Are you overwhelmed by the idea of integrating technology into your secondary math classroom? You’ve heard of websites like IXL, Khan Academy, and Kahoot, but where do you even begin?
Technology can be overwhelming. There is doubt about it. There are the logistical questions like, what if the internet goes down? And, how do I use technology when I have 24 chromebooks and 38 students (that one is taken straight from my situation in the 2017-18 school year)? There are the content questions like, which websites should I use? And, is this internet stuff better than my tried and true worksheets? But I think what makes us teachers most hesitant to get started with technology in the classroom is, how can I monitor what my students are doing? I don’t want them on YouTube or Facebook during class. How can I ensure they are on-task?
That last question was the question I wrestled with most. The 2017-18 school year was the first year I had a class set of chromebooks and I felt intimidated and overwhelmed about how to use them - that is, how to use them effectively. But I was determined to give it a try. I didn’t become a Google Classroom Master Teacher or IXL prodigy, but I started. Here are some tips if you find yourself wanting to get started with classroom math tech.
Physical Classroom Layout
There is no doubt that students will wonder on the internet if you don’t provide structure, expectations, and consequences. I would highly suggest having students sit in rows when doing computer work so that you can stand in the back of the room and see all screens. You might want to consider a computer contract and discuss fair consequences with your students for computer misuse.
1. Google Classroom
Cost: Free (as long as your district has google).
How to get started: Search for Google Classroom, set up your classes, and click on the “students” tab to display a class code. Students then log into google classroom and enter the code. It’s all very intuitive for students even if it doesn’t feel intuitive for us.
Pros: Great way to communicate with students online. Think of it as their go-to spot where you post announcements or even create assignments.
Cons: The assignments allow you to create a google doc, slide, or spreadsheet that students copy, edit, and submit. I felt these are more geared toward non-math subjects (unless you want to create a google doc math worksheet or project), but you could definitely get creative here!
Cost: A 1 year classroom license (25 students) is $249 according to IXLs website. Schools and districts can get better bulk rates so ask your administrator!
How to get started: Districts can link their enrollment data to IXL, making student registration seamless. You can email students their usernames and passwords (which they cannot reset/forget) and they just log in. The other option is to add students manually.
Pros: Think of IXL like a digital worksheet that you don’t have to wait in line at the copy machine for and that provides immediate feedback to your students. Pretty awesome! You can tell students exactly what you want them to work on (google classroom is a great way to communicate this with a direct link) and set a “smart score” goal for them to work towards. I found 80 to be a good “smart score” goal for most topics. However, for some longer topics, like solving systems of equations by substitution, I used a lower score like 40 to show mastery. And for some shorter topics, like reviewing perimeter and area, I used the max score of 100.
I found IXL to be a wonderful tool for my remedial students. You can access all grade levels on IXL. Take equations for example, they were able to start at 6th grade and work towards the Algebra 1 level. Very helpful!
Cons: If rosters are not established by the school or district, manual roster creation would be needed. You’ll need to enter first name, last name, and an email for each student. IXL will populate a username and password which can then be emailed to your students. This could get quite tedious with the amount of students we have as secondary teachers.
Tip: Do the assignment in IXL yourself before you assign it to your students. Sometimes the assignment got more difficult that I anticipated leaving my students confused and distracted!
How to get started: There are two easy ways to add students. Both are found by clicking on “roster” then “add new students.” From there you can either A) import from Google classroom (easy and seamless) or B) have students type in the class code at khanacademy.org/coaches.
Pros: Videos! If students are behind or ahead, Khan Academy is a great place for them to take ownership of their learning by watching videos and completing the practice. Assigning videos or practice assignments to your class is a breeze in Khan Academy.
Cons: As a remedial math teacher, I found some of the videos and practice assignments to be inaccessible to my students. They either went to quickly or assumed a higher basic skill set which made my students frustrated and shut down.
How to get started: As a teacher, you can sign in at create.kahoot.it with google to access thousands of pre-created kahoots or to make your own. Once you’ve started your Kahoot game, students will enter a “game pin” at kahoot.it.
Pros: Students (even my high schoolers) loved the competition aspect. Even my most difficult to engage learners wanted to engage with Kahoot!
Kahoot is great for basics. Because there is a competition piece I suggest giving students quick DOK level 1 tasks like definitions, arithmetic review, one step equations, etc, or even fun non-math class culture builders (like, “Can you name that 2017 hit song in 5 seconds?”).
There are thousands of pre-created kahoots you can search for and edit to your liking. I went an entire year just editing others Kahoots and never made one of my own! Search for a topic, duplicate it, then you can edit it by deleting questions and changing the given answer time.
Cons: Difficult to monitor students while on Kahoot because it requires the teacher to stay at their computer to click, “next” after each question.
Tips: Students are asked to type a “nickname” when accessing your game. You can imagine the creative names students come up with sometimes. To combat this I asked - from the beginning - that students only enter their actual first time in the “nickname” slot and I would delete any other nicknames before the class had a chance to see it.
I hope you are encouraged to try even ONE of these resources in your math classroom this year! Remember that you aren’t expected to be a master after one try. Give each resource a few chances before you ‘X’ it off your list. Want some one-on-one help getting started with classroom math tech? Contact us and let’s collaborate!
Want more? Juliana Tapper will be presenting this topic at the Colorado Council of Teachers of Mathematics Annual Conference Friday, August 3, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. Register for the event here.