Julie Young, math teacher at Arbor Hills, advises her students to “use your words.” The joke tells the truth of the project her eighth grade Math II students are beginning today. Instead of them crunching numbers with pencil and paper as usual, these students are about to explore how words and images can be used to express their understanding of math concepts. That may sound like a traditional math reflection, and at its heart, it is. But today, Julie is about to inject the typical math reflection assignment with a dose of digital through MoveNote and Google Slides.
Before class, students have completed a short worksheet on finding the slope of a line using equations. Now, Julie asks them to take that traditional math work and create a recorded presentation exploring the process of finding the slope. In a sense, students are creating short lessons. In fact, as they begin to design their slide presentations for the project, they look just like teachers designing a lesson. The slide presentations will be joined to a video recording of the students delivering the material through MoveNote. The final product will be a recording that places the students in positions of expertise on the math concept at hand.
Julie has partnered the students for this project, and on this day, they workshop the worksheet and presentation file, and some practice their delivery. Some will even get to the recording, but most partnerships spend the period in this pre-recording development.
And that development is rife with experimentation and discovery. After Julie challenges the students to include graphs in their presentations, some play with Google Drawing, fashioning their own graphs to accompany equations. Others find the graphs through Google Images. They discover that if you enter the equation as the search query in an Image search, the graph of the line will appear. Many use that trick to find graphs for their slide presentations. Still others add to that the trick of clicking and dragging the image from the search directly into the presentation without the extra steps of saving to a separate location.
Throughout the period, students laugh and smile as they work. Julie floats throughout the classroom, observing and answering questions. Her student teacher, Maria Nielsen, does as well, but the students do not ask for their assistance often. They work well, and most of them demonstrate the best of collaborative student learning. They encounter challenges, discuss them, and develop solutions. In the process, they often learn much more than simply how to find the slope of a line. They learn Internet work skills, presentation design principles, and teamwork values.
If you step back from this activity, you’ll realize that Julie has not done anything dramatically new in curricular terms. Students have been expected to demonstrate their understanding of math concepts through reflection assignments for some time. Through the reflection, students assume the voice of authority, a voice that requires mastery of concept. Here at Arbor Hills, though, that traditional assignment has taken a leap. The power of Julie’s approach is to leave behind the typical English composition approach of the reflection. In its place, she has inserted student collaboration and modern tools of expression that key on multiple learning styles. The simple focus on MoveNote as a method for expression has made a huge difference in the learning of these eighth grade students.
As they pack up for the day, the smiles continue, as do the laughs. These students have enjoyed themselves this class period, which is really an easy enough accomplishment for a teacher. Julie’s triumph, though, is the learning that was evident in the work they completed as they smiled and laughed. Julie has made slope finding fun and accessible. No doubt because of that, these students will retain that skill for years to come.
Explore these links for more!
Sample Student Presentation-coming soon!
Sample Student Recording-coming soon!
Julie’s Worksheet File
Julie’s Rubric File