Using ShowMe to Develop Student Created Math Tutorials

This guest post is written by Kelly Wroblewski, a High School Math Teacher in Austin, TX. She and her coworker and fellow teacher William Kiker assigned a fantastic class project to their students, resulting an an entire website of support materials for their Algebra 2 and Pre-Calculus classes. Check out the website here. 

This past semester, William Kiker and I (Kelly Wroblewski) applied to be part of a pilot iPad program at our high school.  As members of a small project based  learning community within Austin High School in Austin, TX, we latched on to the ShowMe app pretty quickly.  Some of our students use the Khan Academy website as a resource to supplement in-class instruction, but some topics were either unavailable or were not tailored to our courses or textbooks.  Mr. Kiker and I determined we could use the ShowMe app to create videos similar to those found on the Khan Academy website, but specific to our courses at Austin High. Rather than having students hear their teachers yet again in video, we decided to design a project where the students create the instructional materials.  Since we were implementing this project towards the end of the school year, it provided the opportunity for students to review for the upcoming state exam or reflect upon a specific topic from the school year, depending on the needs for that course.

This project required that students create a short instructional video supplemented by a video guide document to lead the viewer through the content and a quiz to assess the viewer’s knowledge over the skills that were taught in the video.  The topics ranged widely from specific objectives from the state exam to specific Algebra 2 and Pre-Calculus concepts.  Though the concepts were quite specific, it was interesting to observe the unique ways in which the students decided to present the topics in their videos.  Using ShowMe as a medium allowed for creativity and individuality while still guiding students to accomplish the overarching video creation task.  What we have compiled as a result of student submissions is our significantly more customized AHS Academy website where students can go for Austin High specific assistance with their math courses.

Overall, this project was a great learning experience for all involved, especially the teachers.  Mr. Kiker and I will be implementing version three of this project next school year in the hopes of expanding and improving upon the current content.  For more information on this topic, or to provide feedback regarding the website, please email me at kwroblew@austinisd.org or Mr. Kiker at william.kiker@austinisd.org.

 

My humble experience

I still remember my first lesson introducing ShowMe to my students. I had concerns; would students be able to connect to the website and watch the videos, would they like the videos, would they enjoy working on the subject via their laptops, etc. I was really excited;  this was my first time that I integrated this much of technology in my math lessons. Apart from the interactive whiteboard and the projector, which I displayed students’ progress, I had my Mac and my IPad to prepare not only worksheets, quizzes, etc, but videos! Also, I would not teach the whole time in my lessons anymore. Rather, I would have mini teaching sessions of 10-15 minutes for introduction and/or recalling purposes only, and then walk around students to check their progress and answer their questions; that was my dream.

laptops on, heads down, my students are working on the subject

If dreams match 100% with reality, we would not call them dreams. Generally speaking, what I planned just worked, I should admit. Students visited my website on their Macs, clicked on the links and watched the videos, and after understanding the subject, solved the questions / problems in the videos, and then showed their answers to me, and I marked them after checking. But there were about twenty of them, each calling me to ask a particular question about the subject, or to say that they did not understand the video, or they even could not connect the Internet, or they had no pencil / notebook, etc. Moreover, when I was answering questions or doing a mini teaching session to a student or a group of students, -not all but some- others tend to connect to Facebook or YouTube, or to play games. In the beginning, there was chaos.

Abdulla Mohamed is working hard

Gradually, everything started settling up. Each of us figured out what was going on, and adjusted ourselves to the ‘new order’. My dream almost came true; students were watching the videos, solving the questions and showed me the results, and I marked them. I was wandering around helping the students understand the subject better. And guess what; almost all of them were doing the classwork! They liked the videos such that they all learned the phrase I used at the end of my videos; solve and ShowMe!

There should be something wrong in that. No offence, ShowMe Crew, but my videos can not be that “magical”. And this time, my nightmare came true; the results of the first campus wide quiz were horrible, comparing to the classwork marks. For example, a student of mine, who failed in Term 1, completed about 80% of his classwork (wow!), yet his CWQ mark was 4 out of 20! And I had several more examples like that! About one fourth of my students showed no significant difference after I introduced ShowMe.

I started to observe what they were doing, and found out their strategy. Some of the students pretended to watch the video, until the sharp students show their answers. Then they copied those students’ work and came to me to get their marks.

