Closing The African American Student Achievement Gap Through Collaborative Technologies

By Roland Lucas

CUNY Graduate Center

Doctorate of philosophy

Interactive Technology and Pedagogy

May 15, 2010


Just as technological innovation increases exponentially, so too does its impact on society increase exponentially. There is a growing divide between the technological advances / demands in society and the ability of students in public schools, particularly African American students, to match those advances / demands. There is a real danger that African Americans and other minority groups will become a permanent underclass, unable to compete with respect to other groups, if the technical knowledge gaps continue to widen. There is an urgent need to put in place educational policy starting on the national level to close the technology knowledge gap faced by African Americans. It is a national problem requiring a national response. This inquiry explores how collaborative technologies backed by culturally sensitive pedagogy, can be used in public education systems to help close achievement gaps faced by African Americans in public education. If we can learn how to close the achievement gaps faced by African Americans, we would have learned how to close the achievement gaps faced by other groups in America. We would have learned also how to close the achievement gaps between America and other countries that have surpassed America in student achievement.

A Preliminary Research Investigation

This research investigates how online learning can be utilized in a two-pronged approach to address the said technology and knowledge gaps faced by African Americans. One prong is increased access to higher education programs via online learning. The other prong is enhanced pedagogy via collaborative technology tools, where exposure of knowledge, scaffolding, fading, and facilitation of higher ordered thinking span the environment. The handle of the two prongs is the online learning environment itself.

E-learning, as in fully or partially asynchronous online learning environments, has the potential of increasing the access and degree attainment for African Americans, who have been traditionally blocked from completing higher education in time frames comparable to other groups. Furthermore, the nature of online learning provides opportunities to deepen the quality of higher education by providing immediate access to multi-media rich learning environments. Intelligent search engines and other software such as artificial intelligence systems increasingly augment e-learning environments. These AI tools can dynamically feed the learning environment with highly relevant and timely information along with tools to enhance that information. This emerging sophistication in technology can serve to overcome possible learning difficulties and/or conditions that have defeated African Americans from higher education degree attainment.

Just like some institutions can be diploma mills producing degrees with little value, so too can online degree programs be of low quality. There has to me some criterion to filter out those institutions offering online programs that have little educational nutritional value. There has to be some mechanism for rating the quality of the higher education degree programs. Part of this ranking would include how the business community rates them in terms of preparing students for the work force. Another measure would come from feedback on alumni who will report on how successful they were in leveraging the online degree to get a job in their chosen discipline. Another measure is how graduate programs regard graduates of the online degree, and the rates in which they accept students with an online degree. This all speaks to the need to ensure that a sound pedagogy is incorporated into the roll out of online degree programs. Technology in and of its self is no panacea for the achievement gaps faced by minorities. Research in this topic will have to filter out institutions that deliver online learning with poor pedagogical backing.

Will an increase in enrollments of African Americans into online learning higher education programs contribute to an increase in their timely degree completion rates, and thus the closing of the knowledge and achievement gaps they face? Another measure would be to track the correlation between students who enter online higher education programs and the rates at which they attain employment in fields that require technological expertise. This can be compared to the correlation between those African Americans who are in traditional higher education programs that have minimal usage of online learning, and rates of their employments in the same fields. I would be sure to separate African Americans attending public colleges and universities from those attending private colleges and universities. My expectation is that the rates and timeliness of degree completion of African Americans across disciplines will increase nationally with the increase in their participation in online learning degree programs.

To show that there is no fall off in the quality of the online degree it is necessary to compare the rates at students who completed online higher education programs are accepted into graduate degree programs, in comparison to students who completed traditional bachelor degree programs and are accepted to comparable programs. My expectation is that as the online learning environments mature in their capacities, integration, support systems, and general acceptability as a legitimate means of delivering expert knowledge and quality education, that graduate programs will accept more and more students with bachelor degree credentials. This will positively affect the rates at which African Americans, who make aggressive use of this educational option, enter into graduate degree programs.

To add qualitative insight into this inquiry it would be necessary to create a survey for online learner degree completers. Some questions asked of them would be:

1)    Why they opted for an online degree program verses a traditional degree?

2)    What challenges did they face in adapting to this mode of instruction?

3)    How optimistic were they that the degree would pay off in landing them a job?

4)    What were their responsibilities beyond the degree program, (i.e. work, dependants, other)?

5)    How long did it take to find a job that utilizes the degree?

6)    How relevant do they see their degree to the job obtained after completing the degree?

7)    Would they recommend an online degree over a traditional degree to others?

A Need for Sloan & Allen Reporting by Ethnicity

The measures mentioned above would be a part of a longitudinal study similar to the Sloan & Allen longitudinal study of online learning. The Sloan & Allen national and state reports on online learning give the kind of trend analysis that I am interested in. A high level summary of the 2008 Sloan & Allen report shows that over 3.9 million students were taking at least one online course in 2007; a 12 percent increase over the number reported the previous year. The 12.9 percent growth rate for online enrollments far exceeds the 1.2 percent growth of the overall higher education student population. Over twenty percent of all U.S. higher education students were taking at least one online course in the fall of 2007. Online education is a major shaping factor in public education, and I am keenly interested in that impact it can and will have on achievement outcomes for African Americans. The Sloan and Allen trend reports are not broken down by race. I don’t know if this break down is feasible. It is well worth investigating. If it were available I would compare and contrast the growing usage of online learning of African Americans to that of other racial/ethnic groups to discover if there is an increasing national trend of African Americans usage of online learning as a means of obtaining a higher education degree.

It is increasingly the case that government and state expenditures in educational initiatives have to be justified by empirical data obtained through longitudinal studies. It is to be expected that this will be the case with initiatives, national and statewide, directed to improving the educational achievement of African Americans as a group and other groups who are on the depressed side of the digital divide. Without such hard evidence it is unlikely that the much needed sustained effort will be deployed to close this achievement gap that results in structural employment disparities between African Americans and other groups.

The CUNY Model

The CUNY study on its own “stopped out” problem[1] has shown that the academic difficulty was not the issue for these students; nor was it problems with CUNY specifically. What then? To do a global paraphrase of the students queried, life happened – the need to work full-time, to provide childcare, and so on. This is likely one problem that defeats African American students nationally. It was the view of CUNY administration that asynchronous online instruction can eliminate the scheduling difficulties that have defeated so many students. It can also, by virtue of its form of access, transform and heighten the nature of learning. CUNY recognized a chance to address a profound need for access with an enhanced form of learning tailored to the ever-changing modern world and workplace through an online degree. This vision can and must be extended to a national level.

