform efforts, etc. The most important justifications spring from the Math Forum's focus on investigating the application of the Internet to the improvement of teaching and learning, and the possibilities for Internet-based support of mathematics education reform. Critical to the short-term success of the Forum is the integration of materials development with teacher enhancement, a model of professional development that revolves around teacher participation in the generation, assessment, and description of successful implementations of online materials. The long-term viability of our work depends on the linkages we are forming with other systemic initiatives and related dissemination efforts.

(5) Major personnel: their qualifications and percent of time devoted to the project

The main personnel are the same as for the proof-of-concept proposal; their CVs, as well as those of the key personnel for our subcontracts, James King and Paul Burchard, are included with our proposal of 4/15/95.

Eugene Klotz, Project Director, will normally be full time during the summers with one course released time each semester. During academic year '97-'98 he will be on sabbatical and able to devote full time to the project.

Stephen Weimar, Project Manager and former non-profit executive director, education consultant, middle and high school math teacher, will be full-time throughout the project.

K. Ann Renninger, Project Evaluator, is Associate Professor of Education. She will devote 1/9 time to the project, plus one course released time each year.

(6) Anticipated levels and sources of cost-sharing and resource leveraging

Swarthmore College will supply equipment from previous projects, space for the proposed project, maintenance of equipment, furniture and security, basic system administration for the server, bookkeeping and supplemental secretarial help , and use of high-speed ethernet lines. During the summer, the College will supply extra space and computers to accommodate student workers.

The College will provide released time for Prof. Klotz on a matching basis with NSF: each will provide one course released time each year. Each will contribute half the cost of his sabbatical in `97 -'98. Prof. K. Ann Renninger, the project evaluator, will receive one course released time each semester.

(7) Evaluation results of prior work related to the topic area

As discussed at greater length in our chapter in Lehrer and Chazen's book "New Directions in the Teaching and Learning of Geometry," the Geometry Forum demonstrated the viability of public Internet forums and mediated online activities for bringing together teachers, researchers, teacher educators, and students, and for supporting their professional growth. The challenge of the Math Forum in its proof-of-concept phase was to show that a virtual center could be established on similar principles and extended into other topics and areas of math education.

Already an award-winning resource, the Math Forum has witnessed a tremendous increase in demand and initial success in providing and organizing resources for different audiences, including parents. Teachers clamor for classroom materials in a few standard subject areas. Resources of great depth can be generated by the activity of the users in public forums as well as through workshops and presentations held in professional conferences and other face-to-face contexts. There is a strong need for a pedagogically coherent organization of online resources. The greatest challenge may be in the effort to scale up the educationally significant activity taking place in the interactive services.

The work of the Forum is person-intensive, and long-term success depends on a distributed model where other entities adopt their own local implementations supported by a central repository of accumulated learnings and ongoing research and development.

(8) Plans to institutionalize the project to ensure its continuation beyond termination of the NSF award

Some of the details are spelled out in our project design since, at this stage, distributing and developing sustainable pieces are key aspects of the Forum. A short summary:

We plan to make the Forum so rich in resources, so intelligently organized and responsive to user needs, and so lively a place that it will be a hub math educators want to pass through. We will capitalize on this through fees charged to those who wish to have access to our users or to engage enhanced levels of support and consulting.

We will organize online professional development opportunities with ETS and others which schools and districts will pay for in lieu of inservice programs and the like. We will also focus on training trainers in order to move us away from conducting local workshops, and will cultivate new contributors to the Web.

We will build collaborations with other organizations; over time they will assume responsibility for some of our personnel and activities.

We will establish a consortium of Internet math providers and math organizations that can maintain the Forum as an Internet Research and Development Center for the consortium.

NOTE: The budget does not adequately reflect the effort to become self-sustaining. Our key strategy is to end the project with no Math Forum at Swarthmore College and in its stead establish a distributed Internet mathematics education presence, run by a variety of groups and organizations, which carries on our work and meets our goals. What the budget does indicate is the level of staffing required for the shifting tasks to accomplish this goal.

As reflected in the budget, we will attempt strategies such as funding intern positions to be progressively assumed by partner organizations. Lastly, we have an ongoing commitment to gather information about the income-generating possibilities of the Internet, an area not at all well understood at this time. We will apply any earnings we can generate toward funding the initial phase of the Forum as a consortium-managed resource.

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The Math Forum * * * * 14 May 1996