Spring Project Season
This week I had the pleasure of visiting Metro, Impact and CAT. As a result, I got to spend time in our blended learning classrooms and immerse myself in the projects that our students are doing. While the 10th and 12th graders are focused on compiling, editing, and presenting their portfolios, others are focused on deeper learning challenges that engage their critical thinking, encourage them to work collaboratively, communicate powerful, and complete projects effectively. I would like to give my readers a glimpse into these projects.
At Metro: The 9th and 10th graders are learning about how to find the best-fit lines for different sets of data, what the equations are for these lines, and what this all means. The project began with students performing a small experiment in which they collected their own data. They constructed small bridges out of paper and tested the number of pennies that the bridge could hold before breaking. The number of sheets of paper was adjusted, then the pennies were restacked and a new number was collected. In such a manner the students collected at least 12 data points. These points were plotted in Geogebra and students use the program to find the best-fit line. After modeling this with small amounts of data the students then began modeling larger and more complex data sets such as population data, disease data, and stock market data. This project allows students to experience the utility of finding the best-fit for the data as well as exposure to non-linear equations. Additionally, this project introduces students to some ways that math serves a larger purpose and can be applied to answering really important questions about the world.
In the 11th and 12th grade students are spending time exploring CodeHS. The students are working on developing the coding skills to be able to create Java Script program that can solve quadratic equations. I spent some time hovering excitedly over students’ shoulders and asking them about the process. Many students expressed that they were not totally sure if they liked coding, it seemed like what they were learning did not connect. But that as their skills developed, they began to understand how programming could be a powerful tool for solving mathematical problems. The teacher was also having students develop very detailed step-by-step explanations for how to solve quadratic equations. This included a description, reasoning and justification statement for each step. Students were beginning to analyze and deconstruct these reasoning statements, which seems like a precursor to thinking about mathematical proofs. As well, students were beginning to see the connection between thinking about each specific step and how these are defined and the process of programming. I am very excited to see how this project develops in the last few weeks of school.
At Impact: The 9th graders at Impact are participating in the Upside Down Academy project. In this project students have the opportunity to become teachers. Students identify an algebra skill that they would like to teach others. The students spend time completing different learning style inventories and reflecting on their own learning and the ways that their teachers teach. This reflection then serves as a framework for creating short videos that teach specific math skills. These lessons are then posted to Upside Down Academy along with the lesson outline, resources, and assessments. Once the first round of videos are posted (should be done today) then students spend time watching each other’s videos and providing feedback. Lastly, teams re-film, edit, and improve their lessons to address the feedback that they have received. These video lessons are then shared with the community, with their upper classman, and the world-wide-web.
In fact, if you have a free moment, and would like to help out, login to Upside Down Academy, watch on of the 100 most recent videos and provide our students with some ‘warm’ (positive) and ‘cool’ (areas for improvement) feedback. We would really appreciate it.
At CAT: Over spring break, the Algebra I teacher decided to teach himself how to code. This resulted in a website that acts as a math-based mash-up of Facebook, Edmodo, Moodle, and Goolge+. To roll out the site students got to create profiles and become friends. In the weeks leading up to CSTs students got points for reaching proficiency on different standards and these were shared on the leader board. Now that CSTs are over, the students have been working on a project about cryptography. The teacher has constructed a part of the site specifically for this project, with each aspect of the project on its own tab. Students have been blogging about their learning, and then spending time reading and writing comments on each other’s thoughts. So far students have written paragraphs about the history of Cryptography, and Shift Ciphers. This involved students doing research, learning about shift ciphers and creating their own shift cyphers. Now the students are working on paragraphs about matrix encoding.
[Click here to watch the Cryptography video.]
This project has been a great opportunity to see how students interact with the site, the power of having students work at their own pace, and the potential of incorporating reading and writing into mathematics classrooms. In fact, this math teacher has been working closely with the literacy coach all year, and this project has been a fantastic opportunity to gather data about students’ literacy skills. To this end, the teacher has been screen-casting students as they work. This enables the teacher to analyze, not simply the student’s final submission, but a residual feed of them working, almost like watching them think. By reviewing this footage the teacher can gauge what levels of scaffolds and supports students may or may not need as well as how to proceed in order to best meet the needs of each student.
All of these projects encourage students to synthesize knowledge and skills across domains. These projects encourage students to build their own opinions and defend these using evidence. They projects help students build connections between classroom content and the world beyond the classroom.