In this post, Sarah Dunn, a high school math teacher, shares her favorite technology tools and online activities.
In an English or social studies class, students may use computers frequently to write papers or compose a response to a writing prompt. In science class, students may use a computer to write a lab report after conducting an experiment. There seem to be many opportunities for students to embrace the use of technology in academic classes that are not math class. “It’s too hard for the students.” “How can they write their equations?” “How can I see their drawings?” These concerns and questions cause teachers to fall back on worksheets for practice and application.
How can technology and online learning materials be used effectively in a math class? First, it is essential to remember that it isn’t necessary for technology to be the focus of the entire activity. Instead, it can merely be a tool students use to accomplish a task. The simple inclusion of technology for a short period of time in a math lesson can have a serious impact.
I knew it would be a challenge to use technology for a whole class, so I focused on ways to include technology for short periods of time in class to mix things up. I was specifically interested in using technology to give students immediate feedback.
The online station during my station rotation was a great way for me to make sure that students get timely feedback, have time to work individually, and engage in productive conversations with their peers about the mathematical concepts.
Designing an Online Station
I use many different platforms when students rotate through the online station. There are times when I encourage them to work in small groups. Other times, they work individually. It all depends on the objective of the lesson. Generally, the students are seated in groups of four for the online station to encourage them to use each other as resources if they get stuck.
Desmos has been a great resource in my class. I have been working hard to use the activity builder to create activities that add discovery and practice to a station rotation lesson. I use the activity builder in Desmos to give students immediate feedback with the card sort and the computation layer. The computation layer is how I can change the title of a card sort to let the students know if they have matched everything appropriately. I have also used many Desmos created activities, like Transformation Golf, for rigid transformations.
Another resource I use is Quizizz. I realize many teachers are familiar with this review game, but I use it to collect quick formative assessment data. The students really love the immediate feedback and I “force” them to take their time by making the game a class-to-class competition based on accuracy. This helps the students to take their time and answer the questions presented as best they can because the class with the best accuracy when the rotation activity is over gets bragging rights.
For my circles unit, I made a Google lockbox and embedded it into my learning management system, Schoology. I used the ideas Catlin presented in her tutorial video about lockboxes to make sure my students knew whether or not they were entering the correct answer. I was able to ask vocabulary questions and have them solve problems.
During this station, I observed students who were not following the directions and struggled to round to the correct decimal place. As students got stuck on a question and failed to advance through the lockbox challenge, they naturally began to engage in conversations with the other members of their group. The beauty of the lockbox is that it gamifies practice and provides students with immediate feedback about the accuracy of their answers. If they answer incorrectly, they have to revisit their work, think critically about the problem, and collaborate with peers to try to reach the correct answer.
In the future, I am going to explore more engaging ways for my students to enjoy the online station. I am not a professional digital escape room creator, but that is my next adventure. I hope getting your students online in math class can be yours!
Sarah Dunn is a high school math teacher and digital teacher leader in a vocational-technical school district in Wilmington, Delaware. She has flipped the instruction of the content to incorporate more hands-on and blended learning activities. In her free time, she enjoys being outdoors and spending time with her husband and two daughters.