CUNY decided on an online baccalaureate program for degree completers. It would speak directly to the matter of access, the heart of CUNY’s mission, with a clear recognition that online instruction was also a critical need for a local population for whom time, not distance, is the issue. Ultimately, these were not mutually exclusive choices. What a degree-completer’s program most needed was a traditional take on general education, one that would maximize the transferability of credits the student came with. But that could be capped with an innovative, interdisciplinary major, an interweaving of social sciences leavened with communication and communication theory. CUNY decided on a program with a strong liberal arts base but a genuinely unique interdisciplinary concentration, characterized by courses like Global Culture and Diversity, Analyzing Organizational Structure and Change, and Studies in Mass Communication. It focused on cultivating the thinking, communication, and research skills needed across a spectrum of job sectors and graduate programs today.

CUNY implemented an online degree program to ensure intensive student support including effective and consistent contact for applications, careful follow-through and prompt transfer credit evaluation, as well as ongoing advisement once students were admitted and enrolled. The CUNY online degree program had a 90% degree completion rate, the largest proportion were minority students. Just twenty students were suspended for poor academic performance. More than half declared the courses no more difficult than traditional college courses. Nearly three-quarters reported that their learning experience was richer than in classroom-based courses. The general sentiment from students is that paying the bills and pursuing that ever more necessary degree no longer needs to be mutually exclusive. [2] These results point to the possible success of wider state and national initiatives that promote online learning as a means for closing the African American achievement gaps in terms of completing higher education programs. This model can be extended to all levels of public education, starting at the primary school level, to promote academic success of all underachieving groups.

Implementing a Culturally Sensitive Online Learning Project for Public School Students in Urban Districts

The objective of bridging the gap between the technological haves and have-nots, particularly for students in urban schools, begins in primary school. What follows are detail operational methods for rolling out online collaborative learning spaces on the secondary school level. This project will avail students in urban schools to the latest in collaborative online learning technologies. The aim is to deliver collaborative instruction from a culturally sensitive pedagogical framework that considers the particular learning styles, strengths, weaknesses, interests, aspirations, and challenges of urban students. The focus is not on one technology tool per-say, but rather on an over all methodology aimed at enhancing education through the use of collaborative technologies, and through utilizing accumulated knowledge capital contributed by students and experts. This project is similar to the CUNY “Black Male Initiative” and the CUNY Online Baccalaureate programs in that the overarching goal is to close the achievement gap. However, the focus method here is on collaborative educational technologies. This project is not gender specific, and though it focuses on minority students, it is open to all urban students.

Pedagogical Approaches Supporting the Research Project

It is my understanding as an educator and an African American who has gone through the public education system in New York, that African American students in public education view themselves and are treated externally, as an “affinity group” that has a different set of challenges, consequently, a different set of immediate goals than other student groups. James Gee, in his book “What video games have to teach us about learning”, describes “semiotic domain” as “any set of practices that recruits one or more modalities (e.g., oral written language, images, equations, symbols, sounds, gestures, graphs, artifacts, etc.), to communicate distinctive types of meaning.”[3] I will extend the definition of semiotic domain to refer to the various disciplines taught in schools, though my focus is on the situation of African American students in the math, science and technology semiotic domains. For Gee an “affinity group” is simply any group associated with a particular “semiotic domain”. I will refer to the subset African American students situated in public schools and who generally struggle with math and science, as an affinity group that I am principally targeting in this discussion.

The legacy of institutionalized racism as manifested in the public education of African Americans specifically, and in society generally, has contributed to the formation of the African American student affinity group that is set apart from normalized groups. As I say this, a memory comes to mind of seeing all Blacks in the cafeteria at the college I attended, Westfield State College in Massachusetts, always sitting together. The college was 95% White and 2% Black. I will note here that every individual and group have unique measures of achievement. I see achievement as the acquisition of skills and knowledge necessary to be productive and self-sufficient not only for one’s self, but for the advancement of one’s group in the society, and the advancement of society as a whole.

It is worth investigating how the African American student located in economically depressed urban areas, sees it’s self in the context of the public education system. Though this inquiry is germane to the topic of this paper and touches on Gee’s “identity principle”, I will not venture to present a review of attitudes that shape the African American student self perception here. Rather I will focus on the issue of how this affinity group can utilize current technologies effectively to close the knowledge and achievement gaps they face. Tied to this, is the inquiry into practices that can promote the positive “projective identity” of weaker African American students in their study of math and science, which I will discuss.

Affinity Groups and Math Identity

Gee talks about how members of an affinity group can enter a semiotic domain with performance weakness, therefore needing a “psychosocial moratorium”, which he describes as “a learning space in which the learner can take risks where real-world consequences are lowered”. [4] Applying this concept to the subset of African American students that are weaker in math and science, teachers of these students must not only be sensitive to the academic weaknesses they bring to these classes, but effectively use methods that can mediate the complexities of problems that often defeat weaker students. This is where the use of technology in the classroom can be a vital asset. But first there needs to be an understanding that education in large part has to do with identity construction and the building up of self esteem or self efficacy. With African American students, who may have developed oppositional attitudes to public education due to their experience of various forms of racism in society, it is vital to address these attitudes in positive ways, starting with acknowledging the prevailing structures of racism experienced by students. The teacher must encourage the development of a constructive and engaged projective identity capable of transcending student conditioned responses to racism, and the structures of racism themselves in the students’ environment. Gee says, “Without such an identity commitment, no deep learning can occur. The student will not invest the time, effort, and committed engagement that active, critical learning requires.”[5] Once the student is on the path of developing a healthy projective identity, believing that he/she can learn the subject at hand, it is then vital to reinforce this identity formation by scaffolding methods. I will give an example of how I use technology in my advanced math classes to do just that.

Mathematics Identity Building In My High School Classes

In preparing my algebra 2 classes to take the New Jersey state standardized high school proficiency exam in mathematics, I make heavy use of graphing utilities, like a graphing calculator. Though I teach my students how to handle challenging questions about functions and their graphs analytically or “by hand”, I frequently reinforce the concept at hand by using the graphing utility. Sometimes I may even present the concept with the graphing tool first. The reasons are several and critical. My students tend to be more receptive to visual representations of a problem and its solution as opposed to simple text representations. In my view teachers should embrace multiple approaches to teaching students in need of remediation. Gee refers to this as the “multimodal principle”, where “meaning and knowledge are built up through various modalities (images, texts, symbols, interactions, abstract design, sound etc.), not just words.”[6] This is not to imply that African American students or any other group can’t master textual representations as well.