How could I miss this? Probably because of my optimistic character; I believed they all would like the videos and study more than ever!!  Anyway, I should have planned an assessment system ASAP. After searching for several online quiz maker websites, I decided that I would go with the traditional paper-pencil method, because (a) those websites were lacking mathematical symbols to type, and they tend to support multiple-choice questions, rather than essay types, and (b) there was no exact way to know if a student answered an online quiz on his own. So, I added a 10-minute quiz session at the end of each period and stopped marking their classwork. I write questions for each video -generally 1 question/video- and ask the students to answer questions referring to the video/s they worked on. Then I mark the quizzes ASAP and record the progress in my table. Ones who answered correct can go on with the next videos. Ones who answered wrong work on additional materials; I give them extra worksheets. Then they try to answer a similar question referring to the same video. This is how they earn their marks.

I thought ‘the new order’ would encourage them, but it did not. What happened is, my classwork marks and my quiz results now match!

I have some success stories, though. I have some students who increased their marks significantly. One of them has never been able to get a two-digit mark out of 100 before, but he improved his marks gradually and the recent mark he has got is 90%. He is in top three of the class now. My successful students also increased their marks; because they like to work on the subject on their own, in silence. One of them, really smart but a problem child, is no more a problem to me. He turns on his music after watching the video, and then starts solving the questions.

I believe I made a good start, yet I have issues to solve. Next year, my school will move to a new campus, where teachers are said to have their own rooms. And another rumor is, students -and hopefully, teachers- will be given IPads instead of hard-copy books. I think I will be able to solve most of my issues and find new opportunities to improve what I do with ShowMe. On the other hand, I don’t want to re-discover America; so if you have similar experience or information, please share with me; charb74 (at) gmail (dot) c o m.

 

A Great Tool for Graphing

WARNING: Math-related content! Handle with care!..

My math teacher in high school was really good at drawing figures and graphs. He could draw a circle almost perfectly with only one move. Though my drawing is good, I am not as good as him. Especially, I have a hard time when it comes to drawing accurate graphs in the class. By the time I started suspecting if a ruler might help, I discovered this website; GraphSketch.com.

It is extremely handy if you teach how to graph functions. You can use this website to draw your graphs accurately for hard-copy worksheets, or to draw your graphs while teaching, or to have images of the graphs for your ShowMe’s.

Introduction first:

When you go to the website, what you see is a coordinate plane. If you scroll down, you see the parameters. Here, you can type up to 6 functions, each graphed with a different color, adjust the size of the coordinate plane, display the numbers on the axes according to your choice, adjust the thickness of the graph, and even the size of the image!.. I can write a long paragraph for each setting, but it is always the best when you explore yourself.

At the bottom of the page, you may see the table for assistance on how to write certain type of functions. This is really helpful as the website doesn’t have a tool to type mathematical symbols, like the powers or the square roots, etc.

And the best part is, you can either save your graph, or get a “permanent link”. To save your graph as an image, click on the link just under the coordinate plane, and then save the image as usual. To get a permanent link, just right click on the “permanent link to this graph page” and click on “copy link location”. Then you can share the graph by sending this link via e-mail or pasting it to your website, etc.

I really enjoyed using Graphsketch in teaching graphs of radical functions. I no longer draw graphs with color pens on the board, which actually are ‘sketches’ rather than accurate graphs. I can graph several functions in Graphsketch, but “three is a crowd” in my manually drawn graphs. Moreover, I save time; typing the function is all that I have to do. And here is how I used this amazing yet simple tool in my ShowMe. You can compare my manually drawn graphs to the ones drawn with Graphsketch.

My students also liked the website. Actually, it is a good way for them to discover the nature of the graphs of functions. They can start with a parent function ( y = √x, in my case), and then insert numbers and four operations to realize the graphing process, understand the transformations, or compare the graphs of different functions, etc.

If I was asked to improve it, I would add “percentage” option for changing the size of the image. This is a good option if you want to change the size but keep the scale of width and height of the image. Also, I’d like it to draw graphs of implicit functions, as well, but I think this option is way too harder to add than the percentage option.

For the ones who dare to read this article until here, feel the relief; it is over. Thanks for your patience.