7.5 Partnering with Students


There were over 1300 sessions offered at ISTE this year and you know I tried to attend them all. I was however forced to focus my efforts, so I concentrated on Personalized Learning, Math Pedagogy, Design Thinking and Professional Development.  I also had the privilege of attending some of  the student presentations and of course hanging out in the interactive Playgrounds. There were a few showcases that highlighted newer technologies like AR and VR,  if you have a minute check out the videos of zSpace in the classroom, so cool! I was happy to see that Makerspace and Maker Faires continue to be a big conversation with the intention of having students create solutions to real world problems, then taking their solutions and working backward to explore the math, science, and other content areas that were applied.

Something else that struck me this year, was a shift in framing the relationship between educator and student as more of a Partnership. A partnership that requires a constant balancing act of support and learner self management. We know that students perform better when they have voice and choice in their learning, so we need to partner with them to develop that student agency.  We see it in our own model of Teacher-Led Instruction vs Student Driven Learning with Mathletics and understand that it is a cooperative effort based on what the student is ready for. There isn’t a time frame on when learning can be completely student driven because new content and new processes are constantly being introduced and they require a learning curve for both the teacher and student. But the idea of a partnership that moves the student to a place where they are able to assess their own progress, make decisions about next steps and have ownership of their own learning is definitely an ideal worth working towards and a partnership worth working on!


6.28 No Tech and Low Tech Tools


Two indispensable tools for math instruction can be easily partnered with Mathletics to make learning more visible and empower every learner. One is the age old math journal, used by teachers across the span of grade levels where students can record their learning and reflections and teachers can monitor student growth. No technology needed, just a crisp sheet of paper and a Ticonderoga pencil for maximum benefits.

The other option is a screen capture program like Jing. Jing is a free tool that teachers can install on classroom laptops that allows students to easily record up to five minutes of video with voice over, while capturing the images on the screen. For example, a teacher can have students work through a set of problems and record their thinking about one of the problems. (sample video here) When the student saves the video a link is auto created, so it can be easily shared. Low technology experience required for maximum benefits.


6.26 Start with Creativity


Keynote speaker David Eagleman, Ph.D., a neuroscientist, bestselling author, professor, speaker, and inventor blew the crowd away with his deep dive into the developing brain. Imagine over 86 billion neurons making about 500 trillion connections to make us who we are. Due to the size of our brain and the distance between input and output, humans have the capacity to move beyond reactionary impulses and well into the realm of creativity and innovation. But the efficiency of our neuron pathways can become a barrier to creativity because they are  always looking for the most efficient path, the brain is ruthlessly efficient according to Dr. Eagleman. So we need to practice being creative, we need outlets to express ourselves, think deeply about ideas and struggle with challenging materials. Our brain is working at maximum capacity when engagement is frustrating but achievable, and educators are seeking opportunities to move students beyond cut and paste questions and answers to prepare students for the jobs that computers can’t do, like asking What If. They want their classrooms to start with creativity.

So where are we as an ed tech platform, in this conversation? How do we connect what we offer with this idea of starting with creativity? It all starts with every conversation we have with customers and how we frame what Mathletics has to offer. For sure our gaming platforms offer students the ability to access and grapple with challenging materials. The whole idea of gaming up is based on a frustrating but achievable mindset. The fact that we offer students the ability to represent their learning through multiple channels: content activities, games, and rich tasks and that our rich tasks challenge students to find multiple answers for each activity should all be part of our conversations. We can also leverage our knowledge of movements in education like Makerspace and Project Based Learning to become the support system that adds meaning and value to the creative experiences students are having. Think back to our Makerspsace activity, the level of engagement and creativity involved was through the roof AND off the chain. Had we been in a classroom situation, we could have easily come back to the mechanics of what we were doing and had multiple rich math conversations like exploring slope, and force and then explored Mathletics content to strengthen our understanding and build mastery. When we are having conversation with schools we should ask what creative projects they have students working on and then offer examples of how we can support that creative process. These are just some ideas of how we can extend ourselves, I hope you will add your ideas to the list!