Since my students do tend to have weaknesses in analytical problem solving, the graphing utility scaffolds around those weaknesses, thus providing the immediate satisfaction of understanding and solving the problem at hand. We can then spend more time talking about the solution and its potential value or relevance to them, than not. Once they are aware of the solution and its possible value to them, it is then easier for me to “sell” to them the value of knowing how to handle the same problem analytically. They also trust that I will successfully guide them to the solution “by hand” as I did by the graphing tool.

Through scaffolding students are able to, for example, bypass having the adeptness of graphing functions “by hand” and analytically solving for unknowns, by simply entering the function definitions into a graphing utility and displaying the results. The various attributes of the function can be readily known by visual inspection (such as, critical points, local maxima/minima, asymptotes, tail end behavior, domain, range, undefined points, inflection points, roots, intersections with other functions to solve for an unknown etc.) with relative ease, compared to discovering them analytically. Shielding students from undue complexities affords them more time to engage in higher ordered thinking, and the thrill of solving more complex problems, thus boosting their sense of self efficacy. This speaks to Gee’s concept of “psychosocial moratorium”, where success is not dependent on managing all the complexities of a problem all at once.

The above approach exposes students to the sphere of higher ordered thinking as it relates to the math semiotic domain. Student weaknesses can then be addressed from a position of gleaning the big picture, increased engagement, self-confidence, and self-motivation, all translating into progressive achievement. Gee sums up the positive effects of applying good gaming principles to education when he says “they situate meaning in a multimodoal space through embodied experiences to solve problems and reflect on the intricacies of the design of imagined worlds and the design of both real and imagined social relationships and identities in the modern world.” [7] I take this to mean, as it relates to the unique learning needs of African American students in math and science, that we must empower them to be active doers of math in these creative learning spaces. I will add that for this to be accomplished, weaker students must engage in math that is relevant to the unique challenges they face in both the education realm, and the larger society. These learning spaces must actively prepare them to be critical thinkers and to solve the unique problems they experience. Throughout the process we must be consciously aware that education is certainly deeply involved with identity construction. With the above approach, I have witnessed increased student engagement and willingness to work through math problems.

Modeling and Feedback in Collaborative Learning Spaces

The NRC report “How We Learn” also offers critical insights into how the use of technology, backed by sound pedagogical principles, can enhance the learning of African American students and help close the knowledge and achievement gaps they face. One method it discusses is using technology as a modeling tool. Modeling problems visually through technology, in my experience has tremendous advantages for students with math weaknesses. There is a strong trend in modern societies of visually modeling or simulating a problem set using advanced technologies such as CAD (Computer Aided Design). It is popular in current gaming design and many fields, such as medicine, meteorology, architecture, film, and aviation to name just a few. There is no reason why this approach should not be taken full advantage of to aid students in tackling complexities in math and science in the classroom, particularly for those who struggle in these fields.

Another advantage that using technology to aid learning has is that it gives students and teachers more opportunities for feedback. Think of the power that we may currently take for granted of writing a paper electronically and submitting a draft for review to peers and a teacher who are sometimes a half a world away. The reviewer can offer critique by marking up the document electronically next to the original text, without changing the original. The student author can then accept or reject some or all of the changes. The student can explore what the results would be (see how it reads) if the changes were accepted. This also applies to the math and science models. Students can construct a model of a problem along with a possible solution set and submit it for review. A teacher can in the same sense as a text document, markup the model or otherwise point out to the student areas where the model may be enhanced for a better solution. Students can then explore the suggested solution path. This aspect of scaffolding is critical for students who are weaker in a given semiotic domain and who are struggling to navigate it. It also enables students to become more reflective and aware of successful strategies in navigating the semiotic domain. As stated in “How We Learn”, “technology creates opportunities to incorporate into curricula a meta-cognitive approach to instruction by using an inquiry cycle that helps students see where they are in the inquiry process.”[8] The end result is that students learn the processes of becoming adept at a particular semiotic domain. They develop self-efficacy as authors / designers who not only adequately function in the semiotic domain, but also advance the semiotic domain to wider frontiers though unique authoring / designing contributions. The sound pedagogical use of technology by teachers affords promising opportunities to mediate academic weaknesses in math and science that African American students tend to have in typical urban schools.


One other concept discussed in the “How We Learn” report that I will extend to address the learning needs of African American students is that current technologies can provide opportunities for these students to collaborate with peers, teachers, experts, and anyone associated with a particular semiotic domain of interest, via virtual learning spaces or what the NRC report refers to as “collaboratories”. In my experience, African American students already have adeptness in using collaborative technologies, such and cell-phones and Facebook on the web. The problem is that this collaboration tends to focus not on academic and collective socio-eco-political problems, but rather on non-academic, social circle concerns. Educators should leverage the familiarity of African American students with the later usage of technology and apply it to the more frequent usage for the former type to address the knowledge and achievement gaps they face.

The knowledge and achievement gaps in math and science faced by African American students have deep historical and macro causes. The digital and knowledge divide are macro/ national problems requiring macro/national solutions. The beauty of the Internet and collaborative technologies with respect to these problems is that it is designed to solve problems that are distributed over dispersed geographical domains as easily as problems that are locally situated. Furthermore, the technology can be used to roll-up or incorporate solutions of local problems, into models that treat the same problem from a macro or global perspective. The “How We Learn” report used the example of students collecting and analyzing local data related to global warming and then through collaborative technologies, uploading their local findings to a centralized global model of the phenomena for shared use. In the same way, African American students can roll-up their solutions to local problems into models that treat the same problem from a macro or global perspective, through the vehicle of collaborative learning spaces.

Requirements for Implementing an Online Learning Environment for Project

The following are details the requirements of the online collaborative learning environment.

  • Teacher can creates new content to augment any pre-existing content.
  • Student authors and mashes up content.
  • Organize teacher and student authored content in context of the lesson.
  • Allow for shared objects and models.
  • Allow for organization of authored Asynchronous content
  • Allow for synchronous dialog
  • Allow for controlled multi-user access to content
  • Handle wide array of multimedia objects
  • Ease of use
  • Scalability to Web 2.0 tools
  • Easy setup and access
  • Scalable cost
  • Capture student feedback
  • Allow for simultaneous or near simultaneous control and manipulation of objects within the context of a lesson.

These areas would be assessed in a given locality on a scale of: none existent, recently implemented, low, medium, and high). It would be important to give a locality periodic feedback on how well it is doing with regards to its implementation of a collaborative learning environment across the curricula. The promise of such feedback and subsequent advice would be a selling point to encourage a school to participate in this project initiative.

