31 May 2015

Is it Tech-Ready? 3D Solids Town Project

A large part of my job as self-appointed edtech evangelist in my building is seeking out opportunities for my colleagues to take something they are already doing that works well and take it to an even higher level with technology enabling them to learn more, share more, or show more.

Last week I was inspired by a 3D solids project my mentee and another Geometry teacher did earlier in the semester. I did a Google Sketchup project last year to assess 2D area, and one of the greatest tools in Sketchup is its ability to easily create 3D solids, so I asked Colleen and Emily if we could have a chat about their project.

Our discussion was centered on these 4 questions:
  • What were you assessing with this project?
  • Why did you choose to assess those goals this way?
  • How do you feel your project went?
  • Would using the technology bring added value to this project?

So is this project tech-ready? As far as simply evaluating ability to calculate surface area, volume, and write linear equations, I think it translates nicely, however (and I think this was a surprise to Emily), you do lose the physical, tangible skill reinforcement of measuring a physical object if you take this project into Sketchup. With the emphasis we're trying to place on graduating kids that have and/or are ready to gain technical skills, I think it might be worth it to keep this as a paper-based project, or at most provided Sketchup as an option.

I have really enjoyed seeing these projects on the walls the past month, and I'm impressed at the evolution it represented in instructional design from the last project these Geometry classes. It was a good integration of some Algebra concepts that are sometimes hard to put in the Geometry curriculum, particularly in this unit. However, since this is an ed tech AND math blog, let's explore some ways we could go further next year.

What are some things we could do to keep the tangible skills but still enhance the learning experience with this project?
  • We were talking about having kids check the workability of their word problems by having their classmates solve them - you could generate a rich feedback loop having kids post their problems on Google Classroom, a student blog, or Voicethread and require kids to respond and give feedback to a set number of their classmates. You could do the same on chart paper in the room, I think, but moving that opportunity online keeps the feedback more easily accessible (instead of a giant piece of chart paper), and opening up the number of people who could comment on any one student's problem.
  • Have students decide the surface area or volume they want for each 3d solid and then create and print the net for the solid themselves using image editing software. Even MS Paint would work. :)
  • Students chart the lines of their streets on an online graphing utility like Desmos, and just enter the placement of their physical 3d solids on their poster as coordinate points. This option would keep a map-making element to the project with a tool more approachable (and accessible) than Sketchup. 
What other ideas do you have, readers? Do you think the physical measuring skills are not worth the limitations they place on the type of product the kids can make and share? Is there something else we can use technology to enrich and enhance the experience while keeping the physical manipulatives?

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Thanks for sharing!