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!

Fall 2020 -Tech Recommendations to Start the Year

My Tech Diet to Start the Year

Desmos Activity Builder and Google slides. That’s it. Focus on building your learning community and not juggling 100 different cool tools.

Next options for adding on might be Google Jam Board, Google Forms, and/or Google Docs.

Tech to start with for students out of class would be Delta Math, Edpuzzle, and even more Desmos, Google Slides, or Google Docs.

Why Google Slides?

Use google slides to assign breakout room groups collaborative work that they can discuss and co-annotate. As they work you can see the writing appear in real time. It looks like this:

Notice that group 7 is not writing, so I will be popping into that room to see what is up. I also was able to take a screen shot of the problem I wanted them to work on and set it as the background of the slide deck, so it was there for each group to reference.

And here is a great way to have students discuss their rough draft attempts on a homework problem so they can revise and refine there efforts. Their improved draft would go in the center rectangle.

If you prefer, label the squares A, B, C, and D and have students put names in the speaker notes. Then you can project their work for discussion while keeping it anonymous.

This template and hundreds of others are available for download for free at http://www.theresawills.com. She also offers great free PD sessions on teaching synchronously at a distance. Strong recommend!

Gallery Walks Anyone?

This Google Slide Deck by @ashleyguerrero is perfect for a gallery walk activity.

Really, Desmos?

Yes really!

Peardeck, Nearpod, and Desmos all give you the ability to pace the class-control what is on everybody’s screen right now, see each student’s work immediately or near immediately. Each has a couple unique bells and whistles, but they all serve the purposes

  1. Classroom pacing/ management at a distance
  2. See student work in real time
  3. Facilitate conversation

Here are some things that cause me to recommend Desmos:

  • it is 100% free forever. You get all the features.
  • it is made for math. It can do other subjects, but it’s math typing tools, graphs, and tables make different math representations simple.
  • It has a whiteboard feature like peardeck and nearpod, but additional whiteboarding backgrounds like graph paper or a coordinate axis, isometric graph paper and circle/polar graph paper
  • the card sort feature is great for activities like those from our IM and CPM curriculums
  • the video tutorials make it simple to learn
  • it is possible to build in self checking feature when they submit answers
  • the built in comment feature lets you send individual students messages in real time or after class and allows students to go back and see later.
  • The built in snap shot feature makes it easy to take screens shots and prepare a teacher presentation using actual student work as class is happening or later if you find a common incomplete understanding you want to address.
  • the calculator is the same one used on our state test. If you have time to think about state test results right now, that practice with the tool is a plus.
  • The starter screen sets they offer are great for helping you begin getting to know your students and building those relationships.

All that being said, if you are a Peardeck pro, have the paid license and don’t know how to use Desmos, starting your year with tech you know is totally reasonable.

But especially for those of you about to learn something new, invest the time learning the one built by math teachers for math teachers.

Just my unsolicited two cents . . .

Remote Learning Resources- 2020

I put together these hyper docs in Spring of 2020, when over one weekend we went from face to face instructors to managers of distance learning opportunities. The subjects highlighted reflect the priorities for the course and the topics that are usually taught during spring semester.

I have been asked to share these resources so many times that I decided it was easier to put them all in one place for easy access.

Integrated Math 1 hyper doc that links to the six pages below. Get copy here
Integrated Math 2 hyper doc that links to the six pages below. Get copy here
Integrated Math 3 hyper doc that links to the six pages below. Get copy here

Find a typo? Please let me know here.

Distance Learning – Upping Your Video Lesson Game

Are you tired? These last six weeks have been a brutal baptism by fire into digital teaching and learning.

