Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Math Cooperative Voicethread

I was on Twitter one night this past month and saw a message from a Canadian teacher, fletch3836, talking about how he had his students measuring items in sixth grade to reinforce the concept of perimeter. He was wondering if it would help the concept stick. I replied back that I had done that in the past and had recently had my sixth graders weighing items in the metric system on a scale to give them a real feel for the actual weight on the scale and its weight (grams/ kilograms).

I pointed him to our class blog to see the Voicethread they had created. As each group of students went to the scale, they had digital photos that they were required to take in addition to recording the weights on a form. I do not have a very active blog in the class. I use it to set up small reflective projects. We spent a good bit of time in February creating an iMovie on population density that will make its way to the blog soon.

After they took the photos, I put them into Voicethread and typed in some questions. The question were intended to relate the images with other items. In some cases, they had to guess what weighed more. In other cases, they had to convert kilos to grams or grams to kilos.

The Project Start
As we spoke, I learned that this teacher was interested in trying to do something with his students in Voicethread and wanted to know if we'd like to join his project. I was all for it.

He created a set of slides in which the students were required to use different mental math strategies. Before the students were set to work together, asynchronously, he suggested that we have the students "meet" via Skype. I had mentioned the need to get the two classes together for the class call to my principal. I asked the English teacher to help by bringing the other half of the sixth grade down at the appointed time.

With a tiny bit of schedule juggling, I was able to bring my two sections of math down to the computer lab and he was able to bring all his students together, too. The call was only about ten minutes, but my sixth graders were so excited and wanted to know when we could do it again.
The principal and English teacher were both in the room for the phone call and seemed very happy to be part of the exchange.

The Project Today
Yesterday, all of the students in Canada had left their comments. There were twelve slides in all. I had each of the two sections of math students break into groups of two or three students to a slide.

My expectations for the students were to:
1) Listen to the entire set of comments
2) Decide if you would have solved the problems the same way or differently
3) Decide if you agree or disagree with the answer
4) If you agree, leave them a comment commending them on their work
5) If you solve the problem differently or arrive at a different answer, don't tell the student that they are wrong. They were to phrase it as "You solved the problem in a different way than we would have. This is what we did. This is our answer".

On the whole, each pair or students spent a good ten to fifteen minutes looking at the problem and talking about the differences or similarities in their work and the comments already on the Voicethread.

Why International Collaboration?
I liked the engagement. I liked the focus on where they saw differences in how they would have performed a task. I think there is a lot of benefit in having students share their knowledge and evaluate others work. It could be done within a school building, no doubt. So why make it an international project?

First, when the students grow up they will work for multinational companies in all likelihood. They will have to make calls outside the United States and deal with different cultures.

Second, there is the factor that these are not their usual school buddies. Some of my students have been together eight years (including Pre-K3, Pre-K4, and Kindergarten). They can operate more like siblings than school mates at times.

Third, they worked on this material earlier in the year. It was a good quick review accomplished in a different way. They could see if there were differences, culturally, in how the problems were approached.

Fourth, they heard solutions that they would not have used themselves that still worked.

I'll have to see if we can work in some more collaboration with these students. Mine are asking if we can do another project already. Right now, we have to finish up the video on population density and then we can roll up our sleeves and get down to some more collaboration.

Why do you think international collaboration makes sense?


  1. I love this!!! I'm going to share this with our math teachers. I have Skyped in to math classes before to initiate math blogs for reflections on students' work in Centers, and they loved it. I really like how you have integrated all of this learning together. Great job.

  2. Pat:

    Thanks for the comment. It was really nice because each student in both sets of classes had to think through the work and then reflect.

    If we have time before the school year is out, we may try another project. We're discussing the possibility of using a wiki to collaborate on tiered questions to challenge all of our students within their abilities.

    Let me know what develops on your end. I love learning new approaches.


  3. I am collecting examples of how educators are using Voicethread in their classroom or for professional development on a wiki at:

    My plan is to share these examples with other technology teachers who provide professional development in their schools.

    Feel free to add your own examples or links to resources. Thanks in advance,
    Colette Cassinelli

  4. Colette:
    Thank you for the invitation to include our Voicethreads in your wiki. I will speak with my partner teacher and see if he would like to contribute this Voicethread to the project. I will also gather some of the samples I created this year and include them as well.