Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Using Google Apps in a Math Classroom

This week I am hosting some guest bloggers. This is a guest post from Bethany Mager. 

I have been teaching high school math for 12 years and I currently work to help teachers integrate technology in our 1:1 high school using Google Apps. I often find that math teachers are reluctant to use Google Docs in a math classroom, but Google Apps has completely transformed the way I teach. I will share some of my best practices and tips to get you started.

Collaborative Challenge Problems
The best part of using Google in the classroom is having students collaborate with each other on a document. I often start a lesson with a challenge problem (that two students sitting together work on) a shared google doc. Doctopus is the best way to easily share Docs with student groups or pairs. I set up a roster at the beginning of the year and put students in a group according to their table number so that they may work together to solve the problem.

I love using online math tools in my classroom, including Desmos and GeoGebra. Often it can be overwhelming to assess student work using these tools. In order to avoid an onslaught of emails with links or attachments, I teach my students early on how to take a screenshot on their device (try the extension Snagit if you have Chromebooks or laptops). This way they can paste an image of a graph, applet, etc. from another site or app into a Google Doc to share with me or submit through Google Classroom, keeping everything organized in my Google Drive.

Of course, it’s true all math students must still do most of their work using pencil and paper. My students often prefer to work out problems by hand and then I allow them to take a photo of their work with a mobile device. Even better, let them work together using dry erase markers on their desks. You have no idea how excited a 16 year old can get about being allowed to write on a desk! If you are using Google Classroom, be sure to have them download the app on their phone or tablet. It is so easy to have them snap a photo in the app and attach it to an assignment.

Students submitting images through Classroom also makes it really easy to share and discuss their or student work as a class. I will project some of the images for all to see and have a discussion on the best methods and possible conclusions.

One of the first things I used when we started using Google Apps was Forms. I use them for pre-assessments, student surveys and as a grade reporting tool. I also use them to ask questions about videos students are asked to watch for homework and often use Flubaroo to grade simple quizzes and exit slips through Google Forms. Be sure to check out g(Math) for Forms to add math symbols and graphs to your forms. Also, consider giving a pencil and paper quiz, but asking students to enter the final answer in a Google Form to get more feedback on student understanding.

Bethany Mager is a Math teacher and Director of Technology Integration at a private school just outside of Chicago. She can be found on Twitter @msmagermath