Me + Technology=Growing Love

Somehow, I missed the ‘using technology in education’ day of grad school. Or, more reasonably, grad school was 14 years ago and I’ve never had the opportunity to do rich professional development around technology and math education.

Honestly, I’m not a luddite.  Until this summer, I actually thought I was pretty decent at understanding and using technology in  my teaching.  I know I use it more than most of my colleagues (minus an amazing pair of 6th grade math teachers who produce the most incredible math and science songs and videos with their students).

But then there was the Park City Math Institute and now there’s a whole new world of technology being mulled around in my head.

For the past week, I have been nose deep in  blogs, seeing what’s out there in the math world and trying to keep track of the incredible ideas I’m unearthing.  Some of the simplest ones have been the most illuminating.  Like box.net which everyone seems to know about but me.  My head is swimming in the possibilities.

Facebook, as my sister-in-law once poignantly pointed out is really no more than parallel play.  I’ll tell you about my day and you tell me about yours.  But it has its moments of brilliance like when you ask your 500+ friends for a dog friendly hotel in Vegas or a vegan lavender blueberry cobbler recipe.  Today I posted looking for good online games or puzzles.  Kate suggested Graphwarz which looks really cool and I need to find a way to limit it to functions that middle school students have mathematical access to.

Ian suggested Alien Angles which is certainly a fun one and led me to its parent site, Math Playground.  So here’s where my budding infatuation with box.net takes off.  Students will be required to play at least 25 minutes of a game on a specific topic I want them to review. For this September pre-algebra assignment on using a number line to solve integer operations, they will play the online game X Detectives.

Ok, they go home and play an online game to practice using the number line to solve integer operations. So what?

Students will not be given their homework assignment in class.  They will know the document name and will find it in their class’ virtual filing cabinet.   Homework credit will be given when they email me a screen shot of two different versions of the game, showing that they got 10 out of 10 points.  In order to get full credit on their homework, they have to keep playing until they get 10/10 on both games.  How will I grade it?  For this particular assignment, they’ll just get a grade for completing the assignment.  We call this their “Habits of Work” grade.  My student assistant will go through each email and check off who has turned it in.  Will their homework always consist of playing games and emailing me a screen shot of their score? Of course not.  Will doing this from time to time increase homework completion and provide students time to practice essential skills that they normally are quite resistant to practicing?  I sure hope so.