Examining Mathematics Teacher Educators’ Emerging Practices in Online Environments

Oct. 01, 2014

Source: Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 14(4), 384-400. (2014)
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This article describes the ways opportunities and constraints in online mathematics teacher education (OMTE) and the authors' view of learning encouraged a deeper consideration of the role of environment in their teaching practice.
Central to this discussion are the authors' values and the understandings mathematics teacher educators (MTEs) bring to OMTE and the conflicts between understandings of the online environment and views of learning that undergirded the instructional activities created.
This article focuses on the MTEs’ development as teachers in online environments.

The insights shared in this article were drawn from the authors' first experience with OMTE. The narrative includes the perspective on learning that guides the authors' decision-making, development efforts, and interactions with teachers.
The design of each week of a 4-week professional development environment and interactions with the teachers are described.
The 4-week professional development experience in the asynchronous online (AO) environment was designed to provide teachers with an opportunity to explore proportional reasoning for teaching.


The authors provided an opportunity for the sharing of lived events in their AO environment, but these were meant to be introductions rather than a lever for developing a collaborative, caring relationship.
The authors' ability to create constructivist listening online is a critical element of constructivist teacher practice in AO environments.
Quick responses to teachers would afford the authors with opportunities to show they hear and value teacher contributions.

Coupled with their dilemmas about enacting constructivist listening and developing caring relationships, concerns about the technological environment and the technological tools available emerged.
While faculty members are being asked by university administrators to develop learning environments using platforms like Blackboard and Moodle, these platforms were developed as course management systems, not as learning community systems.
These tools have significant limits that can be overcome only by an MTE’s consideration of learning, interaction, the potential of existing technology, and their creativity with interactions and activities.

Conversations between all stakeholders in these situations must occur.
It is vital that instructional designer, instructional technology specialists, technology developers, and course content experts (instructors) have conversations about what elements of technology would be most useful.
Such conversations might focus on elements of practice or factors in practice that encourage productive communities.
Universities must build teams of stakeholders to create productive AO learning environments rather than assuming that MTEs can engage in this work as part of their typical teaching load.
The authors' experiences with an AO learning environment taught them that their presence cannot be virtual, but must be felt by all of the learners.

Selecting not to interact with the teachers likely left them feeling abandoned rather than cared for, perhaps leading to a decline in participation in discussions.
As they considered qualities they used in their face-to-face practice, tone of voice was considered.
They came to view the tone of their voices and those of the teachers as a tool used to convey meaning.
Audio and video captures seem to afford MTEs with opportunities to recover tone and its power to shape intended meanings of words.
They have come to understand their struggles in designing and interacting in the AO environment as opportunities to develop as teachers.
In doing so, they have identified essential elements of their constructivist teaching practice, such as caring relations and listening, that help them build communities with teachers.
It remains for them to use this knowledge in collaboration with colleagues in instructional technology to build AO environments and practices that satisfy our need to learn with and from teachers.

Updated: Aug. 11, 2015