1:1 Environment – Where the Old Impossible is the New Easy

Geometry homework tonight was:

At home or school, take three pictures of objects that fit the following descriptions 

1) not a polygon

2) polygon with 3-5 sides

3) polygon with 6+ sides

Upload them to a Google Drive folder shared with everyone in the class and rename the image with the name of the polygon shown

It took me under five minutes to set up the tech side of this assignment (including collecting Gmail addresses with a Google Form during class and sharing the folder), and perhaps another five minutes to explain to students what they needed to do.  

The end result:  a folder full of real pictures (some good, others not, but none of them provided by me) that we are going to (hopefully) have a good discussion about tomorrow.

Last year, I wouldn’t have been able to do this without a lot of hassle, and two years ago, it wouldn’t even have crossed my mind to try it.  Say what you will, but mobile technology is a game changer.

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QR Code Scavenger Hunt

Test review days.  You can’t live with them, you can’t live without them.

In an effort to make a recent geometry test review day a little more interesting, I decided to try an idea I had heard from another teacher:  making a QR code scavenger hunt.  I was really pleased with the way it went.  Here is what I did:

1.  I created a set of 10 geometry problems and made each one a separate Google drawing (most of them had diagrams).

2.  I used a free online QR code generator to generate a QR code for each question.  I printed out these QR codes and posted them in semi-sneaky locations around the school library.

QR Code 7 hiding on the side of a bookshelf

3.  I paired up my class and created a Google form that

a) sent each pair to a different starting question

b) for each question, told the student where to look for the QR code

c) once they found the QR code, they scanned it and got the question.  Then, they had to input their answer into the Google form.  If they got it right, it told them where to look for the next code.  If they got it wrong, it told them to try again until they got it right.  The questions looped around until each pair had answered every question.

Things that I liked

1) It got the class up and moving.  I read an article a while back about how students need to move more during class, and I’ve been trying to think of ways to make that happen.

2. It fostered good team work.  One student was responsible for managing the form, the other for managing the QR scanner, and I saw a lot of conversations about answering the questions.

3. It left room for surprises.  I put one QR code on the inside of a wide window sill, and when my students started the scavenger hunt, a girl had sat down in the window to read with her back to QR code.  One pair found it eventually and tipped the rest off, but it definitely added a little twist to the morning!

I would definitely do that again.

Pooling our Data

Last Monday in Geometry, it was time for my students to ‘discover’ that when two parallel lines are cut by a transversal, corresponding angles are congruent, etc.  I think its pretty typical for geometry teachers to have students construct parallel lines and a transversal and measure pairs of angles to determine special relationships.  Here’s the activity as suggested by a geometry textbook I have:

I think this is a good activity, and I’ve done it before, but I’ve never been entirely satisfied with it.  First of all, invariably someone starts shouting out the conclusions before everyone is done measuring, and students start making assumptions about their own results, and the magic is lost.  Second of all, I feel like the teacher usually ends up saying something like, “and every time you draw parallel lines and a transversal, alternate interior angles will be congruent.”  I don’t want my students to believe everything I say without evaluating its reasonableness first.  They need more evidence than that.  I am trying to teach my geometry students to adopt an attitude of skepticism; they shouldn’t be drawing conclusions unless they can explain them.

In an attempt to improve this activity this year, I had students work with partners, but I imposed a strict ban on speaking while they were working, so that no pair’s work would be influenced by that of others.  Some students asked me if they could assume certain results would be the case, and I reminded them of the dangers of assuming.  I had them submit all of their measurements via a Google Form, and then we looked at the pooled results as a class to see if we could establish patterns.  I did this with a class of students that need a lot of direction, and it did not exactly go smoothly: some students measured the wrong angles, some students measured the right angles incorrectly, some students entered their data in the wrong place, but we got it done eventually, and I was still happy I did it.

Why?

1) It was a struggle.  I wouldn’t confirm or deny anything my students were thinking and saying for most of the activity, so it forced some actual thinking.

2) Our examples and data were student created.  They weren’t perfect, but they were real.  Not all angles in life are 60 degrees, and sometimes that makes them hard to measure, but you might still have to measure them.

3) There were mistakes.  Students didn’t only see their results, but they saw those of their classmates.  When something didn’t look right, we could have a conversation about whether someone made a mistake, or whether it was actually the case that the pattern people thought they were seeing wasn’t a pattern at all.

I liked this activity, and I liked how my students’ iPads made it relatively easy to execute.  But it got me thinking about something I’m starting to not like about my students having iPads, but that’s a topic for another post…