Wednesday, January 30, 2019

VoiceThread has a Place in Your Math Class

VoiceThread image
I recently worked with our middle school math teachers to increase opportunities for students to use technology to collaborate and communicate their learning. I pre-planned with our middle school content specialist to really determine what students should be doing in a math class when it came to collaboration and communication and how technology would enhance these opportunities. We decided to focus on the following:

  • Effective mathematical teaching practices: facilitate meaningful discourse and elicit and use evidence of student thinking.
  • Mathematical process standards: Use critical thinking skills to justify mathematical reasoning & critique the reasoning of others. Use a variety of mathematical tools effectively and strategically. Communicate mathematically & approach mathematical situations with precision.

With these skills in mind, I felt VoiceThread was a perfect tool that would give our students opportunities to build and use these skills as well as become both producers and consumers of knowledge. VoiceThread is a secure website that uses various types of media to be uploaded; images, videos, documents and presentations for asynchronous conversations whenever it's convenient for students to participate.
The strategy I shared models the math discourse our students engage in a math class. The strategy stays the same, but I simply added in the opportunity for the learners to collaborate and communicate using technology. Here are the steps I used to model the math conversation using VoiceThread...
  • Individual strategy First students have the opportunity to “Think and Ink”. Students determine the strategy and solution they would use to solve the math task in order for all students to contribute their idea.
  • Sharing Students then take turns sharing with a partner their own individual strategy and solution to the task, notes they may have made, and how they might improve your work. Students are encouraged to listen carefully to each other, asking questions if they do not understand. Students should determine the similarities and differences between the methods described.
  • The group agrees on the best method for completing the problem and produce a poster that shows a joint solution to the task. State on the poster any assumptions you have made. Give clear reasons for your choice of method. Students then take a picture of their poster and upload it to the VoiceThread group and record the method they used to solve the problem and reason they used that method.
  • Students review another group’s work carefully to understand what they have done. I offered the following questions for students to consider
    • Think about how the work could be improved. What may be misleading about the work or diagram? What advice would you give the group about their method? In what ways could the group improve their work?

Not only has this particular tool allowed for more collaboration and communication between the students it has provided an opportunity for me, as the teacher, to go back and determine the level of understanding for each student. As a teacher, I can use the image as evidence to see their steps and mathematical process as well as listen to their math reasoning. Great formative assessment. VoiceThread is a simple to learn and use platform. The tutorials are quick and walk you through each step of the creation process. VoiceThread Playlist on YouTube.
Try it out today! Have an idea of how you used VoiceThread in your classroom, leave a comment below.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Reading with a purpose and teachers gathering data

In our connected world, people find themselves gathering information from online sources much more frequently than print sources.  Interestingly, the way our brains work to scan digital texts has changed based on the typical layout of websites that present information.  For example, our eyes are more likely to remain focused on the left side of a webpage, where menus and additional links are typically placed rather than scan the entire page fully.  Readers, young and old, typically scan pages in an “F” pattern, tracing their eyes along the text in heavy left-to-right patterns at the beginning of paragraphs but not throughout the entirety of the passage. 


This isn’t altogether horrible if students are simply scanning to gather rudimentary information but when we are asking students to complete sustained and detailed reading online, these habits suggest that a support for students may help them read more comprehensively when assigned digital texts. 

There are multiple technology tools that teachers can implement in order to help students read the entirety of an assigned next rather than the F-pattern of hotspots.  An example of a tool a teacher can implement is called Edji. 

Edji ( is a web-based platform where teachers upload texts.  It includes tools for the students to read and highlight the text as well as make comments.  The usefulness of the tool comes in the form of the information teachers gain about the class’ reading patterns.  Edji creates a heatmap that shows the patterns of student reading and commenting.  Navigate to this demo page to see how the heatmaps display the reading and interactive data:

Teachers may want students to highlight portions of the text that they have questions about, vocabulary words, or respond to the text with their own summaries in comments.  A teacher can also embed comprehension questions to ensure the students read the entire paragraph with understanding.  And in situations where we are asking our students to read graphs and other visual representations of data, students can even highlight and interact with those images.

In addition to seeing how the class interacted with the text as a whole, the teacher can access a reading recap for an individual student that displays information about how long the student spent reading the text and how many interactions the student had with the text.

Check out getting started with Edji for more information.

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