If you take math from Julie Young at Arbor Hills, you’re not just in for some of the best math instruction our district has to offer. You’re also in for some pretty cool digital experimentation. Earlier this year, Julie pushed her students not just to learn slope equations, but to demonstrate their learning through digitally-packaged MoveNote lessons, where each student became a teacher. Now, Julie has done it again with the quadratic formula and the web-building platform known as Weebly.
But, before we move to describing what she did, you should know that Julie has not done this alone. This project was developed in close collaboration with Maria Nielsen from Bowling Green. Maria and Julie have developed a powerful partnership, which often includes next-door neighbor Karma Vince. In a further ironic twist, Julie student-taught for Karma in her early days. This little section of hallway at Arbor Hills is a model of collaboration that develops strong teaching and learning, benefiting teachers and students alike.
Now, on to the quadratic formula. What Maria and Julie did is pretty straightforward in concept, even if its implications are impressive. They built a Weebly-based website that collected information on the quadratic formula, provided teaching tutorials, web-based calculators, and other resources, surveyed for formative feedback, and managed a culminating project. That culminating project came from Maria’s work at college, where she and fellow students developed video-based memory aids for learning the quadratic formula, and those videos provided model examples. Students in Algebra 1 developed their own creative ways to learn and remember the quadratic formula, including sock puppets, stories, raps, time-lapse photography, and even a rhetorical channeling of Donald Trump!
Yes, at first the entire sequence seems very traditional, and it is. The teacher has taught a traditional concept in a fairly direct manner. Students are accountable to learn the concept by checking in with learning activities. Then, they complete a multi-factored group project to demonstrate learning. But, the transformation of this process through the Weebly website has a noticeable impact.
First, instead of lecturing the concept, Julie and Maria have curated a selection of text-based and video-based instructional resources. By collecting those and storing them online, students can choose the ones they prefer and consume them at their own pace. The surveys used for formative feedback provide Julie and Maria with easy access to data needed to adjust instruction. And, since the direct instruction is happening online at the student’s pace, they enjoy a much freer hand in modifying class activities to serve the needs identified by the data. These approaches have lead to a delivery of instruction that is more flexible and targeted than the traditional lecture-based or textbook-based approach, and it is more likely to meet the needs of a diverse group of students.
Second, the design of the culminating project not only takes advantage of student creativity to foster engagement, but it also provides for easier sharing. Part of the project includes students watching each others’ videos and checking out non-video content to provide comments for feedback. The digital management of this process makes it more flexible and portable, while never excluding classroom discussions about the products.
Basically, Julie and Maria have produced a 21st century learning unit that takes the strength of traditional approaches and adds portability, flexibility, and engagement. And, best of all, the approach is so simple that it can be adapted for virtually any unit.
Want to check it out? Go to the Weebly site here and tour through the navigation in the top-right menu. Be sure to visit “Part Five→Comments on Projects” to see student work!