Friday, January 27, 2017

Alternative Assessment: Quizzing Using Technology

             In all of my education classes thus far, we have spent some time discussing alternative forms of assessment. It seems so effortless for the English, history, and art education majors to form a long list of assessment options. However, it truly feels like mathematics is the most difficult class to avoid using tests and quizzes as a method for assessing students’ understanding of material. I do not think tests and quizzes should be ruled out altogether but I agree that other forms of formative and summative assessment should be used. This brings me to what we talked about this week in Math 371: online quizzes. Can online quizzes be considered an alternative form of assessment? Yes, and here’s why.
              As a class, we took quizzes on the app called Socrative, Google Forms, and Quizziz. Though we did not use Kahoot! this week because we were all familiar with this app, we did discuss the pros and cons of it. Each one of these apps/websites can record the quiz results for the teacher to analyze and decide which questions were toughest and what material needs more work. Google Forms was the most quiz like out of the four online forums listed above. However unlike a paper-pencil quiz, I did not feel pressured or anxious while taking the quiz on Google Forms. I think Google Forms would be excellent to use as formative assessment. It allows for multiple choice, short answer, true/false, and a few other options for question types. By letting the students know that there will not be a grade or score associated with their results, Google Forms will feel more like a survey than a quiz and it will allow you to see where more attention is needed.
              The app Socrative was the second most quiz-like in my opinion. However, this app offers a few features (that we did not have time to explore) that turn quizzing into more of a game and it offers an “exit ticket” option. Again, the pressure nonexistent while using this app to quiz. Socrative is meant to be used for formative assessment and allows for instant feedback. That is the key component that allows me to consider Socrative an alternative form of assessment to paper-pencil quizzes. As you use the app to quiz, you’ll find that it is an interactive learning experience with instant feedback as well as a tool for assessment. Here is the link to the website where you can watch a demo video:
              I am going to write about Quizziz and Kahoot! together because they both transform the classroom into “Who Wants to be a Millionaire”. The competitive side of me loves this! These two methods of quizzing were my favorite because I love playing games in class. Some of my classmates were not a fan of the fact that they both use time as a factor of score. The faster you answer, the more points you earn. For this reason, questions can’t be long and I would not use these for assessing knowledge of multiple step problems. We also liked the fact that Quizziz displays memes after each question that made us chuckle and forget we were taking a quiz. One of my classmates mentioned that Kahoot! was overused in a class he took in a previous semester. I think it’s important to be aware of how often you use any of these online quizzing tools because they can become mundane just like paper-pencil quizzes. I would use either Quizziz or Kahoot! to review for a test. Everyone can take the quiz together and the teacher can control when to move on to the next question. This allows for pausing for solutions and general questions that the students may have. The teacher receives all results to see who is ready for the test and who is not.

              I really think you can’t go wrong with any of the technology based assessments listed above. They all offer pros and cons as do all different forms of technology and assessments! So if you’re looking for ways to eliminate some paper-pencil quizzes and add some variety to your math classroom assessments, give one of these a try. Let me know what you think in the comments below. 

Friday, January 20, 2017

Right-Brained, Math Major

As a future educator in mathematics, the thing I fear the most is my students losing their ability and freedom to express themselves in my classroom. Comparatively speaking, math is one of the core subjects that seemingly limits students in this area. I innately think of the possibilities English students have, being able to express themselves through the words of their papers. Art students can display bits of their personalities and interests within their works. Math students…”Please find x.  And again…and again…and again.” And this fear becomes even more prominent in thinking of the math teachers who know only one way of solving problems, or only teaching their students one method to do so. It concerns me as I think of all my future right-brained students who are forced to sit within my class and try somehow to make sense of what they are expected to learn. I then think of the many future students who are categorized within one of the seven multiple intelligences that isn’t logical-mathematical, and ask myself the following question. “If I am forcing these students to be analytical, logical, mathematical thinkers, should I too, as the teacher adapt (in some degree) to each of their types of thinking?” As educators, if we expect our students to adapt and learn our material that we view as important, shouldn’t we be expected to do the same for them?