General Planning Considerations

Long range planning for this project entails analyzing the feasibility of getting it into public schools identified as “in need of improvement” under the NCLB act. There will be many hurdles to overcome in order to accomplish this goal. Furthermore:

1) The project will have to have the sound footing of research into the developmental needs and attitudes of urban students towards computer technologies, online learning spaces, and culturally sensitive pedagogy and instruction.

2) The low level of technology infrastructure and maintenance in schools that have primarily Black and Latino students may be a hindrance to implementation.

3) The lack of training of school personnel in computer technology and application usage must also be taken into account. This problem can be partially mitigated by making the collaborative spaces highly user friendly, moving much of the setup and operational requirements onto administrators on the server level and away from end users, and providing ongoing support and professional development to teachers who are part of the project.

4) Project leaders must stay abreast of project funding through each phase of implementation.

Project Piloting Considerations

Some important consideration in implementing a pilot program include:

1) Pick a school and grade level that already has a decent technology infrastructure along with educators and staff trained on how to utilize and maintain the technology infrastructure. I will continue with a pilot at my charter school.

2) Identify and settle on collaborative/shareware software applications that facilitate collaborative online learning.

3) Avail students of expert knowledge capital held by role models in a particular field, via the learning space.

4) Identify specific content areas and lesson objectives to pilot. These will be culturally sensitive lessons.

5) Focus initially on content areas where the achievement gap is high and where results can be measured in the timeframe of the project, such as math. Capture participant demographic information and feedback about attitudes and performance on lessons, using pre- and post-tests of attitude such as surveys, and performance in class.

6) Identify suitable shareware/collaborative applications in the targeted subject matter.

7) Have a control group to compare the groups using technology to those in classes not using technology.

8) Report any observations and results to the pedagogy and technology design teams, who would in turn to modify future releases of the project based on user feedback and progress. Once the pilot project has achieved its initial goals, it can be moved to the next phase of getting replicated to other sites, in which case, aggregate statistics would be gathered on the progress of the expanded project.

9) The ongoing progress and results of the project will be posted in educational journals and forwarded to communities in other urban areas such as New York City and Chicago, as well as educational policy makers at the local, state, and national level.

10) Consult with educational research institutions that support innovative projects such as this, in order to utilize burgeoning ideas from technology experts on collaborative online learning methodologies and pedagogy, particularly related to cognitive apprenticeship, to improve the quality and dynamic delivery of distance learning spaces and culturally sensitive content.

11) Explore how this project can be piloted under the umbrella of existing initiatives, like the CUNY Black Male initiative, which may be interested in incorporating the project and scaling it up.

Project Implementation Goals at CREATE Charter H.S.

This school year I have mixed the Moodle technology with the face-to-face instruction of my math courses at CREATE Charter H.S. My aim is to deliver online collaborative instruction, using methods discussed in the NRC report, and keeping in mind many of the approaches discussed by Gee. Moodle is an on-line course content management systems. I am investigating how to integrate this software into the math curricula in conjunction other technologies such as Geometer’s Sketchpad and Maple 12 and graphing calculators, MS Word and Excel, for the purpose of enhancing learning in algebra. My classroom has 10 new and networked computers and all of my students are registered on the Moodle.

Below are some definite immediate pedagogical goals I hope to achieve with the implementation of the Moodle technology in terms of the mathematics department at CREATE Charter H.S.  I hope to demonstrated that:

1)    By extending the traditional face-to-face learning environment through asynchronous and collaborative learning activities, as with the Moodle, student learning is enhanced.

2)    Through the extra time spent considering & learning topics through the Moodle outside normal classroom time, students gain a richer and deeper learning experience.

3)    The organized management of supplemental multi-media objects and models through the Moodle, can help students gain a greater grasp of the problem domain, as well as perceive novel ways of solving problems, thereby improve the quality of student work.

4)    That pervasive integration of Moodle technology into the curriculum facilitates a greater exposure of the students thought processes, and provides the student with greater opportunities for meta-cognition. The greater interaction of teacher-to-student, and student-to-student provides the student with critical feedback into their thought processes, which in turn enhances student higher ordered thinking.

5)    Utilizing this approach of enhancing the curriculum with Moodle students who have been traditionally weak in math, improve their overall class performance, and perhaps even standardized test scores (NJ HSPA).

Though my focus and emphasis in on my math students, I hope the benefits of infusing the Moodle technology in the school curricula will extend beyond my math department to all departments of the school, as well as to our middle school.  Furthermore, I hope that this implementation can serve as a model for other schools.

The NJ charter high school where I teach mathematics and where I am the math department coordinator has made a substantial commitment to using online learning products to enhance learning and achieve educational objectives. Moodle is a course content management system used there that facilitates collaborative learning among stakeholders. This current school year is the first time the school has utilized Moodle. The Moodle course content management system has been up and running in the school from the beginning of the current school year. The school has a license for 500 users, and currently there are nearly 200 users enrolled in the system. I have given an introductory professional development lesson for about 1 hour to the entire teaching staff, at the beginning of the school year. I gave individual instruction on using the software to teachers in the math department. I made it a point to incorporate the Moodle technology into each of my classes, algebra 2 and college algebra prep. The other math teachers have not made regular use of the Moodle despite my encouragement thus far.

Actual Implementation

The actual implementation of Moodle was on a smaller scale than I had hoped for during the beginning of the school year. The plan was for all teachers to experiment with Moodle, and certainly for all math teachers to make heavy use of it. Since I am head of the math department at my school I figured I would be able to get the math teachers to buy in fully. I was not able to do so for three main reasons. One, my classroom was the only one in which computers were installed (10 computers). The other math teachers had access to a media lab but would have had to contend with all the other teachers for time slots. The teachers only used my room once or twice, only after I put lots of pressure on them to use technology beyond a graphing calculator with their lessons. So, one other reason is that the math teachers did not share my enthusiasm for incorporating technology in the classroom. The last reason is that the overall organization and stability of the school was low. The school was under great pressure to improve its processes because it was in its 3rd year of being classified by the state as a school in need of improvement, and its charter was up for renewal. The director of the school had a lot of new processes put in place in attempts to save the school from closing. In this climate it was nearly impossible to add the Moodle technology on top of the many other things teachers had to adjust to. This explains the reduced scale of using Moodle in the school.

