Project TEMP – Västerås
Two Swedish teams of three teachers have been cooperating for two years around the use of ICT in Mathematics, one team from lower secondary schools and one from upper secondary schools. The participants come from six schools and have been able to bring different perspectives and experiences into the project, thus contributing to the projects objectives together with their colleagues in UK and Romania.
The focus of both groups has been to try out new ways of using ICT-based homework or tasks in the teaching of Mathematics, and at the same time change the student’ attitude towards homework and towards Mathematics in general.
Triad 1 from the Lower Secondary schools
In the first year the Lower Secondary school triad wanted to try ways to make homework a valuable tool for everybody. As we saw it, students’ attitude towards homework was negative for our students aged between 12-16. Our experience was that homework was not done by everybody and the students didn’t see the advantages of doing it.
Research shows that computer-based tests tend to have a positive effect on students’ motivation, concentration and performance. Therefor in our triad we tested computer-based homework. We decided to work with Zaption.com.
The first step in our project was to evaluate student’s current attitudes towards homework, we used a digital questionnaire. We collaborated in making meaningful homework hosted through Zaption. We wanted the results from the homework to be the base for the lesson that followed (Flipped Learning). This contributed to develop quicker and better formative assessment for both students and teachers.
In the evaluation we did after the first year we saw that the students did their homework in a higher degree than before. We saw that the students were more eager to do their homework and the students that struggled realised that after doing their homework they could be a part of the mathematical discussion in the upcoming lessons. We also had positive feedback from parents.
In the second year the triad suffered a major setback when the tool that we had been using for computer-based homework was shut down. All the work that we had done in creating homework assignments was lost. The focus for the second year became to find another tool that could help us. We received help from researchers at Mälardalen university and made the decision to work with two different platforms, vklass.se and scalable-learning.com. These two platforms were what we tested and evaluated under the second half of the second year. It is also what we use today for our computer-based homework.
Triad 2 from the Upper Secondary schools
The Upper Secondary school triad had students from a variety of ages, programs and ability levels, as the teachers are working in three different schools.
As we looked for a common ground, we found that we all had a similar experience in regards to how we communicate with students. We felt that students in general perceive lesson time as the only time when they can/want to learn, and we decided we wanted to try to change that with the use of technology. This became the central theme of our two TEMP project years.
For the first year we chose the software/web site called Zaption.com. The teacher inputs a video (usually from YouTube) and then the teacher can add questions that the watcher must answer. The teacher can look at statistics for the students. This could be used for “flipped classroom” pedagogy or simply to push students to prepare for the lecture. The statistics could also help the teachers prepare better for the lesson, knowing which parts were easier or harder in general for the students.
The evaluation showed that students in general appreciated this possibility to prepare before lessons, they liked short videos, and that they could be watched at home. Some said also that it helped them get prepared and to be able to follow the lecture better.
Combined with other software for evaluation during and after lessons (like Socrative), the teachers saw a good potential for improvement. Sadly enough, Zaption.com was bought up by another company in 2016 and the site was discontinued. A similar program which we recommend is PlayPosit (previously eduCanon).
For the second year of the project we decided to look at how we could give better feedback to the students. A software for capturing videos of what happens on the computer screen was something we thought would be helpful, and after checking some alternatives , we decided Screencast-O-Matic had the right balance of functionality and ease-of-use.
We tried many different uses; for long tests and short diagnoses, for reviews of materials and for feedback on written assignments. The results were mixed and very much depended on how and when you use the software. In general the video feedback was appreciated by the students, but for long tests and “one use only” (ie feedback for a specific student on a specific result), the triad felt the work implied cost too much in relation to what it gave. The potential to avoid losing valuable time with the full class, using a full lesson or more sitting outside class with one student a time, was offset by the result that the teacher lost too many hours recording feedback videos. On the other hand, review videos and content that could be re-used or re-visited later on in the course or next year, was a really good fit for the software and in this area we felt Screencast-O-Matic has its strongest points.
The teachers of the triad feel there has been a new world opening up to them through the participation in the project, and it goes beyond the specific programs tested. After two years of internal and external (with other triads) exchange on experiences, it is evident that there are synergy effects to be had beyond “just” getting access to new pedagogical software. As the research states, there is a bigger picture here, a potential for human and computer integration in learning that we have just scratched the surface on. It is also obvious that many of the programs have a lot of development potential, as the feedback is still rudimental in comparison to what research states as possible. Projects like the TEMP project also have a role to fill in this area, making teachers more aware of what they should be asking for in the future iterations of the software.