Remote Learning — Week 10
A current focus of mine in emergency remote learning is finding ways to get students interacting with each other around mathematics. Out of necessity my initial approach focused primarily on teacher-to-student interactions, but I’ve been looking for ways to recapture some of the discussion, collaboration, and debate that characterized our classroom.
A simple but effective approach has been recreating student groups in Google chatrooms. I designated a recent assessment as a group assignment and added a collaboration component: Students had to create a chatroom with their assigned group and discuss the task there.
They were also required to invite me to join, which allowed me to eavesdrop on their mathematical conversations.
I was very impressed with the level of discourse in the chatrooms: In most cases I was observing the same kinds of productive conversations that I observed in our classroom. I also found myself interjecting just as I would in class — sometimes to answer a question, sometimes to ask one.
The chatrooms persisted after the official group assignment, continuing to serve as a place for both scheduled and impromptu collegial collaboration. And in an attempt to leverage the established community, a recent assessment involved selecting and submitting one problem from a set, subject to the restriction that no two students from the same group could submit the same problem. This forced students to communicate about their selection, and it left open the opportunity to use the group as a resource as they completed their individual work.
These chatroooms are easy to implement and very flexible: They can be used effectively both synchronously and asynchronously by students, and can be leveraged in a variety of different ways by the teacher. This is definitely a structure I’ll keep, and one that I’ll think more about as we move toward an uncertain new school year in the fall.