Moodle was used regularly throughout my 3 sections Algebra 2 and one section of a senior Algebra math classes. This accounts for approximately 50 students. Moodle was used more actively with the Algebra 2 students than with the senior class. Each student has a portfolio in Moodle to store and share electronic files. Several projects were given throughout the school year that typically generated MS Word, Power Points, Excel and Geometer’s sketchpad files. These files were then shared into a common shared folder. Moodle was also used as a site for students to access teacher files, other online resources, and for students to submit math journal writings in forums. The survey that students submitted on Moodle itself was created and administered in Moodle. It must be noted that the school’s charter was not renewed and that the students took the survey during a time of duress for the entire school, and overall unsettlement of students. Students overall are less motivated during this time of year, and news of the school’s closing only adds to the lack of motivation at the time of the survey.

Student Self Reflection and Self Measures of Math Achievement: Towards Math Identity development.

Everyone one will have his or her own definitions and measures for academic achievement. Researchers will bring their own theoretical frames of reference for analyzing student achievement on the individual, school, district, state and national levels. These frames will determine what will count as achievement and what will not. Furthermore one’s frame of reference will impact how to interpret the results of counting, as well as what can promote achievement. This naturally implies that researchers addressing the same environment of student learning can produce considerably different analyses of the environment in terms of student achievement. Researchers who are willing to step out of one viewing lens turned towards a learning environment and give a full “viewing” of the environment from another, or multiple frames of reference, can gain a greater understanding of the environment, and hopefully a better understanding of the solutions to low student achievement, relative to commonly accepted goals. This multiple viewing has been referred to as a Bricolage by CUNY professor, Ken Tobin.

I think its important for researchers to consider the vantage point of the students themselves, hear their stories about struggles for achievement; hear student’s assessments of whether or not they see themselves as making progress based their own measures of achievement. This perspective can add rich insights to student performance and means of helping them reach their learning goals.

Student As Teachers, As Doers of Mathematics, As Mathematicians

The following describes a unit project that I am currently implementing in my algebra 2 classes, and that addresses the development of the projective identities of my students as practitioners of mathematics. Technology is used throughout to facilitate the project. I will call it “Students As Teachers”. The project was for students to pair up in teams of two and select sections of the textbook that we had purposely skipped over during our preparations for the state standardized test. The students were required to learn the concepts independently and then seek my help with areas they did not understand. They were to create, “big ideas” statements, identify essential questions to explore, develop lesson plans, assessments, class work, and real life word problems that were changed to relate to their community. They were instructed to incorporate technology into the instruction. The technologies used includes: MS Word documents, PowerPoint presentations, Geometer’s Sketchpad sketches, MS Excel spreadsheets, graphing calculators, and a smart board. All these components were to be stored in electronic format on the class Moodle, a course content management system. This preparation took about two weeks. After that time student teams would teach the lesson. I served as a coach on the side. Student teams had two days to deliver the lesson. My initial findings are that students are highly engaged in the doing of mathematics. The have ample opportunity to work on their self esteem, identity as mathematics practitioners, and that they welcome opportunities to use technology, not only to develop their lessons and understanding of the content, but to help others to verify “by hand” solutions with technology solutions. It is my expectation that in the long run, these students will develop a healthy level of self-efficacy and identity construction as math practitioners, resulting in their higher achievement.

What follows is my interpretation of some stories written by my Algebra 2 students about their experiences of math from 8th grade to their current junior year. I asked each student to provide their stories as an opportunity to reflection on their progress. These and other reflective writings by the students were either written in a forum on the Moodle or written in MS word and deposited in student’s individual portfolios on the Moodle and made visible to the public. I will present some stories unedited and anonymously, then follow it with my interpretation of what the student is saying in terms of their progress towards math achievement. As I go along I will also give mention to my value judgments in terms of what counts as progress and achievement.

(Note these student writings are unedited)

Student 1 story:

“My experience with math since my eight grade year has been easy. I was always good in math ever since I learn 1+1=2. Math is very easy all you have to do is listen first. Most of the math problems have a formula to go with it. Like lil Wayne said in one of his songs, just give me the formula and I’ll work the method. It’s very simple. I was grateful enough to have good teachers since freshmen year, well at least in my math classes. They say that create is a bad school but I learn a lot since I came to this school. My skills in math are up there with my skills in call of duty. I’m beast.” As I read these stories, I am first looking for clues to how the student perceived him or herself as a capable and proficient student going back to the year prior to high school. I like to then see if the student senses either a growing capability or proficiency throughout high school. Since I am teaching them in their junior year, I would like to know if they feel they are progressing under my instruction. “

Interpretation of student 1 story:

Student 1 indicated that math was easy for him prior to high school. He expressed a positive sense that his math capability and proficiency has continued to growth throughout all of his years in high school. This student expresses a current positive attitude as a junior in the last two sentences. He ends with “I’m beast”. I don’t know what this means. Is it a spelling error? Did he mean, “I’m a beast”, meaning strong, powerful, capable? It does not totally matter, because I sense that it does mean something very positive expressing a positive math capability, and identity.

Student 2 story:

“Math and Me so far, a story from my 8th grade year to now.

Well to start off math and me mortal enemies. Well when I was younger. My 8th grade year I didn’t fare so well in algebra. To me I only saw another class of torture that I never understand. Not only that I’ve had more bad experiences with math even before.

Now look where I’m. I would like to see the looks on my teacher’s faces now.

The only reason I think I didn’t understand math so much was the fact that my teachers only pushed on and not explaining the material so I could understand. It was mostly “lets see how fast we can go through a lesson without stopping.” So that was one of the reasons math always casted a malevolent shadow over me. Now I’m beginning to love math because I can understand the material and be able to teach it to some one else.

Freshmen year in high school was a little bit of a better experience with algebra because what I learned I applied in my science class and that helped a lot but there were times where I did not understand what was happening. But either way I persisted and used the work books and the book and went over the lesson again at home to get a better understanding. The only way I passed with a “C” in algebra 1 was because of the tests and assessments that were given because they were all hands down not what I was taught.

The year I had the worst experience with math was geometry in my sophomore year.

Why geometry well lets just say my teacher taught the same way as my teachers in the 8th grade and grades before that. “Let’s see how fast we can get through the lesson.”

Well for now I think I can overcome math because now I have a better understanding of what it is and how I can apply it to the real world. And even be able to explain it to some one else. Because one of my teachers always say “If you can teach the lesson to someone else then you understand the lesson and wont have a problem on the test.”

