What’s Working with Distance Learning

This article is from our weekly district newsletter, but I thought what was shared by these teachers deserved a wider audience.

This week’s “What’s Working Around the District” column comes from one of our awesome Math 1 PLCs. They are teaching from CPM’s Integrated Math 1. Going into distance learning many teachers were wondering how CPM could work at a distance.

This team’s answer is: Thanks to Desmos, it works great!

During the week before school started I heard from their PLC that they intended to teach via Desmos.  Week 1 I sent them a list of questions.  Now that they have had a little time to try things out, here’s what they have to say:

From Teacher 1 (year 7 teaching, year 2 teaching CPM)

  • Overall I am extremely satisfied with Desmos and feel inclined to keep up with it after Distance Learning. I am also using it in my Foundations of Math 2 class. Creating lessons is easy, especially considering the ease of typing math and the ability to include graphs, card sorts, etc.
  • I think it has improved my pacing for the CPM lessons. The dashboard makes it easy to see where everyone is at and I can check on them privately in chat if I see they are not moving along with us.  While students are in breakout rooms, I will often go through and leave feedback on some of their Desmos responses. It is also great that we can see all student responses to a specific question at once. It is a super efficient way to gauge whole class understanding.
  • Ironically, I am hearing individual students’ voices more than I did prior to distance learning because it is easier to read 30 responses on one screen than sift through 30 notebooks or notecards.
  • The last thing I will mention is student engagement—they are far more engaged with the interactive Desmos lessons than they would be watching me do direct instruction and taking all their notes from scratch. I feel like most students actually enjoy working through each activity!

From Teacher 2: ( year 14 teaching, year 2 teaching CPM)

  • We are using Desmos for just about everything. We are using it for class lessons/notes and have included the HW assignments as the last 5 or 6 slides to each assignment.
  • Putting the lesson into Desmos for me has been kind of difficult and kind of easy. I think it depends on the type of problem I am inputting. The hard part and what I would love to learn how to do is the coding stuff so I can give feedback to my students. I have played around with it but I can’t get it to work. (Note from me – . . . “can’t get it to work” YET. That’s a pretty advanced user skill. You are doing great!) 
  • I think running a Desmos class is great. I like that I can pace them and keep them all on the slide I need them to work on or give them options to work a head on two or three slides. I also let them do this in break out rooms on zoom. I like that they can input their work and I can follow along on the teacher option to view everyone’s work.

From Teacher 3: ( year 4 teaching, year 2 teaching CPM)

  • Creating the desmos activities were very easy since CPM has Desmos integrated into its etools already. We have been able to do every single problem on desmos and even the labs in 1.1.2 went better on desmos then they did in class last year. CPM provides a lot of great virtual manipulatives and they are easy to input when not provided. I love the different types of problems you can enter using text, latex, pictures, graphs, tables. And the responses can be done using text, math, tables, graphs and sketches. I feel like the students are more inclined to explain their work when there is an obvious input box on desmos versus when it says “explain” at the end of a paragraph in the textbook.
  • We went back and forth about what to use for homework and ended up using desmos for that too. We put the homework problems at the end of the lesson so everything is in one spot for the students and for us to check their work. We are giving them a score per lesson (5 points for classwork, 5 for homework). I graded the first lesson and it didn’t take any longer than it would to grade it on paper. The dashboard makes it easy to check who participated during class. Then I looked at each student’s individual responses and left feedback if there was an incorrect answer, a skipped problem, or misconception. The feedback is great for the students and didn’t take that long to leave. I played around with the computation layer so starting with lesson 1.1.3 the students will receive feedback on their homework problems so they will know if it is correct or incorrect. This will only work for math input answers but it will make grading a lot faster and the students will benefit from the instant feedback. We are using the book problems so we will still include the open response questions which will take a little longer to grade but will prepare them for assessments.
  • Using Desmos in class has been very smooth and so easy for classroom management. I split my monitor screen to have the teacher dashboard on half and zoom on the other half. Then I open the activity from google classroom and enter as a student on my laptop. I share my laptop screen so they can see my student screen and everything I am writing with the annotation tool on zoom. Being able to write all over my screen is great and makes it easier to explain. I have been using breakout rooms every class period and they are going great. Usually I start them off or do one example and then send them out to work together. Being able to see what they are typing or what question they are on makes it easy to see which groups are struggling or who is off-task. After I bring them back I ask for volunteers to answer questions or I call on students based on the answers I see on the teacher dashboard. This allows students who might not have volunteered an opportunity to share their thinking and for me to hear their voice.
  • Another thing to add is that the first slide on Desmos has the agenda for the day, what they need to do right now, and a graph/input box to tell us how they are doing. The students actually fill this out which is nice and they always have something to do while I am admitting students and taking attendance. We pre-pace the activities so the students can’t move past this screen until we are ready. I use the pacing the whole time to keep us together and if I want them to work on a couple questions I’ll open it up while they are in breakout rooms but still have pacing on. 

And an additional note from me:

Our district has not been one to one with devices until distance learning forced us to it. Consequently, most teachers in the district had little to no experience teaching with Desmos before schools closed in the spring. Fortunately, Desmos is built to support teacher and student learning, and the fact that after only 2 weeks of school this team is feeling so comfortable with teaching in this entirely new way is a testimony to the quality of both the curriculum and the technology. Thank you Desmos and CPM for helping keep students and teachers learning during this difficult time!

Interested in learning more about teaching with Desmos? Check out learn.desmos.com

*Making Desmos activities from CPM? Remember CPM materials are copyright protected so either leave out CPM text and images or keep your activity private. Check your teacher edition ebook for premade desmos activities and submit your own creations!

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