Sunday, 25 May 2014

Creation not Consumption

This week I conducted an iPad bootcamp for students involved in our APE (ACADEMIC PROGRAM for ENRICHMENT) program. In the program, each student is provided with an iPad to assist them to be more self directed in their learning.
Throughout the bootcamp the students were shown how to navigate around the iPad using gestures and were introduced to a few apps.
My school is using GAFE (google apps for education), so the students were shown how to use google drive as a tool for managing work flow, for working in collaboration and for sharing their work with their teachers.
Some of the other apps that the students worked with were popplet lite, for the initial planning, explain everything, to create a simple video of their ideas and book creator for their final presentation.
My goal for these students is that they will become creators not consumers. I hope that they will use the iPad as a tool to create and share their knowledge and not just as a browsing tool to collect facts. These students have an invaluable opportunity to have access to a device that can be used to develop their talents further.
We have been looking at ways of conducting formative assessment lately. So, I decided to create a template in the "explain everything" app for the students to complete at the end of the bootcamp. It was a good opportunity for me to get feedback so I can improve future bootcamps and it was also an opportunity for the students to reflect on what they had done in the bootcamp.
This is the response of one of the students.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Get out of my Domain!

It is always a challenge for my students to understand the concept of domain and range of functions. With limited graphing experience at this stage, and without the use of calculus yet, this is quite a difficult thing for students to comprehend. In the last couple of years I have used GeoGebra to help when I am teaching this, I would project graphs of functions onto the board and discuss with my students the features of the graphs including the domain and range.
This year I have a class where every student has a laptop, so I decided to have the students enter the functions into GeoGebra to generate the graphs.
It is interesting the assumptions that we make about our students. I thought this would be an easy task for my students to complete. 
Well wasn't I surprised. Even though my students are what you would consider digital natives, I am starting to learn that they know what that know, which is usually games and social media, and not too much more when it comes to technology. Don't get me wrong, there are students who a brilliant when it comes to technology, but they don't represent the majority. 
I assumed that the students would be able to enter functions with powers and also with fractions. They were unaware that "^" was used to represent powers and "/" for fractions. 
So what started off being a lesson on domain and range, ended up being so much more than that.
I was glad with my decision to use GeoGebra in this way as it made me more aware of the capacities of my students. I think it was a worthwhile experience for my students also, who gained some technology skills while investigating the domain and range of some pretty cool functions. And to top things off, I've been able to talk a lot about asymptotes!

Friday, 2 May 2014

The Paddle Pop Effect

I have just attended a staff professional development day at my school a couple of days ago. We discussed formative assessment and different strategies that can be used in the classroom. One of the strategies, we looked at, which has been advocated by Dylan William for many years is "The hands up free classroom".
When you ask questions throughout your lesson, usually what happens is, the students raise their hands and you pick a student to answer it. Quite often it might be the same handful of students that contribute to most lessons. In the hands up free classroom, you have a paddle pop stick (or something similar) with the name of each student written on it. I wanted my students to feel part of this process, so I let them all decorate their own paddle pop sticks.
So now, when you ask a question, instead of the students raising their hands, they keep them down. Instead, you select a paddle pop stick, and whatever name is on the stick is the person who answers the question.
When I decided to try this strategy with one of my classes, I took the time to explain to them what we were doing and why. I have to admit there were some who had a look of horror on their face. They were worried that their stick would get pulled out and they wouldn't know the answer. I have only tried this strategy for a couple of lessons, and I can already see the benefits of it. According to Dylan William, students who answer questions in class are getting smarter, so I thought this strategy was worth a try. Don't get me wrong, this is not the answer to your classroom management issues. I still have had challenges with some students. But, I can already see an impact on some of my students. So, as a strategy, my lesson structure and content is still the same. My questioning techniques as a tool for formative assessment are still the same, it's just how I source my answers which has changed. So for very little effort or change on my behalf, I think I can make a big difference in the way some of my students experience their learning of Mathematics. I'll report back at the end of the term to update you on my progress.