Interpretation of student 2:

This student immediately expresses a negative attitude and capability of doing math prior to the eighth grade. He apparently attributes much of that to his previous teachers lack of teaching skills. He says, “Now look where I’m. I would like to see the looks on my teacher’s faces now.” This student quickly asserts that he has gained through his high school years a positive math capability and proficiency level, along with a positive math identity. He measures his capabilities by asking does he understand the concepts and can he teach others. Student 2 expresses that he persisted with algebra 1, and had modest success in terms of understanding and tests. He expressed a negative experience with the sophomore year geometry, again due to having a poor teacher. He expresses a more positive attitude and capability as a junior as measured by his ability to explain concepts to others.

This student’s emphasis on demonstrating understanding by his ability to teach others, strikes at the heart of my measures of achievement. It speaks to the development of this student’s positive identity as a doer of mathematics. Also he associates this doing with a capacity to apply concepts to “real-life” problems, or transfer. This expresses a higher ordered learning according to Blooms taxonomy. This student not only expresses a strong positive present capability of doing math, but suggests that “I think I can overcome math”, which for me has longer-term connotations of being a math mathematician, capable of handling ongoing challenges in math.

Student 3 story:


8th Grade – Present

In 8th grade math was challenging for me. When my 7th grade teacher told me that I was going to an honors math class in 8th grade I was nervous and kind of miserable. I know an average student would be proud of being in an honors class but I wasn’t because all I was thinking about was if I would pass that class and me not being smart enough. While I was in that class my math teacher would give us challenging work and extra homework. Some of my friends left that class because of the hard work. I really wanted to get out of that class because of that but one of the teacher’s aid was talking about since I’m in this class it would help me get ready for high school. I changed my mind and decided to stay there. At the end of the school year I pass the class even though I wasn’t (and still not) good at tests.

When I started my freshmen year some of the Algebra 1 work was easy for me. During that year I felt blessed that I took the 8th grade honors class because it really did help me get ready for high school. My freshman teacher was very kind and also helpful. She was like one of teachers that cared about the students’ education. Sophomore year was rough since my class didn’t really have a teacher. I’m still kind of iffy about Geometry. Close to the end of the sophomore school year we had a new teacher that taught us some things about geometry.

Junior year was normal because I started off with a regular class. There was one problem that I went through being in that class. It was a day when the class had to do a real world word problem. I and my partner messed up one a part of the question and we had to start it over again. I was pissed off because the problem we did was too much work and I wanted to give up. It was kind of funny because my mom AND dad talk to the teacher and he just told them that I should do challenging work because I understand the other work our class was doing. After that it encouraged me to not give up and it’s ok to be challenged because that’s how a person moves on with life by being challenge by something.“

Interpretation of student 4:

Student 4 expresses that she had a positive capability and proficiency level with math prior to high school. She was placed in an honors class, and even though it was extra challenging, she persisted and did well. She came in high school with a positive disposition towards math, which was reinforced by her having a teacher that she says cared about the students. In contrast, her sophomore year was not a positive experience all in all, and she attributes that to a poor teacher. A replacement teacher made things better, but it was something of too little too late. Student 4 seems to identify her junior year as a more stable year. She identified a rough patch where at first she and a partner did not successfully work out a real-life word problem. I recall that she was upset because I gave them the hardest problem, and thought it was not fair. During the progress report night I met with her parents who told me she was upset about it. She explains in her story that it came down to her accepting challenges. She seemed to go along with that, seeing that “that’s how a person moves on with life by being challenge by something.” I see this as a positive result. This person will be more apt to persist though difficulties in math, seeing that challenges are opportunities to grow and overcome, rather than obstructions can defeat her. This is an attitude that anyone must have if they are to move from a novice level to proficiency and mastery in any field.

In an effort to develop the identity of my students as doers of math, mathematicians, I have given them the project of being student teachers of the class. They had to teach a topic in the curriculum. The below is student 4’s perception of this project, though she has not taught yet, Three other students did already teach as of her writing .

Student 3 on being a student teacher:

“                                    Student-Teacher

I think learning about being a student teacher will help us in college. In college I heard that you have to do public speaking and debating. So doing the student teacher project is good for us juniors. So far the students who were teaching us were ok. I knew that some of them were nervous to do that. Thinking about teaching the class is getting me nervous. One thing that was good about the teaching is that we learn something. One thing that was bad is that some of them weren’t organized. Other than that it was good. Watching the students teaching help me understand what I should do and what I shouldn’t do while teaching. It also encouraged me because if they can do it, I could do it.

Preparing to be a student teacher was stressful. It was stressful because you have to do a lot of work. For example you have to understand the lesson you will teach (the hard part for me). Another thing is that you have to think about if a student would understand the part of a lesson. You have to make assessments, class work, lesson plan, big idea, etc. So if being a student teacher is hard work then being a teacher is more hard work. Our math teacher told us that some students in the class would end up being a teacher. Well I hope I’m not one of them because being a teacher is hard. When teaching a class you have to grab the students’ attention. So when it comes to problems you have to make an interesting problem that will make the student want to learn.”

Interpretation of student 3 on student teaching:

Though this student expressed that she would not want to be a teacher because of the hard work it involves, I have a feeling that she would welcome that challenge too as she matures in her identity as a doer of math. She already identifies some key elements to being successful as a teacher: “When teaching a class you have to grab the students’ attention. So when it comes to problems you have to make an interesting problem that will make the student want to learn.” She identifies “grabbing” the student’s interests as a key factor, or relevancy.

Response by a student 2 on student teaching:

“Teacher project.

Well this project has helped me to understand the lesson and better apply math to the real world. My teacher used to say “if you can teach the lesson to some one else then you understand the lesson” that’s how this project will help me to better understand and apply the lesson to the real world. It also helps me to become a better public speaker and to voice my opinion, because I’m short of those skills.

I’ve had bad experiences with math and I want to break that barrier that is blocking my path and that is how this project is going to help me achieve that goal.”

Interpretation of student 2 on student teaching:

It is evident that this student has identified barriers to his self-perceived progress in being the doer of math that he thinks he can be. He identifies that this project affords opportunities for explaining math to others, the opportunities for public speaking, and asserting his opinions, as factors that will help him break through barriers to his progress. Is he not giving us valuable information about how to promote student achievement? I think so.

Listening to some of these stories have allowed me to be reflective on what teaching practices can promote the positive skills, attitudes, and identity of students as mathematicians. It also has as forced me to expand my theoretical frame of reference to appreciate the views of students themselves in determining what will count as student achievement. Ethnographic studies that make use of student views on their own achievement can be an integral part of a larger bricolage approach that appreciates polysemia or multiple viewings, on the issue of student achievement in urban schools. Moodle severed as an important vehicle to expose student meta-cognitive reflection of their math experiences. It helped to expose their approach to and ongoing development in math, to interested stakeholders. This is one of the benefits to collaborative technologies mention in the NRC report. This vital tool was used with a definite pedagogical aim to develop student identity and confidence as doers of mathematics. This is what Gee would all their projective identity.

