BACKCHANNELING WITH TODAY’S MEET IN A MATH CLASSROOM

Task: Students used Today’s Meet to communicate ideas while solving problems.  Everyone in the class was given an iPad and a packet of questions.  My Accelerated students worked on STAAR review questions, and my PAP students worked on Central Tendency.  We accessed Today’s Meet through the Safari Browser; no app was necessary.  Students were required to login with their real name.  I reminded them of the technology ground rules such as making appropriate comments and staying on topic.  Students were free to type questions, answers, helpful hints, or anything else pertaining to the current problem.  I began the process by selecting the question, and typing a question or two to stimulate the conversation if necessary.  Today’s Meet allows users to type messages that contain 140 characters or less.  There is a setting that allowed me to display the conversation in real-time on the projector. As students solved the problems, our online conversations allowed us to identify and correct misconceptions, and collaborate with each other to reach a solution.

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Reflection: My students enjoyed using Today’s Meet.  Some of them were experienced with the website, but they had never used it in a math classroom.  I was unsure how the lesson would develop when I made my plans.  I didn’t know if they would take it seriously enough to be an effective lesson.  As it turned out, the students surpassed all of my expectations.  Most of them took right to the concept of collaborating online, and we were able to sustain the momentum for entire class periods.  As a math teacher, it is always very exciting to see students communicate their ideas in writing.  This year it has been a struggle to motivate my students to write about math.  Today’s Meet generated the best ideas I have seen from my students to date.  As a moderator, it was important for me to keep the conversation going by asking specific, rigorous questions.  I also made a point to praise students that contributed with an @ mention.  They were usually excited to see their name highlighted in the conversation.

This lesson was not without its challenges.  As always, it was important to set the tone early.  Many students were tempted to login with false names and make silly comments instead of trying to make it an educational experience.  As students lost their iPad privileges here and there, it helped the rest of the class focus and take it seriously.  There were students that were not engaged in the process.  In particular, my ELL students were not typing many comments.  However, everyone was still able to learn from the comments and solve the problems on their own paper.  At the same time, many students who do not like to volunteer on a regular basis spoke up on this platform, which was very exciting to see.  Because I was very engaged as the moderator, I did not get to walk around and facilitate as much as I would have liked, but there were still opportunities for me to help students one-on-one and offline.

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Conclusion: Today’s Meet is a great website for backchanneling.  It is very user-friendly, and the students enjoy sharing their ideas.  When I begin my digital classroom, I would like to use this process on a regular basis.  I believe I could use it when I am presenting new material without having to generate the discussion on my own.  Communication and collaboration is the key to a successful digital classroom in my opinion, and a math class should not be any different.  A lesson of this kind could very well be the snow day of the future.  It could also be an excellent way to solve problems with other classes across the hall, district, state, country, or even the world.  However, the digital conversation within the confines of our own classroom was an excellent start, and I believe my students benefited from the experience.

 

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