Some Things Work Better Remotely

Published by MrHonner on

It’s natural to focus on what’s missing in remote teaching, but some things do work better remotely.

For example, this week I introduced reflections in my Geometry class. I began by having every student sketch the reflection of a quadrilateral.

I watched every student sketch this in real time and confirmed that they all had a good intuitive understanding of what reflection meant. Then I gave them two triangles and asked them to work together to devise a mathematical strategy for determining if two objects were indeed reflections of each other.

Dashboards, like in Geogebra Classroom and Desmos Activity Builder, have solved the biggest pedagogical problem I’ve faced in remote teaching: They give me access to student thinking. Here I can see that students already have the core ideas of the lesson — congruence and constructing the line of reflection — on their minds.

Usually I’d gain this insight by walking around, looking over a few shoulders, eavesdropping on a few conversations, asking questions. Though it’s not quite the same, dashboards like this give me efficient access to much more individual student thinking. And it’s especially nice, and easy, to just share this screen with the class and show them all that thinking. We can debrief their strategies, honor student creativity and ingenuity, and extract the ideas we need to move forward.

Efficient access to student thinking makes formative assessment easier, too. Here I’ve asked students to sketch an object such that r_l(P)=P for exactly five points P.

In just a few moments I can see that the class generally gets the idea, publicly praise students 5 and 3 for their degenerate-case thinking, and offer student 4’s response for further consideration.

Like everyone else I’m looking forward to mingling in classrooms and looking over shoulders again. But with a return to schools on the horizon, I’ll also be thinking about what’s worked well in remote teaching, and I’ll try to bring that back with me when I return.

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Categories: Teaching


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