Multi-tasking Struggles

Have you ever tried to watch a video on YouTube and take notes on your iPad at the same time?  I often ask my students to watch short videos on YouTube for flipped lessons (have you heard of it?  I’ve had great success incorporating it into my Algebra 1 class).  But my students take their notes in Notability on their iPads.  So in order to complete this assignment, they have to use two devices (one to watch the video, one to take notes in Notability).

When Lia wrote about the Downside to Digital Textbooks, my Algebra 1 students were using paper notebooks.  Now that they are using Notability and have an iPad based textbook, we’re running into the same problem when they do their homework.

My students seem content enough to screenshot the problems and insert the image into Notability.  Others use the four-finger swipe/gesture to go back and forth between apps.  I don’t really like either of these solutions.  They seem more like temporary work-arounds rather than true solutions.  I’m coming to the conclusion that the only true solution will be when the “textbook” provides a work space for students to complete problems.


Self Grading Homework

When my students are working on a particularly difficult topic, I like to know if they’re on the right track.  If I don’t get questions via email or see students in my room the next morning, I begin class without knowing where my students stand with yesterday’s material.  This isn’t exactly ideal.  (I realize I could scrap the idea of homework, but that’s not where I’m headed.)

Instead, I have my students enter the answers to their homework problems into a Google Form.  They’re not submitting all of their work, so it doesn’t take much for me to scan through their answers and quickly get an idea of whether each student is on the right track.

I tried this for the first time last week when my trigonometry students.  I created a Google Form asking for identifying information (first and last name, email address, and class period) and answers to each of the five homework questions.  Since my students do their homework in Notability on their iPads, it was easy for them to quickly enter their answers and submit the form when the were finished with their homework:

Screenshot of Google Form

I checked in on the responses a few times, emailed students who seemed to be way off track and offered some hints based on which problems were wrong.

Screenshot of Form Submissions

I sent emails to students in lines 1 and 3 when I noticed their answers were incorrect.

Then, before class, I used Flubaroo, a script in Google Forms, to “grade” the homework and email students their grade (out of 5) as well as the answer key.  Below is the summary of the grades.  [Note: I did not use this grade, but rather, I gave full credit to students for completing the assignment.]

A summary of the graded homework from Flubaroo

Instead of starting class by asking what questions my students had, I was able to target the one question that  most students struggled with.  Another nice thing about using forms to collect homework responses is the ability to project all of the responses at the beginning of the class period.  When I ask an open-ended question, I like for my students to see all of the different responses and discuss which ones are better explanations.  Thank you Google!

Weekly Reflections

One of the nice things about teaching in a 1:1 environment is that we can ask our students to submit homework, surveys, quizzes, etc. online. We are using this to our advantage by asking our students (both in our PreCalc classes and Margaret’s Geometry class) to submit weekly reflections by Saturday at midnight.  We created a Google Form where each student enters his first name, last name, email address, date of the Friday of that week, and a reflection based on the following:

What did you struggle with this week? What did you find easy this week? What do you need more help with? What are you confused about? Are there any other situations going on in your life that I should know about? The content of your response will not be shared with other students.

The purpose of this ongoing assignment is two-fold.  First, it gives our students an opportunity to reflect on their progress made during the week and evaluate the way they need to approach the week ahead (should they seek extra help, ask more questions in class, etc.).  Second, it gives us the opportunity to hear how each student in our classes is doing at least once a week, and it informs our choices about how we begin our classes on Monday.

So far, Margaret has been able to email students who indicate that they are struggling with a concept and set up a time to provide extra help (before or after school).

Lia’s PreCalc students are mostly working on review so far, so their reflections have been mainly positive.  However, a few students have taken advantage of the opportunity to ask specific questions that Lia has been able to address with the students one-on-one, usually by reply e-mail.

iPads as Notebooks? — Part 1

The Pedagogy

During the 2012-2013 school year, I started turning to my iPad more and more, rather than paper, while during personal work.  I stopped making paper answer keys, choosing instead to annotate PDFs, wrote up solutions to share with my students using digital ink, and kept track of my own notes about topics I was teaching in my iPad rather than a notebook or binder.   The better I got at using my iPad and the more organized I became, the better this system worked for me.

Did this mean my students should stop using notebooks and switch over completely to their iPads?   After giving it some thought, my answer is:  it depends.

In choosing whether to use an iPad as a notebook, here are some things to consider:

What other resources do the students need to use while working on their iPad?

My Algebra I students are using the HMH FUSE series, a comprehensive Algebra I resource built for the iPad, instead of a textbook.  When they are doing problems from FUSE, they need to be looking at them from their iPads.  Even for the most adept multi-tasker, switching back and forth between this and a note-taking app would be inefficient and frustrating.  So, my Algebra I students do problems and notes in notebooks, but whenever I have something that I would have passed out to them on paper in the past, I deliver it to them electronically.

What are they used to?

I teach a Pre-Calculus course to honors level juniors, motivated students who focus on academics and have already discovered the habits that work for them by 11th grade. They have a regular, hardback textbook, so they are required to use their iPads as their notebooks for our first unit.  After that, they have the choice of switching back to a regular notebook.  They have the freedom to make an informed decision.

Will it actually help the students?

I also teach a geometry course (without a textbook) with students who are less set in their ways.  Here’s what I am trying:  they aren’t allowed to use notebooks, and they do everything on their iPads:  all notes, all homework, all activities, unless they are physically making things.  My hope here is that if they always have something to do for class on their iPad, they won’t be tempted to be doing something else – iMessaging, live Tweeting everything I say, etc.

How does all this look from a workflow point-of-view?  Stay tuned for Part 2 of this post – The Tools!