My Core Maths students are just starting mocks and revision. When I asked what they wanted to revisit, one of my classes answered in unison with, “Everything we’ve done online!“
My outward appearance was calm and receptive, but inwardly my reaction was a moment of horror. Had they forgotten everything we’d done online? Was everything that we did online a waste of time? Vocational areas had requested that maths was delivered via a hybrid model this year: half face-to-face, and half online. This was to give flexibility to the college timetables and to pre-empt any further lockdowns. As it was, we had a few instances of departments going online for a week or two, and students isolating or ill with symptomless Covid could join the face-to-face lessons via Microsoft Teams. After setting the class off with a task, the questions kept coming. Should we have pushed harder to be totally face-to-face? Had we made the correct adjustments to our Scheme of Work (where we had moved topics that were awkwardly taught to face-to-face delivery) in the summer?
This class was last lesson on a Monday so, after the lesson, I took a pause and asked those questions again. The more considered answers were:
- Had they forgotten everything we’d done online? – No.
- Was everything that we did online a waste of time? – No.
- Should we have pushed harder to be totally face-to-face? – No.
- Had we made the correct adjustments to our Scheme of Work in the summer? – Probably!
In planning revision, I’ve come back to these questions a third time and thought about next year too. I think that myself and my students will still prefer for delivery to be in person, but my automatic reaction forgot all the positive aspects of working online. The choir muffled the voices of those students who’d often preferred, and benefitted most, from online delivery.
Where do I see our use of technology and online platforms next year, then? In simplistic terms, I won’t be throwing baby out with the bath water. There’s a danger that we conflate problems with the online classroom platforms with online mathematical platforms. There was already a push to increase the use of technology in the maths classroom and the pandemic accelerated that process. Teachers in my department became much more comfortable with technology. Now it’s time to take stock and to build on that. Next year, whether we’re fully face-to-face or we take a blended approach, I’ll be encouraging our department to continue using Desmos in their teaching and to use it as part of their delivery methods. Some problems will still remain, I believe, and I’ll look at minimising these. I fully expect to continue hearing, “My Wi-Fi is playing up. Can I watch a recording later?!” Access to suitable technology has improved but could still be a problem, with many students still only able to get online via their mobile phones.
Yet I have got so many positives out of our main teaching platform, Demsos, when teaching online. Many of them, like assessing work in real-time, are hard to replicate in a classroom. Desmos also gave a voice to my quieter students, who can be wary of speaking up in classroom discussions. Students could complete preliminary tasks in preparation for the next lesson, saving time in collating data or covering the foundational skills that we would be applying to the real world. The use of the graphing calculator and manipulatives like a card sort meant that we could focus on understanding and reasoning, rather than having to spend valuable time repeating processes beforehand. Where we found problems was that, having identified misconceptions via Desmos, correcting them online was trickier. We often went over these at the beginning of the next face-to-face lesson.
I haven’t yet mentioned other programmes like GeoGebra, which I know some of my colleagues in other colleges and schools have been successfully incorporating into their GCSE and A level lessons, and will continue to do so. I’ll be looking to brush up and build on my knowledge. Of course, the AMSP has courses available to help do so. Maybe I’ll see some of you on one of them! Details are below:
On Demand Professional Development (ODPD)
- GeoGebra in the Maths classroom (mainly aimed at A-level)
- GeoGebra in the GCSE classroom
- Desmos in the classroom