Saturday, December 22, 2012

Hanging Out and Reviewing Algebra

Just a quick post to share something I tried in case it spurs an idea for someone. We had our final exam in my Algebra class yesterday and, as usual, we spent the last few days of class time reviewing for it. But there were a couple of things I tried differently this year.

First, in previous years we've allowed students to use a note card on the final, so they can write down certain formulas or other things so they don't have to worry about memorizing them, but still have to be able to apply the mathematics. While I would love to give an "open Internet" exam, that's currently not possible given our Algebra curriculum and the types of questions we ask on our final (we give a common final exam in Algebra).

Instead of the traditional note card, however, I had the class co-create their note card on a google site. I gave them part of one class period and then another five days outside of class where they could edit the site, then I locked it down the day before the final. I then went through and made sure there wasn't anything wrong or confusing (I did clean up a couple of things), and then they had access to it via their laptops during the final if they needed it. I told them that if they prepared well they probably wouldn't need to access it much, and I did see only a limited amount of use during the final.

The quality of what they created wasn't fantastic, but it's a start, and I'm hopeful they learned a lot just by trying to create it (which is half the purpose of the note card in the first place). I'm also hopeful that they learned from this experience and will do a better job next semester.

The second thing I tried was holding an (optional) online review session the night before the final. Since part of the theory behind my version of the flipped classroom is that I don't want students to get frustrated when working at home when they don't necessarily have access to help, I wanted to provide some kind of support while they were studying the night before the final (in addition to email and texting).

So I decided to use a combination of a Live Google Hangout and the chat room in our Moodle. This wasn't a true "hangout" experience, because I was the only one in the Hangout. Our district has not implemented Google Plus and Hangouts in our Google Apps for Education domain, so I couldn't do it there. Instead, I used my personal Google account. Since I didn't want to make students create a non-school Gmail and join Google Plus just for this, I just did a Hangout on Air. I shared my screen and my voice through the hangout and worked through any questions they had. Since they weren't in the hangout, we used the chat room in our Moodle installation for them to ask questions. Once we got over the initial confusion that they had to have both the video and the chat room open, it seemed to work reasonably well. Since this was optional, I was half-expecting no students to show up at all. I was somewhat pleasantly surprised when a total of five (out of my 27) showed up at some point during the roughly hour-long session.

I don't think it was the greatest thing ever (or the most creative use of Hangouts), but I think there's a ton of potential here, especially if we ever get to implement hangouts in our Google Apps for Education environment (students working together in groups virtually, teachers "meeting" with small groups or the entire class, etc). This was also the first time I really wished I had a tablet computer, so that I could've written and drawn on the screen instead of just typed, but that's probably not enough of a reason (yet) to get one.

Anyone else used Hangouts in interesting ways with students?

1 comment:

  1. Google Documents has an equation editor (Insert...Equation) that might be easier to use than wrestling with equations in Google Sites. Docs can be linked or embedded within a Site's pages for easy access/editing. Otherwise, the review site is a great idea.