As part of a national project in Digital Learning, Envision is rolling out the Spring Exhibition project that focuses on inquiry in teaching and learning within a digital environment. In efforts to innovate within the current educational structure, teachers around the nation are committing to thinking critically about teaching and learning, with a dedication to finding deliberate and relevant ways to integrate new media tools.
Our path towards understanding how to design meaningful and useful changes to classroom practices began with the introduction of the Chromebook. Some specifics about implementation are discussed in this article, which addresses many of the issues and successes found working with the Chromebooks in the classroom. Just to highlight some of the expereinces that are common between the authors experience and ours are:
- Students quickly adjust to working in the cloud, they appreciate being able to have constant and almost immediate access to their work.
- The ease of set-up, security, monitoring, ‘back end’ type stuff is by and large appreciated by all.
- Lack of Java is problematic.
The Chromebook has allowed us to envision a new way of engaging our students. We have been prototyping different ways to structure our Algebra I class. The foundation for our design is a model for blended learning. We have developed classroom practices in which students are working individually on modules in Khan Academy. We have reduced direct instruction and emphasized small group instruction to allow students to move more independently through the curriculum thus enabling the teacher to provide more targeted instruction.
The students have adjusted to these methods and I spent some time with them in class today. While sitting at one of the small tables, trying to muster all the knowledge I once had about Algebra in order to offer assistance, some salient points came out in conversation.
- Students get frustrated when Khan Academy takes away their streak because they got one wrong answer.
I had a chance to talk to three students about this issue. Two of the students spoke about it as though it happened to others in the class more than it happened to them. They both expressed that in the beginning, when working on concepts that were more familiar, they had used this feature as an opportunity to learn from their mistakes. However, now that they were progressing to more complicated math, they found that they were frustrated that they were not getting feedback. The third student I spoke with simply indicated that it annoyed him and the when he did his work on paper, he could go back and fix his answers.
I asked all three students why they thought Khan Academy was designed in this way? If they were creating this platform what would be a reason to make it so that you had to go back to the beginning? Only one student was able to articulate a hypothesis that extended beyond their own experience. This student proposed that it could be a way to make sure students really know the math.
I was struck by how deeply this frustration impacts the students, even the high performers. It seems to me that there are many ways to address this: some of the student suggestions include,
- Only take away part of the streak
- Have the student show their process and identify inaccuracy
- Give one wrong answer free
- Have them do 10, identify wrong answers, reassign problems
- Students struggle to learn or feel confident getting answers to their questions from the video tutorials.
The students are more likely to ask a peer or stand in line to ask the teacher. In an effort to avoid ruining their streak, they will get the next 10 problems, solve them on paper, ask for answers to be corrected, then input them into Khan Academy. This creates a backlog of students who need work checked, so much so that the teacher struggles to deliver small group instruction. It seems there are two ways to address this.
- Build confidence in learning independently, asking peers for help first, checking ones work
- Creating our own video sources
The first of these is a longer process that will take years and a village. The second of these is the focus of our Exhibition project.
The Upside Down Exhibition Roll-out
In today’s classes students got the first glimpse of the project overview. They learned about the Essential Questions, the process, the major benchmarks, and the final product. I sat in class and was able to capture their responses:
Two students talked to each other about how cool it is going to be to test their audience members after teaching, especially if it is their parents. One student asked if it is going to be hard. One student asked if she was going to be able to choose the concept she will be teaching. Another student asked if they would be working in a group or working independently.
In general there is a sense of excitement and anticipation.
Stay tuned for more details on how students progress through the learning trajectory.