What Constitutes Malpractice?

Two months ago I was in a meeting with a nationally recognized leader in math education when he said, “Any math teacher who does not use technology with students is committing malpractice.” Now, I have been a strong advocate for the use of technology tools in instruction since I started teaching in 1993. But, I had never made a statement as definitive as I had just heard. Since that meeting I have asked myself, do I agree with that statement?

As an advocate for the use of technology in instruction, obviously I strongly believe that students benefit from experiencing mathematics in a technology-enhanced dynamic environment rather than only the static one of books, paper, and pencil. But, I have never disparaged those who choose to employ the teaching methods used when I was a student. So, to determine whether I could make the same statement regarding malpractice, I needed to answer two questions for myself:

Are the expectations of our students so rigorous that it is unreasonable to expect all students to learn them using older methods?

Are the technology tools and curriculum now so robust and intuitive that they give students who employ them a great advantage over those who do not?

Fortunately, I work in an environment surrounded by discussions and analysis of standards, assessments, and educational technology. I looked around me and came to the conclusion that my answer is YES to both questions, with one caveat: Using an iPad or computer to look at pictures of pages from a textbook is not using technology; that is simply turning a $70 book into a $700 book.

Therefore, let me join my colleague in saying, Any math teacher who does not use technology with students is committing malpractice.

What are the repercussions of such a statement? They are far reaching. The days of a self-contained classroom when a teacher, a book, paper, and pencil were provided by the school and were thought to be sufficient for student learning are over. Students need access to the devices, tools, and curriculum anytime and anywhere they are going to do math (not just on the one day per month they are in the school’s computer lab). Teachers need to become adept at using new—and ever changing—tools and curriculum. Parents need to provide their children with the tools to succeed in school, and that means school supplies will be more costly than the current inventory of binders, paper, pencils, pens, and backpacks. To do any less is leave a child unprepared for the world that awaits them. To do any less is malpractice.

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