Remarkable Technology Experiences
Until recently, middle school multiplication homework often consisted of solving a worksheet full of similar equations. Even when students “showed their work,” it wasn’t always easy for a teacher to know if the student truly understood the logic behind the math or was simply good at memorizing the process of “how” to solve the equation. Thanks to the full integration of 1:1 technology this year in grades 3–12, teachers have more interactive tools to help them deepen student understanding and better assess progress.
For instance, with the guidance of Michele Rosen, the Middle School educational technologist, fifth-grade math teachers Tara Bobb and Tom Fredenberg have started using an iPad application called Explain Everything. This interactive screencasting whiteboard app allows Mrs. Bobb and Mr. Fredenberg to ensure each student is applying mathematical concepts rather than rote mechanics to solve problems.
“Explain Everything is a powerful learning tool because it allows students to ‘show what they know’ in a creative and tactile way,” says Ms. Rosen. “It offers multiple tools to plot, draw, record, animate, and share, so teachers can actually see and hear the thought process that goes into solving an equation. For students, the process of explaining a single math equation in a detailed and creative way provides deeper understanding than just computing a series of equations.”
Earlier this year, fifth-grade students were given this real-world problem to solve: Call people in three different countries to sell raffle tickets to an event of your choosing. In the first country, they had to make 25 calls, in the second country 103 calls, and in the third country 2,045 calls. Then, they had to figure how many total digits they would push after placing these calls.
The students had the freedom to choose their three countries, which required research to find out the calling code for that country. Using the Explain Everything app, they then added photos of their event—everything from Broadway shows to football games to music concerts. Through animation, drawings, and voice recordings they then showed how they set about calculating the total number of digits pushed for all three countries. Once complete, they easily saved and shared their digital file with their teachers.
“Students having 1:1 technology, in our case iPads, has transformed the way we can think about planning our lessons,” says Mrs. Bobb. “We already enjoyed differentiating for Middle school mathematics and filling students’ needs to a great degree, but now we can do so at the highest level. In addition, our students are completely motivated to use the iPads for any task asked of them. It has put 21st century learning at their fingertips, as we integrate ‘their world’ at school.”