I recently visited Stevenson Middle School to observe a seventh grade math and science classroom in action. I was fortunate to see two very different classroom environments, both using technology to enhance learning. I spent the first hour with Mr. Souza learning about dilations (side note: I don’t ever remember learning about dilations when I was in middle school!). What was so powerful about Mr. Souza’s class was the way he and students seamlessly used a variety of technologies (low and high-tech) to discuss, collaborate, apply, reflect… learn! Mr. Souza projected math problems/diagrams onto the whiteboard using an Elmo, annotating over the problems from the back of the classroom using the Slate and ActivPen. He used a cool countdown timer widget (that sang a popular Jawaiian tune when time was up) to manage small group collaboration time. Students created and solved problems on individual white boards with dry erase markers and then volunteers projected their work (using the Elmo) on the ActivBoard and explained their thought process. Students came to the interactive whiteboard and used a variety of tools such as the pen to perform calculations, the protractor to measure angles, and straight lines to check the origin of the dilation.
Throughout the class, students actively took notes on laptops using Google docs, which included taking pictures of their solved problems (on the individual whiteboards) as evidence of learning. Mr. Souza can access these notes at any time as well as email additional practice problems, comments, etc. to students for individualized feedback. For one problem, Mr. Souza polled the class, asking students to text in their answer using their Navigator calculators (in this scenario used like a Learner Response system). He was able to pull up a summary chart showing students’ responses as well as each individual response. All throughout, Mr. Souza weaved in good pedagogy, utilizing probing questions, emphasizing big ideas such as showing “proof”, and helping students see that there are multiple ways to solve one problem, including using reasoning and logic. In conclusion, the strategies and technologies used helped Mr. Souza engage all students throughout the lesson while formatively assessing their learning… and, he made it all look so natural and easy!
Mr. Cogbill’s science class offered a very different learning experience for students. Students were working in small groups, preparing for an upcoming presentation to the Lieutenant Governor on their science experiments. Given the project-based curriculum, the classroom was busy with students working on a variety of tasks such as creating graphs or presentations in Google documents. Mr. Cogbill floated around the room making sure students were on task and took the opportunity to call groups up to the ActivBoard to review their work and provide guidance. Students were able to instantly share updated documents with Mr. Cogbill via Google docs. At the end of class, Mr. Cogbill used a “spinner” widget to select the “lucky” group and student leader to practice their presentation in front of the class. As effective teachers do, Mr. Cogbill guided students in using key terminology and vocabulary to explain various scientific observations. In other words, he helped “translate” their observations into scientific concepts and language.
Thanks to Stevenson Middle School for allowing me to visit to see best practices in action! Can I visit your school to observe and share the wonderful things you and your teachers are doing? If so, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll be there!