Moodle Survey and results

Ten questions were asked of my students during class time to get feedback on their experience of using Moodle. Of my 50 or so students, I’ve been able to get 25 to respond to the survey. I anticipate that another 10 or 15 will respond in the near future. Students were asked to respond to questions 1 through 9 on a liker scale of 1 to 7 where 1 was a lower valuation, 4 was neutral, and 7 was a high valuation. My thinking was that this kind of scale would allow for students to express a negative valuation (anything lower than 4) along with a positive one (anything greater than 4). Question 10 was an essay type question, and students were asked to be as detailed as they can with this question.

The following were the questions asked of the students and the average of responses submitted:

  1. How often have you used the Moodle as per the teacher’s encouragement? – 4.0
  1. How easy Moodle is to use? – 5.4
  1. 3. Moodle is important for improving your math course work. – 3.6
  1. Has using the Moodle has helped to improve your overall understanding of math? – 3.1
  1. 5. Moodle helped you prepare for your assessments in some important way. – 3.8
  1. Using Moodle can fulfill an important educational need for me. – 3.6
  1. Using Moodle can provide learning experiences beyond what the same course can provide without Moodle. – 3.6
  1. Moodle has allowed me to build important relationships collaborative with others. – 3.4
  1. I would recommend my future teachers to use Moodle along with the course. – 4.2

10.  Please provide any feedback you may have regarding your experience of using Moodle with your math class.

Interpretation of Survey Results

Of all the questions from 1 through 9, only 1,2 and 9 received an average score above 4 (neutral). I expected higher results than that, primarily because I thought students would more highly value integrating technology such as Moodle into the curriculum, in comparison to a regular approach. Question 7 was intended to get at this higher valuation, but apparently most of these students did not see it that way. The majority of students responded however, that they would recommend using Moodle in future classes. This tells me that they have an overall positive valuation of the tool, even though the specific questions do not reveal why.

Not willing to let it go at that I thought I would select out my honors section and compare their responses to the other two sections as I think they would somehow appreciate this technology infusion approach more, and perhaps are more ready to take advantage of its benefits, even while going through the unstable condition of the school.

Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Q5 Q6 Q7 Q8 Q9
5 7 7 6 7 5 5 4 6
5 7 3 2 4 2 4 1 4
5 7 2 1 4 4 3 1 7
4 7 5 3 2 5 3 3 6
6 7 5 5 5 5 4 6 5
3 7 5 3 5 4 3 4 4
3 6 4 3 6 3 4 2 5
2 5 3 3 5 3 2 6 2
Average 4.1 6.6 4.3 3.3 4.8 3.9 3.5 3.4 4.9

The above result set from the honor students who responded shows that for most questions (5 of 9) these students had a positive valuation of using Moodle in the course. For most questions their scores are the same as that of the entire set of respondents, with the exception of question 9. Honors students gave question 9 the second highest score of 4.9. This exceeds the average score of 4.2 for question 9, counting the entire set of respondents. Why honor students would generally give a higher score for question 9 than the total set of respondents is open for interpretation. I think it’s that they tend to see the positive possibilities more clearly than other students who perhaps have an overall pessimistic attitude towards math.

Responses to Question 10

The following are all responses given to question 10 (No editing was done to the responses):

1)    I think that using the moodle is a new and good experience for everyone. it is an easier way to share your work with others and look at others people work.

2)    Moodle is a very good excerise for students. It helps students have a better understandin on their math skills. Also, it helps them prepare for any big project or assessment.

3)    Moodle is very good with combinding technology in the lesson.

4)    My experience with usinging the moodle was fairly good. The moddle came in handy when we were doing a class project and had to show it to the the class, or when we had to hand work in. The moodle was only helpful with projects in my opinion.

5)    The moodle is an good way of how to bring new- age technology into education. That will bring students more invovled into the lesson, because it will remind them of the blogs, and personal websites such as, facbook, myspace, and twitter.

Then also on the other-hand the moodle is somewhat a waste of time, because we really dont do anything on here. The main things we do is put our projects on here, answer some word problems, and also answer irrelevant surveys. Even though, moodle has been like this for a while, there’s still hope for change. Some suggestions could be; maybe there can be actual lessons and math sections on the here, maybe even homework and instead of us handing in on paper, we’ll send it through a message. Since we’re in the years of technology, lets bring educations from out of the books into computer files and desktops. I think that moodle will grow if we all just add some of the suggestions we have and combine them as one.

6)    The moodle is very helpful and can be very resourceful. My personal is experience with the moodle is very descent. I dont use it that much but when i do it tends to work out to my advantage.

7)    Using Moodle is not hard, but to me it’s just not necessary. I do not see the point in the Moodle, because if I wanted to see or know what other people are doing or what they posted I would log into myspace and/or facebook.I do not think a lot of people use Moodle, if they do it is only because they are beign forced by their teachers. To me that is the only time people use Moodle, it is not important to them in their everyday life.

8)    Moodle is a very good way of learning in future courses and also a important technic for teachers to manage to help there students. With moodle students can explore more and make math a bit more fun (an element thats missin in math). Specialy for some students for me in particularly, i don’t realy like math that much so its harder for me, but with moodle i can plan my projects and other thing that incorporate real world problems.

The only worng thing that i see about moodle is that it is to formal. Moodle needs to grabe more attention. Lets think about it we are teens we dont like think to straight and formal. It also needs more of the action happening on it thing that make student come to moodle, it could be home work, game, music, anything that atracts but educational at the same time.

9)    can i finish reading plus

10) i hate this … it is very boring kno that

11) i like moodle .i prefer to use moodle then to do work out the book .soo my input would be to use moodle more often…..

12) I like the moodle, expecially if i want to ask for help from others online. it is a good way to discuss our work we have done in our algebra/sra classes. i like it..good job in choosing this….!!


14) I think moodle and very fun and interesting. Its allows you to do alot of things, like share your projects with other students and teachers. While your working on your assignment moodle allows you to chat with people thats on moodle at the time. It also has every subject which is good because everyone can use it.

15) i think moodle is a good thing for people. it helps people a lot in many ways. it helps with math and reading… i only used for math and it was cool. it help me a lot.

16) i was forced to use this program because the school requires this

17) It helped out when we were practicing open ended problems for the HSPA.

18) moodle allows you to do alot of things. they’re many things to do you can chat with your friends while you complete your work.

