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6-8 | Math | Digital Storytelling
Station WXEL in Florida
My Classroom Innovation
I teach Honors Algebra, a high school course, to 7th and 8th grade middle school students. My algebra students come to my classroom, already digital natives. The goal through this project entitled PhotoStory Functionality was to pique their technological interests in creative and innovative ways while taking ownership of abstract algebraic concepts describing functions. With PhotoStory 3 as the driving force behind the project, students created multi-media presentations explaining the concept of algebraic functions which included differentiating between relations and functions, domain and range, linear and non-linear, and discrete and continuous data. These student-generated products would then be used to tutor their eighth grade pre-algebra peers in a fun and entertaining way within our middle school. I intentionally took the textbook-driven teacher-centered model out of my algebra class and instead, inserted technology (including smartphone and other personal devices) and student creativity into a student-centered, inquiry-based learning environment. Furthermore, I planned for student use of 21st century skills such as planning, collaboration, negotiation, goal-setting and meeting deadlines. The beauty behind this project is that learning the abstract information became secondary as the students took ownership of the concepts in order to have it make sense to their peers in that "kid-friendly" language. The PBS resource used to enhance the entire unit of functions is entitled: "Learning Math: Patterns, Functions, and Algebra" and was adapted from a video in Annenberg Learner's Learning Math: Patterns, Functions, and Algebra, a professional development course for teachers. I had previously viewed the professional development to better develop my conceptual understanding of patterns and the function families found in algebra. This particular video introduced my students to the unit of study entitled Functions by exploring a real-life use of algebra in a science and engineering setting; areas of interest to many of my students.
How Students were Engaged
The project provided clear instruction (which any educator could easily adapt to their discipline). Objectives and learning outcomes were explicit while the storyboard and rubric provided a road map of my high expectations of a complete product. The use of the storyboard allowed students to collaborate and debate the important information included in their presentation. The groups exhibited 21st century learning skills in that they built on self-regulation skills and adhered to deadlines while learning to collaborate and negotiate in their group settings. The students were excited that their products would be shared with their middle school peers and worked hard to create a professional product. They set out to explain the abstract information behind algebraic functions in "kid-friendly" terms citing real-life examples in their middle-school world. Donuts and mall candy stores explained discrete and continuous data in terms that their peers could relate to. Through internet research, they incorporated many visual explanations to help their peers "see" the math in a way that makes sense to them. Furthermore, due to technological constraints within the school building, my students utilized their own smartphone technology in many creative ways to enhance and complete their projects. This innovative use of personal technology is a fact that would eventually work its way into a major school board policy change months later finally allowing smartphones and other personal electronic devices to be used in class for educational purposes. I firmly believe that this creative and innovative approach along with other project-based learning that took place in my classroom throughout the year is directly responsible for my middle school students scoring in the top 20% of our state's algebra end-of-course exam this year (with five students achieving perfect scores).
PBS Program/Content Used