Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Managing Classroom Peripherals

My latest obsession is my document camera. Last year I observed teachers using this tool and immediately saw what a powerful idea this was. It has taken this whole semester however, to start to integrate this technology into my lessons in an efficient manner.

My first few attempts were clumsy and unsure; I had trouble with all manner of details, and the kids probably saw the camera as an expensive paperweight. Now it has become an extension of my body, just like a smartboard. Perhaps more than myself taking the credit for this turn-around, I need to look at the nature of the new math curriculum I am teaching. As with all new initiatives, it as taken a while to figure out exactly how to implement this math via a different philosophy. Gone is the old days of teacher centered math with a lot of "drill and kill".

Connected Math is all about making connections, looking for patterns, explaining your thinking, and looking for multiple problem-solving strategies. In other words, it allows me to "wind up" students in the search of "prove to me/them/us that you are correct!". It gives opportunity for the kids to really talk with each other and debate (often passionately) their point of view.

In order for the energy of this process to remain high, it is crucial that kids are able to display the evidence of their thinking quickly and efficiently. Enter the document camera and smartboard dream duo. The students have the choice of using either the board or the camera to convey their thoughts; they come up to the front of the room, excited and ready to go, and then present their evidence using their preferred tool.

I take a back seat and watch the fireworks. To see kids arguing a point and using their own proofs to illustrate a point is enjoyable and informative. Students are going beyond just the math, and using many other skills like planning and public speaking. The key point for me is having the technology that is able to serve that immediate need: the need for the presenter to be able to show their work quickly and not slow down or disrupt the flow of the lesson.

The start of the year saw the kids very hesitant to approach and get behind the desk and teach the class; now, thanks to the use of relevant and effective technology, students are busting out of the seats to get up and confidently show everyone the nature of their thinking.


  1. Gotta love that CMP program, Jono. I used to love these kinds of lessons. Students end up making far better math models on an ongoing basis when they find out that they actually have to use the numbers to communicate their thinking.

  2. It's wonderful to read that technology peripherals are now just ways with which to demonstrate and facilitate higher order thinking and conceptual understanding.