I know some of you are doing more than one of these at a time. If that’s you, those slopes are additive, so you are probably at the top of that list. Be comforted that it will never get steeper than this. ☺

One place you may consider upping your game, either now or for the future, is in the way you are recording and delivering content. I spent the week exploring different tech options and found a few that are much easier than what I previously have done, and some that help students to be more interactive and engaged while watching. I took one 8th grade lesson introducing the idea of volume and tried it out with each of the following platforms. (My purpose here is to show off the tech, so forgive less than optimal teaching.  Also, I committed to posting my first product for each platform, so you could see the way it might actually come out without spending a week of redoing and perfecting. All that to say, watch with grace.)

Record in Powerpoint: The record feature in Powerpoint makes editing or adding to your video a breeze.  Your speech and animation clicks are captured and saved slide by slide. Done and realize something you forgot? Add a slide and record whatever talk goes with it. Mess something up? Don’t start over. Just re-record that one slide. In the end, it can be converted to a single video. 

original slides from curriculum     slides with video

 slides as movie  How To Record in ppt video

Nearpod: This is another great option for those of you who teach using slides, but also is very adaptable to loading small videos you have saved from your computer or found online. The great thing about Nearpod is the wide variety of ways you have to choose from for students to answer questions or interact with the content you create. As you explore this self-paced lesson, be sure to see the variety of student interaction types on slide 3, 5,13, 24, and 26.      

        Student lesson on Nearpod        How To Nearpod video

EdPuzzle: This platform is great for uploading any old or new video you have made or found online and inserting questions to check for understanding during the video. You can upload your classes from google classroom if you wish to, which allows you to keep a gradebook of viewing time and % correct for each video you assign. The video editing tools are simple and wonderful for clipping out little misspeaks or random interruptions. I’ll never have to stop and re-record again! Also, EdPuzzle has the option to set it so students cannot skip over video or questions – your choice.  

       Student lesson in EdPuzzle       How To EdPuzzle video

Screencastify: Every How To video above was made with Screencastify. Like EdPuzzle it allows me to crop out random bits, but it also allows me to add in video pieces, merging them to one relatively seamless video.

Summary chart

Product Use this if Strengths More info here
Powerpoint Recording+You teach from slides

+You want to be able to and edit audio to your slides easily

+You’d like an option to show your face in a small corner screen
+Recording small bits at a time

+The choice to show video of you speaking or omit
Powerpoint support
Nearpod+You teach from slides but you’d like to add your voice to the slide

+You want your lesson to be more interactive

+You want to be able to redo your audio easily
+Lots of variety of interactions available

+Student can move at their own pace, skip things

+Integrates well with google classroom
EdPuzzle+You want your video to be more interactive

+You want to be able to edit your video

+You want to keep track of student interactions
+You choose whether students can skip things or not

+You can grade student responses and type them feedback

+Integrates well with google classroom
Screencastify+You want to be able to edit your video

+You’d like an option to show your face in a small corner screen

+You want to be able to merge two or more videos together
+Stores videos automatically to google drive or your computer (your choice) https://www.screencastify.com/

Distance Learning: The Missing Piece

In mid March 2020, with virtually no time to plan and prepare, schools around the nation shut their doors and moved instruction online. Amazing, wonderful teachers scrambled to learn how to set up google classrooms, record lessons, magically get lessons on usb drives uploaded and assigned in those shiny new online classrooms. They learned or relearned how to assign work digitally through Khan Academy, Delta Math, iReady, or 100 other digital math practice platforms. 

The first weeks were trial and error. Teachers put all 5 classes into one classroom, and told students to upload pictures of the work for each assignment.  At a minimum of 2 photos per student per assignment, 4 assignments a week to 160 students made a huge number of images to be opened 1 at a time and sorted onto the right grade sheets. And some students had trouble uploading into google classroom because, hey, it was new for them too. So teachers found themselves recipients of photos via email, text, and tweet. Some were dropped in the school office on potentially germ covered paper, which meant driving over to pick up and grading with gloves. 

