Friday, October 16, 2015

Using Google Slides as Group Whiteboards - Angle Puzzles

If you've read my other posts, you've probably gathered that my geometry classes are all 1:1 now. I had a few kids with laptops last year, but now - virtually all of my geometry students have them.

This new opportunity pushes me to rethink the way I structure and deliver all content. In previous years, lots of practice time was somewhat traditional - student would do a problem, instructor would provide feedback. The problem here is the delay inherent between the pencil/paper feedback cycle. Don't get me wrong - I'm usually all over the classroom helping, prompting, asking questions, etc., but there are still delays with this traditional method (I mean there are 30 kids and 1 of me).

Enter our 1:1 devices. I automatically ask myself how I can restructure the lesson so it's more effective, students get better/more immediate feedback, and it's truly more personalized. To do this, I analyze the takeaways I want students to have, the structure and necessary supports needed for a particular lesson, and the way in which I need students to practice.

One such lesson is my annual day of "angle puzzles". Basically, these are complex drawings composed of sets of parallel lines and transversals that ask students to reason and apply their knowledge of angle pairs. HERE are the puzzles I use. Yes. This is a link to Teachers Pay Teachers. No. I'm not a fan, but I couldn't find them anywhere else when I was looking a couple years ago.

Having used these angles puzzles for a while, I knew the following:

1. Low to low middle kids struggle with angle puzzles and need lots of peer/instructor support. Groups are a good thing.
2. On these puzzles in particular, students get "stuck" and either disengage or wait on instructor help.
3. These kind of puzzles need lots and lots of instructor feedback.
4. When kids work in groups on these puzzles, one student tends to dominate the group.

To address these problems, I decided I needed the following features from a technology solution:

1. Collaborative work from multiple devices on same file
2. Instructor ability to see student work on own screen at all times
3. Instructor ability to provide continuous feedback to groups/teams
4. Groups/teams need opportunity to respond to feedback
5. Ability to include multiple puzzles to groups in one file

Having analyzed these needs, I determined that Google Slides could offer all these features. So, I took the snipping tool and created an image file for each angle puzzle. Then, I inserted these files as the backgrounds of individual slides. This is important. Since the image is the background, students can't move the puzzle around or delete it. Since we don't have Google Classroom, I took the slides link and shorted it with before providing it to the groups.  Here are some samples of my students' work:

Takeways: My students (for the most part) loved this activity. Google Slides worked just how I'd hoped. The one issue I found though, was when the students inserted the text boxes. In image #2, the text boxes are large (standard size when you click to create the text box instead of drag to create them). If students do not resize the text boxes, they have trouble clicking on the correct text, since the text boxes begin to overlap. The group in image #1 have resized their text boxes appropriately and had few issues. Image #3 shows the back and forth comments/feedback between students and me.

It was a great day!

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