In the spring of 2000 eighteen teacher educators, developers and researchers of primary school mathematics teacher education of ten European countries will discuss a prospective European co-operation for the development, implementation and research of a multimedia interactive learning environment for teacher education (MILE). The Dutch MILE-project will be presented and discussed and the possibilities of a European co-operation will be investigated.
MILE is a learning environment for future primary school teachers with content for primary mathematics teachers education programs (Dolk, et al., 1996). It is a computer based learning environment, consisting of a video database, communication tools for student teachers and their educators, and a search engine (Goffree & Oonk, 1998, 1999).
The video database is composed of a digital representation of mathematics lessons in primary education. This digital school contains at this moment 65 lessons in grades K, 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6. The topics of these lessons vary from early number sense and early addition and multiplication to percentage. In grade 2, for instance, twenty-three succeeding mathematics lessons are videotaped. Each lesson is divided into short fragments. These fragments can be considered as small narratives, each telling a story about teaching and the practical knowledge of teachers. Together the fragments follow the events of the entire lesson. Each narrative is accompanied with an abstract and with a number of labels. The labels, used to classify the narratives, are based on the educational, psychological, pedagogical, and subject matter pedagogical literature. The search engine allows the students to find certain fragments by the abstracts of the fragments or by the dialogue during that fragment.
In the learning environment student teachers can also investigate all the materials related to each of the lessons: the textbook series, the teachers manual, the planning and the reflection of the teacher as he or she documented it in his or her journal, a videotaped 'interview' with the teacher, a consultation of the teacher and a colleague and the students' workbooks and other written materials.
MILE furnishes an investigative representation of real classroom teaching. The environment allows student teachers, amongst others, to investigate interesting narratives within the digital school, to view and re-view these narratives, and to place the episode in the flow of the lessons. The prospective teachers are given the opportunity to study all facets of mathematics education in primary schools. They are not supposed to conduct their investigation solitary in MILE; they can map out a learning route through the learning environment in small groups or use Internet communication capabilities to share and discuss thoughts with others at other locations. The student teachers can use the search tool to find fragments that fulfil certain criteria and that might help them to further investigate their questions. So, they develop their own criteria based on their investigation to select fragments among the many hours of classroom video. The search tool allows them to use their own keywords and if possible provides them with synonyms used in the classification tool.
Student teachers will develop knowledge based on the practical knowledge of the MILE-teachers. They also develop mathematical and pedagogical content knowledge based on their analyses of the students mathematical work, the teachers activities and the knowledge construction of the children. So, MILE serves as an environment in which the student teachers can build a common understanding of their developing sense of the nature of both the learning of mathematics by students and of mathematics teaching by teachers.
In the Netherlands student teachers of thirty-four teacher education colleges now use MILE. The first experiences show that discourse among the student teachers about the practical knowledge they acquire in MILE is essential. Up to now this discourse is limited to fellow student teachers from the same college. A European MILE will bring about an extra dimension. Student teachers will discuss mathematics education with students from different countries with different educational systems, different cultures and different teacher education programs. We assume that the discussion will therefore also cover many elements of mathematics teaching the students now take for granted.
Next spring, the Freudenthal Institute will host the European Meeting, hopefully sponsored by the European Committee. At this meeting the possibilities will be discussed of the development of a national learning environment in each of the participating countries and the possibilities of the development of a European network for joint investigations by students and educators from the different European countries
At this moment three European Colleges for Teacher Education and the Freudenthal Institute work together in a Digital European Teacher Education Network (DETEN). The three colleges are connected to the University of Northumbria (United Kingdom), the University of Oulu (Finland) and the Hogeschool of Drenthe (The Netherlands). DETEN promotes the design of a digital European school, in the form a video database of lessons in classrooms, conversations with children, teachers, parents, school teams and experts, pictures of student work, textbooks, manuals, et cetera. Especially DETEN promotes the development of the English and Finnish contribution to the digital European school and an adaptation of the Dutch learning environment for use in the participating teacher education institutes.
Dolk, M. W. Faes, F. Goffree, H. Hermsen & W. Oonk (1996), "A Multimedia Interactive Learning Environment for (Future) Primary School Teachers with Content for Primary mathematics Teachers Education Programs." Utrecht: Freudenthal Institute.
Goffree, F & W. Oonk (1998), "A Digital Representation of Full Practice in Teacher Education. The MILE Project." In K. Krainer and F. Goffree (eds), On Research in Teacher Education. From a study of teaching practices to issues in teacher education. Osnabrück: Forschungsinstitut für Mathematikdidaktik, pp. 187-200.
Goffree, F. & W. Oonk (1999), "When real teaching practice can be (digitally) represented in Colleges of Education: The MILE project." Paper presented at 1999 International Conference on Mathematics Teacher Education in Taipei, Taiwan.
Maarten Dolk is coordinator of MILE
Freudenthal Institute, The Netherlands