How students and teachers are using iPad apps to accelerate math learning – Part three

By Scott Dowling – Numeracy Resource Teacher, and Tyler Cave – Student Work Study Teacher

This is the last post of a three-part series about iPad apps that encourage students to assess their own learning and capture real-time thinking in order to adapt learning to the needs in the classroom. Part one explored self-assessment with the Educreations app and part two looked at collaborative inquiries.

Student Voice and Visible Thinking: Using to Reach and Value Everyone

Collaborative Inquiry facilitated by: Jen Viherjoki, Teacher, Grade 6/7

The vast majority of us have sat in a classroom and have held on to a very important question that is going to help us “get it”. For whatever reason, we are too timid or scared to halt the instruction to have that one pivotal piece of information clarified or answered so that we can continue to learn. Timing alone makes addressing all the questions in a typical classroom next to impossible. The teacher is engaged in the instruction of the lesson and yet the very question that could help unlock the learning lays dormant and is often forgotten or not addressed by the end of the lesson, when it would be most beneficial to the learner. Most likely, there are several students in the room who could at any given moment help to answer that question or any other question that might deepen the learning.

A QR Code helps students efficiently access Today's Meet
A QR Code helps students efficiently access Today’s Meet

In order to harness this untapped resource and wealth of knowledge in the classroom, students and teachers at Coldwater have used microblogging to create a digital space in which students can pose and answer questions about the learning in mathematics throughout a given lesson.

To facilitate this digital space, the classroom teacher need only create a chat room at This is literally a one-click process accessible through a private internet link and works on almost any device. Once the link is shared to the class, the teacher can then proceed with a lesson, allowing students to interact in the stream, posing and answering questions about the learning.

Using a microblog in this fashion has been termed “back channeling” and has many benefits to the learning environment. Not only does it allow students to help students through the learning process, it also gives teachers a rich chronicle of the types of questions and thinking students have during a lesson.

microblogging in the classroom
microblogging in the classroom

The uses for microblogging in the classroom are extensive. After gaining some comfort with the tool the teachers at Coldwater began to use it to answer very specific math questions as outlined in this lesson, the benefit being that everyone’s answer was visible in the stream.

As a formative learning strategy, those struggling with the concept can access multiple answers and thinkings to help inform their answer. Because no assessment has been done on the answers in the stream, simply copying your classmate’s answer is not a viable choice. Students must critically evaluate several responses in order to push and develop their own answer. This platform also promotes a growth mindset, in that a student may simply resubmit their response and improve upon it as new information and answers enter the stream.

This is a truly “better together” approach to learning. Creating a digital space that gives value and purpose to student voice and knowledge allows learning to flourish as the culture and responsibility of learning shifts to everybody, not just the teachers.

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