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Friday, 15 February 2013

A Digital Math Story

On Monday, at a 21st Century workshop, I learned about the SAMR, a model for the use of technology in the classroom.   But even before I saw this model, I had already decided that if I am going to be teaching with technology, I want to use the technology to teach differently.  I don't want to use technology as a substitute for our old Blackline Masters.  I started teaching with the SMART board five years ago, I want to do more with it than use it as a fancy whiteboard.

Since I started the etMOOC (Massive Online Open Course about educational technology), I've been  contemplating how to make students creators of knowledge.  21st Century learners are collaborators, creators, and sharers.  I knew that before, but the etMOOC has been helping me to make that into a reality in my classroom. 

During that same Monday workshop, I was introduced to a new version of Bloom's Taxonomy made for iPads: 

The point, of course, is that the highest level of thinking is creating or synthesizing, so I have been spending my week exploring how I can have my students create their own knowledge. 

I liked the way +Michael Buist uploaded a video of his students' completing a math task.  You can see in the video how he scaffolds their learning and understanding.  I was truly inspired by that video.  To me, this was a Digital Math Story.

I decided to have my students create videos of their math solutions in a similar way.  I used the ShowMe app because it is free and so easy to learn and use.  My students quickly caught on and in their collaborative groups, they used the ShowMe app to explain how they used the volume of rectangular prisms to solve math problems.  As always, I was walking around the class while the students were doing their work.  I was thrilled because they all seemed to be understanding the math concepts.  I asked them questions, they gave appropriate answers.  During the consolidation of our math class, we watched one of the videos.  We made comments and asked more questions.  Everything seemed great.  But then when I got home, I watched the rest of the videos, and I discovered so many misconceptions as I listened to the conversations they were having while they were solving the problem.  It was incredible learning for me.  

The next day we watched the videos and discussed everyone's misconceptions.  We also reviewed the first part of the 4-Part Problem Solving Model, because I realized that while my students understood the math, they weren't always understanding or answering the question.  

Today, we solved another math problem; this one required that they use their knowledge and understanding of the surface area of rectangular prisms.   I asked only two groups to create videos.  I chose one of the groups because they had previously demonstrated that they made certain to understand the problem before moving on.  Then I showed their video to the class as a model for how to go through the first step of the Problem Solving model.  

One of my students posted this on Twitter.  I asked her to explain how making the ShowMe videos was helpful and she said, "When I explain it, I understand it better afterward".  And THAT is why it is so important to be a knowledge creator, collaborator and sharer in the 21st Century!


  1. My first thought on reading your post was 'I wish she was part of my Maths team'. We have had 1:1 iPads in our Yr 7 & 8 program since the beginning of 2011 and I totally agree about the value of apps like Show Me, Screen Chomp and Educreations. At the end of last year we started to look explicitly at the SAMR model and I was pleased that what I had been doing fit this model, though we have a way to go. What I love is your willingness to take the initiative to find ways to improve student learning and teach differently. I have staff who will go along with the model and activities that I suggest (and some who won't) but there are only a few who really 'get' the importance and value of this approach and even less who will step up, try something new, or try a new context, and share it. Keep up the great work.

  2. Lorraine,
    Great job! I love your girls' math story. I love this: "When I explain it, I understand it better afterward." So true! It reminded me of something Deborah Meier says, “telling is learning and listening is teaching.”

    You allowed them to tell! Awesome!


    1. You are so right Denise, I have a friend who is always reminding me, "the person doing the talking is the person doing the learning".

  3. As an addendum to my previous comment, I should make it clear that I work with a terrific team of hardworking teachers. Letting go of long held practices and embracing the opportunities provided by technology to teach very differently is a steep learning curve for many.

    1. I was a Literacy/Numeracy coach for two years, Donna, and I completely understand. I worked with wonderful, creative and caring teachers. But sometimes, convincing people to step outside of their comfort zone, to move away from the familiar and into the unknown, is really difficult. I think it is because they care so much, they don't want to invest time and effort into something they are not yet convinced is going to make a difference. It is often safer to continue with the familiar, we can anticipate the results we will get, we know what the outcomes will be. Adopting new ideologies involves having faith and trust in those ideologies. It is not that they don't care, it is that they don't believe.


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