Using GoogleCast and student created videos to increase student engagement and collaboration

1. Identify desired results

The big idea of my plan is to improve student engagement and collaboration in mathematics through the use of technology. I want my students to see math in a different light, and I believe that by incorporating technology more effectively into my instruction, I can make it come to life and it will take on a different, more relevant meaning for my students. The enduring value of this big idea is that students will understand that incorporating technology can help deepen their understanding of the math. And, truly, this enduring understanding spans beyond math into learning in general. Technology can engage eager and reluctant learners, and it has the potential to greatly deepen understanding of concepts and content by showing information in a new way, and allowing students to experience it in multiple ways, and enables students to create various products that demonstrate their understanding and learning. With technology, there is also the interactive piece, where students can help each other learn. This is why my big idea will focus on utilizing technology effectively to increase student engagement in math.

The biggest challenge I’ve encountered with math is that even the most engaged students are only engaged to an extent. Many students, especially those who struggle with math, really have a hard time seeing math beyond the paper and pencil work that they do in class. My goal hope is that by engaging students through the use of technology, students will develop a greater interest in math and, long term, that will transfer into something deeper. Long term, I want my students to uncover that math is important and relevant, and to have them experience and understand why it is important to learn it.

The Common Core emphasizes mathematical practices that students should internalize if they are to become deep, critical thinkers. These practices relate to problem solving, reasoning, making and critiquing arguments, modeling math, using appropriate strategies, being precise, and looking for patterns in what they see as well as their thinking. These practices really extend beyond the middle school math classroom, into what it means to be true critical thinker in our 21st century world. But none of this can happen if student engagement is low, and I believe that effective integration of technology can help students get to these longterm goals.

Gardner & Mansilla’s four-fold approach toward disciplinary thinking illustrates why this is a worthwhile big idea to pursue. First, according to Gardner & Mansilla, students need to understand why mathematics exists. This notion of relevance and seeing that math is all around us is a really big idea. So, I plan to definitely always show students how math spans beyond the walls of our classroom. However, I think that by using technology to consider math and to study math concepts in different, perhaps unexpected ways, will help students make that connection between the classroom and the real world. Secondly, students need to be able to take math skills and apply them in ways that fit for a particular context. By utilizing technology, students will be able to see math in a different medium, and they will be able to demonstrate their understanding of math in varying contexts. In the longterm, they will connect math with technology, and thinking about math in this new way will help them be able to apply math to more specific, particular contexts. Thirdly, Gardner & Mansilla state that students need to be taught to ask questions, consider forms of evidence, and evaluate claims in math. This idea of teaching students to do inquiry is much bigger than the scope of my big idea. However, lastly, my students will need to know how to represent their knowledge, how they will communicate their understanding. This will be a huge focus of my big idea this year, as I plan to utilize technology to allow students to demonstrate their learning, and to share it with others using a variety of tools.

2. Determine acceptable evidence (performances of understanding)

There are three specific ways in which I plan to integrate technology into my teaching this year. The first two are formative processes, and the third is much more summative in nature.

One formative strategy that I plan to implement is to have students use ipads and styluses to enhance their learning and collaboration on a day-to-day basis. I plan to use GoogleCast one to two days a week, maybe more depending on availability to work on problems in class. GoogleCast will allow students to share their work with the class right from their ipad to the overhead, fostering collaboration among students. The ipads can also be used with GoogleCast to submit exit slips electronically. The third strategy that I plan to use is to have students create short videos that demonstrate concepts learned.

Evidence of a successful GoogleCast implementation will be mainly anecdotal; are the students visibly engaged in the material? Are they sharing their work with the class, and using the overhead models that other students present to help them with questions about their own work.

Summative evidence of a successful implementation will be videos that capture not only the concept, but also present it in a creative way. Eventually I will create a rubric for this that rewards both conceptual knowledge and creativity.

Obviously, as much as I’d like students to embrace my ideas for incorporating technology, not every student will be enthusiastic about trying new ideas, and that’s okay. Although I believe that an engaged student will make a deeper connection to the material, some students might not be comfortable with some of my ideas. If I had to choose between engagement in the material via technology, and a student who is not engaged, but has good conceptual knowledge, I will be okay with the latter.

3. Plan learning experience and instruction

The Context:

I teach 7th grade math at Portage Park Elementary School in Chicago, IL. My students are 85% low income families, with 12% english language learners, and 15% students with disabilities. I will have approximately 100 students this year, to be divided into three classes, each 90 minutes, five days a week.

The Content:

As I stated above, my goal is to improve student engagement and collaboration in mathematics through the use of technology. I want my students to see math in a different light, and I believe that by incorporating technology more effectively into my instruction, I can make it come to life and it will take on a different, more relevant meaning for my students. The enduring value of this big idea is that students will understand that incorporating technology can help deepen their understanding of the math.

The Pedagogy:

For the videos, my strategy is to start by introducing students to making short “how to” videos. Students will be making videos in groups that show how to do something that interests them. I feel the first few times I incorporate the technology, the technology needs to be the focus, allowing students to get comfortable with the process. Once we’ve had the opportunity to get comfortable with the technology, then we can make videos that demonstrate what the students have learned in the class.

For the GoogleCast, my strategy is similar, but we will be working on the math right away, as I don’t feel the process will be as difficult to master. My plan is to have students initially work in pairs on given examples and assignments in class. I will give an assignment to work on, ideally a word problem with many different solutions. Students can share their work as they make discoveries. The exit slips will only be possible if we have enough ipads for each student to use their own.