Second in a series. Tech & Learning follows Illinois's Oak Lawn-Hometown District 123 through the school year as they implement Learning.com's STEM curriculum in conjunction with the district's new 1:1 computing initiative. Read Part One here.
In preparation for the student rollout, I met with all of the 5th grade teachers during their collaboration time and walked them through the features of the site.
As teachers prepared for rollout day, they explored the curriculum and chose general math topics that all of the students needed to review. Some teachers chose to use a fraction lesson from 3rd grade and use the materials as a formative assessment for equivalent fractions, whereas others used a very complex 5th grade Common Core lesson to see if students understood the area of triangles.
I visited with each of the classrooms to assist in explaining parts of the site to the students. Students had no problem using their Google apps names and passwords to log in to their new learning.com accounts. Aesthetically, the program is clean and easy to use, but the Introduction portion of the site uses an orange background with blue text. The students found this hard to read on the Smartboard and on their Netbooks. I would suggest that they change the text to white or black considering how tiny the text is in the thumbnail portion of the page.
Before implementation I was worried about our bandwidth limits and wondering if our network could support the use of the site when multiple classrooms per school were utilizing the site, but I am happy to say our network as held up well with the rigorous use of the site. We have had no problems with slowness or using the Flash portions of the site.
Teachers loved that the quiz grades were immediately updated in real time in their online grade book. Students loved the feedback after every question and knowing their final percentage when they finished. Normally, it can take so long for a student to correct their own misconception of an idea, but since the quizzes focus on one skill in various problem styles, students are able to keep working towards understanding. One student angrily said, “I’m so mad I got that answer wrong because I know what I did.”
In the future, I would love to see a more in-depth breakdown of the pattern of incorrect answers and maybe suggesting the student go revisit a certain thumbnail in the introduction. After the quizzes were submitted, we discussed what questions they got wrong and reviewed those specific skills. Students were very open about expressing which questions they struggled on and some wanted to take the quiz again.
On unique portion of the site that we enjoyed was the game portion of each unit of study. Even the storyline of the games are academic and prepared the students for problem solving. Each game offers three levels of complexity and teachers can see the number of points students have earned in each game. We used this data as another formative clue to see what group of students needed more support.
Differentiation and the Next Step
Next, our teachers will be using the site to differentiate math groups and start to add their own exit slips as journal assessments. They will begin using a science portion as well, but some of the units in the Foss portion are not completed so they have had to supplement with another curriculum piece on the site.
Overall, we are pleased with site and excited to see how we can use it to better meet the various needs of our students and keep them actively engaged.