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Book description

The internet has dramatically transformed social space and time for many people in many different contexts. This dramatic warping of the social fabric has happened slowly over time as digital technologies have evolved and internet speeds have increased. While we are all aware of these changes, the impact is often little understood. There are few monographs about social groups made possible by the internet, and even fewer about educational communities made possible through digital technologies. Inside details the ways that digital media are used to enhance the practices that teachers and students of mathematics engage in. The book also shows how different kinds of mathematical conversations and interactions become possible through the digital media. Unlike many other educational uses of digital media, the Math Forum's community has provided online resources and sustained support for teachers and students, and it leads the way in showing the power of digital media for education.


'This case study of The Math Forum highlights the contributions to mathematics education made by this online math resource center, making clear the essential components of the technology, invisible elements of the social structure its design invites and supports, and the cultural elements (e.g., values, ethos) that affected its original design and that have sustained its life over two decades. Shumar’s analysis suggests lessons about building and sustaining communities of practice that have implications for teacher learning, online education more generally, and design of a wide range of other spaces for transformation.'

Janet L. Kolodner - Chief Learning Scientist, Concord Consortium

'One of the pleasures of reading Shumar’s ethnography, Inside, is the care he takes in portraying how larger neoliberal structures, digital technologies, and the affordances of the Math forum community unfold over the long term, almost twenty years. This portrait shows different strategic moments in the existence of the Math Forum whose creative staff and online participants facilitate the emergence of community spaces both in spite of and because of the increasing commodification of the university. Rather than situate himself against some literature, his more intellectually generous approach is to use that literature to generate a sense of a broad interdisciplinary field where both structure, agency, and indeterminacy allow us to understand the potential for learning and pitfalls for organization faced by the Math Forum. Brilliant ideas and exegesis emerge on every page.'

Jonathan Church - Arcadia University, Pennsylvania

'Many years before Khan Academy, a distributed network of math educators were conducting Problems of the Week and inspiring learners. In my online learning communities courses, I've always enjoyed teaching with Wes Shumar's ethnographic research writings on the pioneering Math Forum. This book now provides the ultimate resource on this seminal effort for spawning and sustaining community discourse about mathematics.'

Roy Pea - Stanford University, California

'Shumar (Drexel Univ.) presents a well-researched analysis of the political and cultural impacts to and the contributions of, as well as the broader scope of the internet in education. An ethnography in method and style, the book is organized in concise, yet dense, sections, offering a discussion that spans ethnography to neoliberalism. The inclusion of figures from the Forum, including the grading rubric and mentoring example, assist in transforming the community from an abstract idea to a tangible place of learning.'

C. R. Hebert Source: Choice

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