Today we will work together as a class to create an assessment lesson using Delta Math. Before we get started I ask the class to reflect back on the last few lessons. I put a few questions about Khan Academy on the Board to start the conversation:
1. What do you like about Khan Academy?
2. What do you find frustrating about Khan Academy?
3. How would you define "mastery" with an math program?
Here I take about 5 minutes to listen to their ideas around automated assessment tools. Then I talk about our goal for today's lesson. I say, "We are going to create an assessment together. I will pick the topic, but you will decide how we reach mastery."
I explain to the class that I like Delta Math because I can control every aspect of the assessment. I like to give input and I prefer a customizable interface. I like that it is designed by a teacher for teachers. And, I expect that students will like it because it will help them, and, because they are helping to customize it.
I project Delta Math for the class to see: Delta Math Home Page
As advertised, I start by picking the topic. We click on Algebra 1 and find the set of problems on Scientific Notation (There aren't any available yet in the middle school section): Delta Math Topics
Next I give them some options (Assessment Choices). Would you rather get 10 right altogether or get 5 in a row? We take a vote and choose. Then I give other options. Would you like this to be timed? Should there be a penalty for a mistake? Should we give you a percentage score?
Then we talk about due dates (with choices up to the minute):Delta Assignment Choices
Sample Problems in Delta Math show and explain all steps in a clean formal way. The program is set to give unlimited sample problems when a student is stuck. This has no effect on their progress or score. They would have to make a personal choice here: What are the benefits of sample problems? Are their any potential issues?"
After we create the assessment, I ask students to begin. Every teacher gets a specific code -- they all have my teacher code.
Questions look like this: Sample
I encourage students to use calculators in this assessment. I turn the calculator off on the screen (unless the student requests it) and I encourage them to use the scientific calculator we give them in class. I want them to be familiar with the tools they will have for the state exam.
This is what the calculator looks like (there is also a graphing mode):Graphing Calculator
At first, it is difficult to understand the role of a teacher in a computer assessment environment. However, the goal here is to circulate and discuss math issues as we would everyday. The only difference is that the problems are on a screen and not on paper.
Today, the students are taking a formative assessment. That doesn't mean you can't give any input. You can help them with a problem directly or by showing them a sample problem. When the time is up, students can finish any remaining problems at home. The time they have in class is meant to be hands on and more importantly, "people on." I want my students talking to each other and talking with us. I don't want them isolated at digital terminals, learning to not ask questions of peers. Within this lesson, the conversation is primarily meant to be with me, but if a student needs help and I am in another conversation, I let them request help from another student. The key is to agree that they can only help each other on sample problems.
As with the Khan Academy assignments, I ask students to write all their work in their books. This slows them down enough to focus and reflect (sometimes the online problems feel like a video game. They treat the problems as if they should be fast and easy, like changing the channel or surfing the web. We are using the computers here in a radically different way and they need help in that adjustment).
I start this summary by having students shut down the computers. Then I share the problems I noticed during the assessment. I share the misconceptions that I talked to them about and ask the class for feedback. Then I ask them for questions that they think are tough. I write these questions together and ask them to think, "what makes these questions tough? How can we figure these problems out?"
In terms of the assessment, I ask them about their choices. "Do think our assessment was effective? How can we improve it for next time?" I type their suggestions out on projector and log them for our next Delta discussion.
Note on follow up:
When I have a moment, I display their results (blocking out names). We look at their data together (Delta Math sorts it all in excel) and then ask them what this data tells us: Is our class "getting" scientific notation? Who needs help? What should we do about it?
These types of questions will help students have an honest conversation about their learning needs. Students give wonderful feedback that can have dramatic improvements on the learning environment in your class. They will give you ideas that help everyone. They can tell you if they want to sit with other struggling students or not and what types of lessons they want to see. Having this follow up conversation will establish a class culture that lets every student know we are here to help.