I started my COETAIL journey just as I was starting a new unit with my ninth grade students. They are a unique bunch, as they are first cohort to move through Graded School’s new integrated maths program. They all aced Algebra One as 8th graders and I’ve come to appreciate that they are super quick in algebra, they know all the tricks in the book (insert #facepalm) and they love their textbooks. So, the challenge to peel them out of the comfort of the book and into the wide open land of (other types of) mathematical thinking is mine. And over the course of almost 1.5 semesters I think I’ve got them, most of them.
I decided to look at ways I could improve the planned stats summative assessment task and make it my Course One Final Project. The original plan was for the whole class to do a series of experiments (timed reaction tests was one example) and surveys about time (or something else that was easily quantifiable). We would then use the data to look at measures of central tendency and then we’d graph it all and make it pretty. For sure the task was a step outside of the textbook and we would certainly be using technology to collect data, sort it and graph it. But at best Prensky would have said I was doing old things in new ways and Puentedura might have found justification to place the task in the augmentation range. (Side note: Think I just showed that Prensky and Puentedura aren’t really all that aligned as I suggested in my last post.)
So, I really wanted to think about how I could remain focused on the same standards but look at redefining the unit and the summative assessment task. The old task in the old way (textbook)and the old task in the new way (whole class investigation) will get the kids to the standards, but at what cost? No creativity, no voice and (perhaps at best only) limited feedback from anyone.
So, inspired by the learning space that is COETAIL, I decided to incorporate blog posts and blog comments into the project and hand it all over to the students. By moving the whole task and all of the student work online and with the help of Hapara Teacher Dashboard I was able to manage individual student projects – their posts AND comments. The result was that my students had more opportunities for creativity, personal engagement and ownership of their task. Students came up with their own research question (not unlike the IB Maths Studies Project), find their own data sets (through surveys or experiments) and then blogged about the whole process. It’s not quite at the passion project stage that I eventually want to reach but I think that it is a big step for my students toward that end goal. I thoroughly enjoyed the entire process and I think that my students did too. We probably used more class time than I had originally planned but to have my kids actively working in class, collaborating and sharing ideas was a far greater learning experience than the handful of lesson I had originally envisioned.
Here’s my plan (and course one final project!):
Below are some links to student work and the project description on my class site. Overall I was really pleased with their final products especially considering that mathematical writing is new to these students as is being assessed on this type of thinking. It was so easy for me to drop comments on the kids’ blogs and guide them through their writing and thinking (giving support to those who needed it and extension ideas/questions for others). The peer feedback really pushed students to produce high quality work and I could see the improvements in each post.
Thanks for the blog/comment set up COETAIL! Goodbye textbook!