Friday, February 15, 2008

Journal # 2

'Speaking Math: Using Chat in the Multicultural Math Classroom' by Janet Graham & Ted Hodgson

This article discusses the use of electronic discussion tools in math classes at Osbourn High School. The decision to use electronic tools was prompted by the common use of online chats observed in high school students. The authors chose to use both chat rooms and discussion forums for different programs. In the chats students answer questions related to topics in their textbooks using specific vocabulary. The authors were careful to take into consideration the economic resources of their students, allowing for plenty of time for the students to use the classroom computers during school hours.
One of the positive outcomes that the students have noticed is that the online forum allows for non-native English speakers to answer the questions in an environment that moves at their own pace. They have also found that groups may identify  with their cultural similarities online or discover interests in other cultures through the forum. 
The article ends by explaining that this type of chat and forums can be used for other educational disciplines, citing examples for both history and science classes. 
1. If students make mistakes when answering the questions, can this lead to confusion of the subject for the students participating in the forum?
The dialogue created by these chats seems to be on the whole beneficial, but it is very unlikely that the teachers will be able to monitor the chats in real time. If the students get stuck on a problem or are discussing false information without knowing it, it does seem possible that this could create problems for them to re-learn the correct information later. 

2. Do these types of forums promote acceptance of different cultures or segregation among students?
Although the authors maintain that the forums promote diversity, they also say that different cultural groups often seek each other out in the forums, speaking native languages etc. While there is value in allowing an educational space where cultures are respected, I am not certain that the forums don't create segregation among students if they cannot all participate equally.