One teacher team that works exceptionally well together but had never used google classroom divided labor. One person made worksheets, one made videos, one photocopied packets for pick up and one made the google classroom. One google classroom. For all 650 students. As a place for info to go out it was fine. But as things started getting turned in, well, it was pretty overwhelming. 

In the midst of all this craziness, and a learning curve that rivaled any pandemic’s exponential growth, the easiest thing to do was to create a learning experience that, as much as possible, mirrored what was happening already in their classrooms. It was comfortable for teachers. It was comfortable for students. At a time when everything about life was different than what it had been one week before, stability and consistency in classroom structure was what we all felt like we needed.

And then it began popping up . . .

What is missing? 

The kids. Being together. The laughter. The high fives. 

The humanity. The heart. The community. 

The sounds of discovery and failure and success!

The reason we went into teaching. The reason we stay. 

We miss our kids. 

And no matter how independent we try to raise our learners to be, they miss us.  Kids who never thought they would miss us, miss us. The feeling is mutual.

And honestly, what were we thinking?? 

Some of us have been recording lessons and providing them online for absent students for years.  How much has that worked for that 6th period baseball player who misses 2 days a week all spring? Uni-directional imparting of information, no matter how slick your videoing or screen casting skills, can never replace the richness of our classroom communities. And at this time, when things are scary, and resources are scarce for some of us, when life itself seems uncertain, maybe it is this community that is the most important thing to keep constant for our students

How do we make room for humanity in our digital classrooms?

  1. Be intentional about connecting personally. Take time to ask, “How are you doing?” communicate back and forth with students when they take you up on those opportunities and share with you. One of my favorite ways right now is using this great set of distance learning starter screens from Desmos. Turns out editing a Desmos activity or creating one of your own is not very hard.(Who knew!) Choose a slide or two each week to give your students a chance to share if they need to. If not Desmos, give them a writing prompt or two to chose from each week.  They can’t just hang after class to talk. Let them know your door is still open.
  1. Allow students some flexibility and choice. We are in a time where we have so little personal control. Give students the opportunity to choose which way they are going to show they have learned something. Hyperdoc lessons are a great way to build in self-pacing flexibility and/or activity choice.
  1. Build in opportunities for creativity and play. Learning activities don’t have to look exactly like a math book. There are lots of ways to practice the mathematics they should be learning in creative and playful ways. And because creativity and play are two well proven stress relievers, adding opportunities for those in your classwork is taking care of your students in a uniquely human way. 

“When we are in a condition of uncertainty, whether it’s about when we can return to work, when schools will reopen, or if any of us, family members or friends are sick, play is a very effective approach to deal with uncertainties, cope and engage in stress relief. Research says that play and creativity help to cope with changes in everyday life, it enhances our subjective well-being and releases positive energy to think about alternatives.”

  1. Make room for mistakes and second chances. I know they are moving ever closer to adulthood, and teaching them responsibilities and natural consequences is important. But right now is a time to hold a little more loosely to those parts of our teaching.  Instead take the opportunity to teach them about kindness and grace. We as teachers may never know all the extra stressors that are attacking each child’s home life. 
  • Do they have a parent who is separated from the family because they are a health care provider?
  •  Is a relative or loved one who is far, or even in the home, critically ill or especially endangered by this pandemic? 
  • Have one or both adults in the home lost their jobs? 
  • Do they have new responsibilities as an instructor of younger siblings? 
  • Are they simply a child that takes the worries of the scary world we live in deeply to heart? 

Any of these things could affect their ability to spend time on learning, or the likelihood of  the learning they spend time on sticking with them. It is time for grace.

And honestly, it is time to spiral back to things again and again. Let’s do less, but do it with love, playfulness, humanity and grace. 

Face the fact that students might not learn all of the math that you would have taught them if this was a different year. Embrace the fact that you have more to give them than facts and formulas. Remember why we stay in this stressful, crazy, exhausting profession and give yourself permission to make caring for your students the first priority during this once in a lifetime moment in your teaching career.