Tuesday, August 11, 2020


Yesterday was Monday, August 10th, 2020.  My mind is swirling with all the uncertainties this fall holds.  I was fishing on a lake in Maine and it allows my brain to empty and then get creative.  

I was thinking about #VNPS - Vertical Non-Permanent Surfaces - working at whiteboards in collaborative groups in the classroom - 3 kids staying in a close spacing - passing/sharing/taking turns with 1 marker.  Well, that won't be allowed this school year.  I was trying to think about how I could turn these lessons into a virtual whiteboard lesson.  I miss the math conversations.  I worked some hard on getting them the past 3 years and then when we went to zoom remote teaching in the Spring, most kids had their microphones off and lost their voice.

 Now, I need to find a way to hear students' discussion/debates/strategies and watch them work it out.  I thought I need some practice students to try some tech tools on to see if it will meet our needs.  I put a tweet out at 11am EST for people to sign up to help me on Tuesday at 11 am EST - 24 hour turnaround.  I didn't want to think about it much more.  

And, people signed up.  Over 50 teachers came to join in our investigation.  I was estimating we might go for an hour, but we went for almost 2 hours.  I appreciate everyone who came to play today.  I think in the business world, this might have been considered a Focus Group and people might actually get paid to test the tools like we did.  But, you know...it's different in the teacher world.  I am on vacation and did this.  But, enough of that.  

I had high hopes.  I thought I was going to try 4 and come away with at least 1 maybe 2 tools that might do the job.  

Synopsis of our work:

  • Google Slides with a Visual Pattern type problem. Ask students to investigate what changes as the step changes.  We did this at #TMC17 and I have used it on the first day of school in Geometry every since.  I made a google slide and made slides for groups of 4 to work on together.  I gave them a topic to investigate after we did a brainstorming session.  I wanted them to be able to work in breakout groups and discuss as well as use a pencil tool with different colors to show their thinking. We learned:
    • There isn't really a pencil tool in Google Slides.  It is the line segment and you choose squiggly.  Some people added text, so people tables, but not so great to draw.
    • I should lock my backgrounds so students don't accidentally move them - make them, take a snapshot, and then add back in as a picture.
    • It was suggested if I have 8 groups, to make those 8 pages hyperlinks so the kids can just click on their page.
    • Teacher can see if live.  Teacher could write on if needed.  
  • Desmos New Whiteboard in Activity Builder with Geometry Oral instructions.  In my old class, I would have groups of kids at the board and I would say 1st person, draw and label Point P, draw and label line AB, etc.  I envisioned the Whiteboards in Desmos as if it was a group one and they would all be able to write on it in the same group.  I made 15 whiteboards in one Activity Builder.  I made breakout groups but didn't put them into the groups - instead had them write down their room number and student number as they were listed.  I said, all my #1s, draw and label Point P.  I thought there would be 1 WB for Group 1 with a point on it and one for group 2, etc.  Instead, there were 5 WB in Group 1 because - my brain wasn't working correctly - and each student is working in their own Desmos AS, they aren't working on each others, so not really the collaborating I wanted.  We learned:
    • I could use the overlay function to see all of Group1's together, but that is not what I was intending.
    • Also, pointed out, oral over zoom may be too difficult for hearing impaired students so would need another way for directions - in chat?
  • Next up, we tried Whiteboard.fi.  Students don't need to sign in.  I gave them a code.  I had not used this one.  I did know they would be individual whiteboards.  I combined this with an Open Middle problem where students had to use #1-9 to fill in blanks.  I had the picture on My WB for them and they had their to look at.  We learned: 
    • I can push my image onto the student's board under the bottom of the teacher WB (little tough to find)
    • Ethan wrote on his WB before I pushed my image so it covered his work.  He then could remove my image too.  So, that is a little weird that it isn't locked.
    • I can see everyone's work, but I am not sure there is really a way to collaborate.  
    • Oh, yes and Sam moved in on Ethan's WB by signing out and signing back in using Ethan's name and then he could write on Ethan's WB.  That could be trouble.
  • And, my fourth and final was Classkick.com.  I used this a lot in the spring.  Both my kids and I liked it.  I used it more for live practice.  I made like 4 slides each with a problem on it.  Not so easy in math with having to add equations.  I still have to type it in Google doc and screenshot it and input as a picture.  I can see all their WB and write on them.  I used these in Zoom so I could call someone back to a certain slide and work with them on it, or they could call me to a slide if they were stuck.  Kids can raise a hand using the tech and if it is teacher enabled, then you can let other students help someone who is raising their hand.  We learned:
    • If someone helps someone and then leaves, you can't tell who helped out (or maybe wrote something inappropriate).

Here is my Google Slide LINK to what I used. (Hint; There are Schitt's Creek GIFs in it)

 Here is our long Zoom conversation.  Password is: V2JRq+3N. ( I hope that works)

Overall, it was so good to have this conversation in a safe place where we could trial and error and discuss and learn and make mistakes.  I did not walk away with 1 tool I will use.  As usual, I will have to figure out what it is I hope to accomplish with the task and then find the best tool to handle it remotely.

HINT: Someone should make something where kids can work on whiteboards collaboratively with a decent tool for drawing and writing out math and a good teacher dashboard.


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