I have friends who are amazingly talented in the music department. The way they can see, listen, and understand musical content is extraordinary to me, mostly because I know nothing of this field. I do not have one musical bone in my body. When taking music classes growing up, I found myself having little interest, motivation, and knowledge to be a proficient student in these classes. Fortunately, as I got older, I no longer needed to be in these courses. At some level of my education, it became my choice if I were to stay or not, and my lack of a musical brain rejoiced that I no longer had to participate in my school band. Sorry Mrs. Sharp.  On the flip side, I think of my musical friends, who because of the common core and standards and education system we have, were forced to endure at least twelve years of mathematics. Twelve whole years, at the very least since most colleges require an entry-level math course to be taken.  And as teachers, we have become very much complacent with the fact that is just the way it is. Students have to take math, even if their poor musical brains are singing songs of sorrow the whole way through.

I say this not to discourage mathematics, or any of the other subjects in general, but rather to challenge us as educators. If we have these expectations for these students, we too should adhere to their expectations; to adjust our lesson planning, teaching methods, and assessments in ways that each of our students can somehow find a saving grace. I do believe there are ways to do this in a math room; teachers just need to put in the extra effort and research to do so. One way, in which I believe this has became easier, is through the use of technology. There are so many apps and programs out there now that cater to more then just one type of intelligence. Take our favorite program in my geometry class, Geogebra. This app has so many features that speak to visual learners that it’s beautiful. Other ways of doing this are altering lesson plans. One of my favorite examples of this was a lesson one of my peers did for our final project over the surface area of a sphere. In a typical math room setting, one would learn this and be expected to understand it, by simply being given the formula, . This means little to nothing to our hands-on learners. She instead, gave us an orange and we were to peel the orange and see how many circles we could fill with our orange peel. If measured correctly, we found that four circles could be filled. This demonstrated very well how the surface area equation came about and gave each of us a practical, tangible understanding of this.

I could speak on dozens of examples of awesome teachers doing this right. And to those teachers I’d like to say, these right-brained, kinesthetic, linguistic, and every other type of learner, appreciates you dearly. Please keep doing what you’re doing. It is of great value for our future students' education. And to myself, and the rest of the future math teachers reading this, let us always be in pursuit of implementing new and accommodating ways of teaching mathematics. It will be of great value to our future students' education, and you will be thanked, if by nobody else but myself.

Bailey Jorgensen, future math teacher with a very right-sided brain.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

What will be happening in Spring 2017 in Math 371

     Once again we started the Math 371 course by having students make a list of technology items that they wanted to learn.  I also included a few of my own and we came up with this list:
  • Promethean Board & SMARTBoard
  • TI-Nspire
  • iPad—how to use these in math
  • Free online resources—Desmos, Geogebra, electronic gradebooks, lesson planning software, interactive note-taking, etc.
  • Blogs
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Online Course management—Edmodo, Schoology, Moodle?
  • Google Docs, Apps, and Add-ons
  • Flipped Instruction
  • Personalized Learning
  • 3D printing
  • Coding
  • Microsoft Excel
  • Teaching online high school math classes 
  • Copyright laws regarding use of internet sources for teaching 
     Now comes my task of planning how to get all of this done in the course.  This is probably the hardest part for me when it comes to this course, although this list is fairly similar to last year’s so it may be easier.  Another challenge of teaching this course every spring semester is that I have to revise it every time because technology changes so frequently.  What we used for apps last year may not still be relevant this year.
     One concern when teaching this course is whether or not I am exposing the pre-service teachers to the right technology.  So this past fall I started a MOOC called Teaching Mathematics with Technology out of the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation at North Caroline State.  While I was too busy to complete the entire MOOC, I did learn a lot and it certainly helped me feel better about what we cover in Math 371. I am hoping to incorporate some of the material from that course to make Math 371 even better. 
     While this course challenges me every spring, I wouldn’t have it any other way as I always enjoy learning new things, especially from my students.  In this course, we are all teachers and learners!