Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A Few Problems, Many Solutions

At this point in the year, the iPads are pretty integrated into our class's curriculum and daily routines.  We have prioritized exploring what we call "creativity apps" as opposed to games and apps with a singular focus.  Meanwhile in math, our class has begun utilizing Exemplars problems and rubrics to further student problem solving, math thinking, and math communication (see Merry Melvin's previous post for more on assessment).  Each problem is rich with multiple questions, levels, and solutions, and our students are finding them appropriately challenging.  We gave them free range to decide how to present their work.

Here are some solutions from the one about predicting the number of Sweethearts in a box:

And the one about planning the sleeping arrangements for class camping trip:

And our most recent problem about carpeting a basement:

Each solution requires a written explanation and a visual representation.  Some students decide to use the iPad to prepare both.  Some students use different apps depending on what they are being asked and some have a favorite they choose consistently.  Some students create their graphs and diagrams using physical materials such as Base Ten blocks or  tiles or puff balls and then document or enhance them by importing a photo.  Some students are comfortable emailing us their work and some students prefer working offline and turning in physical products.  We remain open to all of their preferences and meet them in their comfort zone.

While it was no surprise that many students elected to use their iPads to prepare their final solutions we were fascinated by the range of apps children chose.  Through regular explorations and many months of projects, Drawing Box, AiWriter, Educreations, Explain Everything, Keynote, and Inspiration Maps have become familiar friends. Left to their own devices, students have to decide whether the iPad and our creativity apps are the "right tool for the job" and which tool will serve them best.

Of course we do have some students who insist that the iPad is the best tool for them and it's really not .  But after a few experiences of being distracted and not completing their work on time, they learn that lesson too and change tactics.  At the beginning of the year, we set a few goals for our 4th grade 1-1 iPad program and progress is visible on many fronts.  To me, these are examples of students taking charge of their learning and our classroom becoming a place that fosters and supports creativity, independence, differentiation, and meaningful assessment.

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