When I received my first iPad, I, like many, engaged in the process of rapid app downloading. After attending a workshop or seminar around using iPads, I would hastily download any and all apps recommended by the presenter. And like most that go through this process, I found that I used few (if any) of those apps taking up space on the device.
Sure, we’ve curated a modest list of recommended “educational productivity and creativity apps” for mathematics in St. Vrain, and we’ve purposefully stayed away from any apps that push content to students or resemble any type of rote practice or digital worksheet. So if apps aren’t the way to go, how can these learning devices be used productively in the teaching and learning of mathematics?
Looking at the Standards for Mathematical Practice, these three stand out with respect to communication of mathematical ideas:
- MP1: Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.
- MP3: Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.
- MP6: Attend to precision.
No doubt, if we want to assess students’ understanding of mathematics, we must focus on their mathematical communication and transparency in their thinking and processing; yet one key barrier appears to exist, repeated by most teachers: “How can I possibly meet with every student one-on-one to do this regularly?”
This is where technology can facilitate capturing these moments and providing meaningful data to teachers beyond paper and pencil means. As part of our District-provided apps, Explain Everything is pushed out to all iPads for students and teachers. Forget all of the other math apps you wish your students could access, as this one allows you to hear and see what they are thinking as they work out a solution to a problem. That is, if they are given a worthwhile task that allows them to use the Standards of Mathematical Practice listed above and not simply practice rote procedures.
Are you leery of Explain Everything or see potential limitations in its functionality? Then simply capture a video right off the iPad using the camera. What better way to record real time student thinking and gain more formative information than any paper-pencil assessment.