Ever have a meeting where you feel the group vibe is a… can’t say World Series win, maybe a Pennant Series win? People are leaving inspired with new ideas and come up to verbally share them with you; that’s what I experienced recently.
Let me explain and I’m hoping this doesn’t come off as a ‘tooting his own horn‘ post. In my position as a teacher resource specialist for technology, I not only support a middle school (6th-8th) but I also support the Math (6th-12th) & Science (6th-12th) departments. I do this with one of my counterparts at the high school, Jessica Verrault. We were approached at the beginning of this school year by the Math Supervisor, Andrea Bean, if we would be interested in facilitating a monthly meeting with the eighth and ninth grade teachers focusing on student engagement in our 1:1 chromebook environment.
So Jess and I would design and then meet with Andrea to plan out each month’s department meeting. Our first one was the last week in September. We picked the focus on ‘differentiation techniques’ using a variety of tools.
I’m of the philosophy that you need to experience something before learning how to do it. So we designed a couple of activities where the attendees would be in the role of students going through a lesson and then we would backtrack through the lesson explaining how we intentionally set it up. We went through the “lesson” from start to finish, then explained in reverse order why we did what we did.
We began with three different Google Doc activities (pictured below & clickable with “Force a Copy”). We ‘assigned’ them through our department Google Classroom as an assignment where it made a copy of the Google Doc for each student. Embedded in the Google Doc was a Google Drawing of a possible problem solving strategy.
We followed this activity up by showcasing how to differentiate resources quickly to students. We utilize a tool, GoGuardian, which assists teachers in Chromebook management. One of the features, the ability to give commands, assists teachers in ‘Opening a Tab’ on student devices. So we shared each of these blog posts:
Selected teachers had a tab open up to one of the above posts. They weren’t told they were going to receive different posts. After a quick skimming of the article, we had them in groups discuss. That’s when many of them realized they received different resources.
That was our lesson! We proceeded to work backwards explaining our intentions. First, Verso was used so we could take advantage of the feature to group responses. As the classroom teacher, we would want to see who would be in our groups for tomorrow’s lesson, to determine who would get different activities/resources.
Then we showed the teachers how to push out the command in GoGuardian to open a tab:
We showed how our Google Doc with an embedded Google Drawing could offer a layer of differentiation by including the drawing or not, all depending on the needs/abilities of the student(s). Our main differentiation strategy demonstrated in our lesson was the ability to assign to individual students in Google Classroom instead of assigning to all:
So there it is, the entire department meeting offering strategies facilitated by technology to differentiate for our students in a math classroom. Andrea (Math Supervisor) gave us some great feedback, praise, and even suggested presenting this at an upcoming NJ Math Teachers conference (might be doing that!). The one thing to keep in mind for next time, we should have explained that we would be going through this lesson at a quick pace. Some of the teachers felt anxiety about not completing the Google Doc math problem or completely reading the blog post in the time allotted. We should have stated, “To respect your time, we will be hurrying through this demo lesson so we can then explain and demonstrate how we setup what you are about to experience.”