Offering Prospective Teachers Tools to Connect Theory and Practice: Hypermedia in Mathematics Teacher Education

Article excerpt

This article describes a program in which prospective secondary mathematics teachers develop hypermedia stacks to demonstrate their understanding of important principles of mathematics, teaching, and learning. Initial project creation occurs in methods classes where students create hypermedia projects in small groups. Later, during student teaching, interns construct individual, portfolio-like hypermedia projects. Intern-created stacks include hypertext links, quick-time movies from video-taped segments of practice teaching, other video and audio components, and links to a variety of applications. The hypermedia format encourages prospective teachers to build explicit connections within their own experiences, allowing them to personalize reform themes in terms of their own teaching. In addition, it offers them experiences with computer technology, cooperative learning activities, and alternative assessment strategies. Several project descriptions illustrate these ideas.

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Recent efforts to overhaul the secondary curriculum in the United States have drawn increased attention to themes of inquiry, cooperation, and problem solving in the mathematics classroom (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), 1989, 1991, 2000). Many prospective teachers possess weak knowledge and narrow views of mathematics and mathematics pedagogy that include conceptions of mathematics as a closed set of procedures, teaching as telling, and learning as the accumulation of information (Ball, 1991; Brown, Cooney, & Jones, 1990; Even, 1993; Frykholm, 1996; Thompson, 1992; Wilson, 1994). These conceptions are bolstered by years of experience as students in traditional classrooms (Brown & Borko, 1992; Lortie, 1975; Zeichner & Gore, 1990). If reform themes are to be enacted in the mathematics classrooms of future teachers, conceptions of mathematics and teaching need to be challenged and developed in ways that will support meaningful and lasting change (Knapp & Peterson, 1995; Prawat, 1992; Richar dson, 1990; Smith, 1996).

In light of the differences in the instructional methods prospective teachers will be expected to use in schools and those they likely experienced as students of mathematics, teacher education programs face significant challenges. They are faced with the task of creating opportunities for prospective teachers to critically consider important teaching and learning ideas so that more flexible conceptions of mathematics and teaching may develop.

Computer technology has significantly impacted teacher education programs in many colleges and universities. Hypermedia applications in particular have grown in popularity in recent years. Common uses of hypermedia in teacher education focus on having prospective teachers work in predesigned computer environments to explore and respond to various teaching events and issues (Daniel, 1996; Hatfield, 1996). In contrast, the program described in this article involves hypermedia creation by the prospective teachers themselves.

In the program, prospective teachers develop hypermedia stacks to communicate their understandings of important issues in mathematics, teaching, and learning. Initial hypermedia project creation occurs in small groups during a secondary mathematics methods course (and associated practice teaching). Later, during student teaching, interns construct portfolio-like hypermedia projects. Student-created hypermedia stacks include links to written documents (e.g., teaching philosophy, resume) and other hypertext components. The stacks also include quick-time movies from video-taped segments of interns' practice teaching. A more recent extension of activities has included the World Wide Web (WWW or Web). In fact, interns are now required to create electronic documents that can be placed on the Web. The reader is encouraged to notice ways in which this medium can easily be used to support student creation of hypermedia projects. …