Interactive Maths: Final Reflections

This month has seen the completion of a number of our BSF ICT Innovation Projects. One of which is the Interactive Maths project by Corrina, Maths teacher at St Paul’s Catholic School. Corrina’s project focuses on the creation and use of interactive learning resources. The project project began with attendance at a staff development workshop, focusing on the use of games-based learning techniques in Mathematics teaching, and looking at how to create and use interactive learning activities. The later phase involved Corrina learning more about sharing the resources she has created.

Here, Corrina reflects on the project, and shares her resources:

Image shared under a creative commons license by Chris de Kok

Image shared under a creative commons license by Chris de Kok

It is time, as my project comes to an end, to reflect upon my improved Creating and Sharing skills as well as the project itself. In the final phase of the project I have created interactive quizzes to be used in classes with years 7-10 with the hand held devices linked to our interactive whiteboards. I spent half a day off timetable being shown how to create these by a colleague and was shown the different ways that the devices could be used, namely a self-paced quiz or a teacher led one where each question was answered at the same time by the class. I could see the benefits of both these types of quizzes immediately and set about creating a quiz for each year group to be used in lessons after Easter.

Creating the Resources

Creating the resources, once you know the functions of the different buttons in the software, is relatively simple. It is however incredibly time consuming and quizzes which would last around 15 minutes were taking me an hour or so to create. I soon realised my folly in trying to put whole lessons which I normally did in PowerPoint onto Flipcharts (the ActivInspire file type) just so that I could use the quiz element with them during the lesson. I started instead creating flipcharts which are very basic looking but have the quiz functionality and using these to complement my existing lessons instead either throughout or just at the end. This did reduce the time needed slightly and made the task less daunting although the resources are not very visually appealing. They do however meet the objective of what I am trying to achieve with the interactive element and students aren’t as bothered about whether the flipchart page is pretty when they are using the hand held devices.

I also found that with the self-paced quizzes there are problems with mathematical notation as things like fractions cannot be input properly and using a slash for a fraction is something we try to avoid in classrooms so as to emphasise the role of a fraction as a division calculation. In most cases a compromise could be found but for several of our upcoming topics these quizzes were not suitable as the content did not have answers which could be input to the devices. Overall the number of quizzes created was smaller than I had initially envisaged, quite simply through a lack of time as exam period kicked in and any ‘spare’ time quickly became year 11 revision time. I will however continue to create them now that I have the skills to do so, as part of updating our schemes of learning for the new curriculum as I have found them to be very successful in the classroom.

Using the Resources – Pupil Perspectives

The quizzes and hand held devices were met with great enthusiasm by the majority of classes although year 10 were more apprehensive as they rightly pointed out that I couldn’t see their working out which ‘is what you’re always going on about’. This was an extremely valid point and something which I had to think carefully about moving forwards. Rather than using the quizzes to test topics being learnt during that lesson the handsets were more suited to revision style activities with 10 or so simple revision questions on basic topics when working with key stage 4. These activities however last less than 5 minutes at most and handing out the devices, registering them etc takes at least that time and I began to question how useful they were in this situation.

At key stage 3 I found the resources to be much better received and my low ability year 8 class in particular very much enjoyed the interactive element when practising basic skills such as column addition and subtraction. They liked the self-paced quizzes with the question on their own screen. They would then carry out the method on whiteboards and input the answer. They liked the fact that they were alerted to mistakes and given repeated chances at questions done incorrectly the first time. They also liked being able to see things such as their average time to answer questions, percentage scores and who completed them fastest etc. I found this element of the quizzes was well received by all my key stage 3 classes and being able to see themselves improve was a great motivator for the students.

The teacher led quizzes, where a question to be answered by the whole class before moving on, were also enjoyed by pupils and it was interesting to see those who are usually reluctant to answer questions in class enthusiastically entering a response into the device. When asked about this, pupils said they liked it because although they knew the class would be able to see who had submitted each answer on the board, everybody was answering so the pressure to give a response was reduced. Pupils did indicate that they were more motivated to engage within lessons when they knew they would be required to give responses throughout and were aware that everyone had to participate as the vote wouldn’t close until everyone responded and we could see by name who hadn’t voted yet.

Using the Resources – Teacher Perspectives

I found the self-paced quizzes to be an extremely valuable tool in lessons particularly, as mentioned, with the low ability year 8s. Pupils had much higher engagement and, although they were working individually, liked the group element when looking through responses, for example. I found the ability to level the questions so that once easier ones were all completed more difficult ones could be attempted very useful for differentiation and the pupils liked this element and responded well to it also. I found that I often had a better sense of how pupils were doing in a lesson when using these quizzes than with usual Assessment for Learning (AfL) techniques simply because everyone is responding. I also liked being able to pinpoint the exact questions which most people had struggled with so that these could be used in whole class discussions. The main pitfall here echoes the thoughts of my year 10s as sometimes it was difficult to say why a class were struggling without having visible working out. I began to insist more on working out being done in books prior to answering using the devices so that when weaknesses were identified I could pick up the books of those pupils getting it wrong and use them to inform the whole class discussion leading on from this.

My other criticism of the quizzes is the time needed to set up and register the devices. This wasn’t a problem if using the devices with the same class a couple of times in a row but with only 2 class sets available in school, it was more often the case that another class had used them since and they needed to be wiped and re-registered. As classes got used to the devices this process did become quicker however, and as long as this time is planned into a lesson the positives do, I think, make it worth it.

Sharing the Resources

The secondary part of my development was to learn how best to share these newly created resources with the department. In the midst of a BSF new build, however, our staff network, virtual learning environment (VLE) and other linked parts of our digital resources are frozen as they are being either updated or completely scrapped from the summer. As a result of this I looked to other ways of sharing the resources and was introduced to Dropbox. This was installed onto all of the faculty laptops, personal laptops and iPads so that all colleagues can access anything in the Dropbox folders and it will update them all accordingly. This has been an incredibly useful way of sharing information, particularly being able to access things from home, and is something we are looking at expanding upon moving forward with our schemes of learning and other resources.

The current limbo our technology is in has also hindered my aim to seek out web resources and make them available to students through the VLE. However another member of my faculty has set up a twitter account for the department and as our followers are slowly growing this is a possible alternative outlet for sharing links to interactive resources. As our new technology is established at the start of next academic year this is something I will aim to work more on.

Final Thoughts

Although the project itself is now at an end, I do not feel that my work is finished at all. In some ways the project has instead served as a beginning, teaching me the skills to create and share interactive resources and giving me the opportunity to test and refine my use of the resources in classrooms. I emerge now with a better idea of how to use interactive resources in the classroom and with vastly improved skills to create them. From here I will now be able to continue to create and share these resources both with my own department and hopefully further afield through resource sharing websites. If you have the technology and the time I urge you to try or perhaps rediscover this approach. Whilst not practical every lesson, these are certainly valuable activities for the classroom.

Resources

The files below are stored in Google drive and can be accessed and downloaded by following the corresponding link. Some sessions are not available as PowerPoint files as they mainly contain individual work for ActivExpression handsets.

Calculations with the mean Flipchart PowerPoint
Dealing with money Flipchart PowerPoint
Multiplication Flipchart
Percentage of quantities with fractions Flipchart PowerPoint
Probability complementary events Flipchart
Proportion Flipchart PowerPoint
Rounding whole numbers and decimals Flipchart PowerPoint
Solving equations Flipchart
Subtractions Flipchart
Which fraction is bigger? Flipchart PowerPoint
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