19) moodle has a 50-50 chance of being useful to students. So it might work for some and not for others

20) moodle is an easier way of doing work, but there are like alot of steps to get to where you want. You have to click alot of places to get to somewhere. over all, you can post forums, talk to friends, and have discussion. It is nice, but i wouldnt use it as a site to go as my own free time. I don\’t know, maybe something is missing it. it is a good school site, and it is very supportive as a site.

21) Moodle is an ok site to be on it help me sometimes on math but i already know math good do i really dont need help .

22) moodle is just to post things not to do work on it

23) moodle is used but not much in math

24) Though i sometimes felt that this whole “moodle thing” is being forced on the students, i ultamatly realised that this might come in handy for hammering in certain points in math.

25) using moodle has been a great experience. I found it easy to use.

Interpretation of Question 10

If I were to try to focus in on any of these responses, I would immediately bring into play my own value system by selecting certain responses to this question and not selecting others. I don’t necessarily want to comment on each response given. Yet, I want to summarize the overall responses and come away with an assessment as to whether or not using Moodle was beneficial to helping my students improve their understanding and performance in math. I want to use the student’s freestyle responses to gain a qualitative sense of their answer to this question. It therefore seems reasonable for me to classify the responses in the following terms to obtain a summary: Positive w/ Strong Reasons; Positive w/ Weak Reasons; Negative w/ Strong Reasons; Negative w/ Weak Reasons. Just as I was about to do this interpretation I thought I would not only be bringing my value system into play by deciding which category responses fall into, but that I would also lose the quality of the students’ description by this reductionism. I therefore decided to take a different approach to interpretation. I will acknowledge the engagement of my own value judgment upfront by selecting from the responses things that I think are indicative that Moodle was a helpful tool for them. I will also pull out things that I think the students are saying that need to be addressed in its future use.

Student #1 said “it is an easier way to share your work with others and look at others people work”. This is a major goal of Moodle. That is, to manage, share and multiply knowledge capital with great efficiency. Student 5 expresses that the use of Moodle was limited in the class. This student identifies other capabilities of Moodle and gives the suggestion that they be explored. I agree. This students suggests

“maybe there can be actual lessons and math sections on the here, maybe even homework and instead of us handing in on paper, we’ll send it through a message. Since we’re in the years of technology, lets bring educations from out of the books into computer files and desktops. I think that moodle will grow if we all just add some of the suggestions we have and combine them as one.”

Though student 7 expresses that Moodle is a waste of time, this student expresses what his or her measure is. It should be relevant to their everyday life. Moodle is a content management system and can be accessed from any web browser. It is up to the teacher to increase the relevancy of the content on Moodle to the student’s everyday life.

Student #8 I think expounds on the sentiment of student #7. She said that Moodle could make math learning a bit more fun, “an element thats missin in math”, and helps with organizing information as in projects. Hopefully those projects are relevant to the student’s interests. The teacher has the responsibility to make it so. She goes further to say, (with poor spelling – English is her second language)

“The only worng thing that i see about moodle is that it is to formal. Moodle needs to grabe more attention. Lets think about it we are teens we dont like think to straight and formal. It also needs more of the action happening on it thing that make student come to moodle, it could be home work, game, music, anything that atracts but educational at the same time.”

Project Summary

These responses speak directly to a major point that Gee makes, which is that learning has to be fun, engaging, interesting and yet provoking the development of skill sets and identity formation of the student. These are major objectives of video games design. I think that most of the negative responses would change if these things were accomplished. Needless to say that the content has to address the learning objectives of the given course while at the same time make math fun. So developing positive student engagement and attitudes towards math will likely translate into higher student understanding and achievement. Tools such as Moodle can only facilitate this effort. It is up to the teacher and school administrator to back the deployment of this tool with sound pedagogy that keys into student motivation, learning styles, and educational goals.

Maintaining and Extending the Project

The central core of the project is fidelity to delivery of expert knowledge to African American students in ways that are sensitive the learning styles, needs, aspirations, and standards of African Americans. This will be done by polling African American parents, students, and educators on what they believe African American students should learn in these collaborative distance learning spaces, and how content should be delivered. Also central to the success of the project is that educators with a critical theory behind their pedagogical methods are involved in the design, implementation, and ongoing evolution of the project. The project will no doubt be buffeted by racist elements in the society, but contingencies for this will be put on the table upfront with the foresight that a CRT perspective provides.

It will be important that the project is flexible/adaptable to the changing technologies, changing self-definitions of the African American community, and changing relations with other communities. It will be important to learn from models of what is doable from educational sectors that are less constrained by the negative effects of institutionalized racism (i.e. private Black schools on all levels). This project will likely take root and flourish faster in more or less independent private Black institutions than in public urban schools. However, it is important that the average African American student is taught how to work in collaborative technology enhanced spaces to remain competitive in a society that determines winners and losers increasingly by the levels to which one can manage and exploit advances in technology.

This project should be placed in the larger context of being a model for cross-cultural exchange. It should also have as a major objective to survive and neutralize as much as possible racism locally, nationally, and internationally. As the project expands to larger arenas, it will be vital that it is governed by people with wider perspectives of global education and global obstructions to the educational advancement of underprivileged groups. Finally it will be important to extend this model for bridging the technology gap between haves and have-nots to all traditionally oppressed groups, not only within America but also in any locality. This can certainly be a model for any group. Perhaps the availability of such a model, and its implementation across disparate groups will be a meaningful vehicle for breaking down barriers across cultures. Perhaps if African Americans can bridge the technological learning gap between Blacks and Whites, we will also be able to bridge economic and social gaps as well. If we can close the achievement gap faced by lower achieving groups, we would have learned valuable praxis for closing the achievement gap between America and other countries that have surpassed America in student achievement.



John D. Bransford, Ann L. Brown, and Rodney R. Cocking, Editors. How People Learn. Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education, Chapter 9. Washington, D.C.: NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS, 2007.

Otte, George. “Online Instruction as Local Education: CUNY’s Online Baccalaureate,” JALN Volume 11, Number 1, 2007, pp. 9-14


The address for the CREATE Charter H.S. Moodle site is:

User Name: RolandLucas

Password:   Papuso01

To see a math student forum in the Moodle go to:

To see a math student Moodle Survey go to:

To see all math student shared electronic files go to:

[1] (Otte 2007)

[2] (Otte 2007, 9-14)

[3] (Gee 2007, 19)

[4] (Gee 2007, 59)

[5] (Gee 2007, 55)

[6] (Gee 2007,222)

[7] (Gee 2007, 40)

[8] (How We Learn, 2007 205)


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