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Mr G Online
Mar 24


Addressing the needs of all students in your Maths Classroom can be a real challenge. Do we stream based on ability? Do we use collaborative mixed ability groups? What’s the role of rich,open ended questions and differentiated curriculum? How do we pitch to the middle 50% but still cater for the upper AND lower 25%? It’s a challenge I’ve been grappling with for 25 years. Recently, I’ve been considering the use of Edmodo to provide access to extension and enrichment Mathematics opportunities for the more able students in the classroom. ( For those unfamiliar with Edmodo, click here for a description) This is my plan. I would be interested in feedback on its potential effectiveness before going further with it.

Identifying the target group
This is not a simple task. The standard method these days seems to be the standardized test. In Australia, we have NAPLAN, the yearly national assessment task targeting Years 3,5,7 and 9. Debating its merits here is not my intention today. I see its usefulness in quick identification of the higher achievers in a current group of students. I would then administer the next level test to these able students to gauge how far their abilities extend beyond the current class level. For example, after selecting a group in Grade 6 based on Grade 5 results from the previous year, I would give them the Year 7 test. Using data analysis, I’d identify their strengths and learning needs for future programming and targeted areas for extension and enrichment.

This would only be a starting point. Standardized tests are a narrow form of assessment that don’t necessarily identify fully the student’s need for extension in Mathematics. I’d continue to evaluate the children within and outside the extension group. I’m sure during the year I would identify children who could join the group for extension in specific areas they excel in. The beauty of using an open, collaborative, independent learning platform like Edmodo is that students can opt in and out of specific tasks or units of work.

The Edmodo Extension Maths Program
This is how I envisage setting up and running an Extension Program in Mathematics within the standard classroom environment.

First I would set up a Maths group for every student in the class. I wouldn’t want the Extension group to stand out from the crowd by having sole access to Edmodo for Maths. I would use this area to post problem solving tasks that the whole class could engage with, links to quality Maths sites that students could use to consolidate understanding in current units and revise past lessons as well. I would provide opportunities for discussion of strategies used, allow children to share their understanding, ask questions that both teachers and students could answer and share with the class. I’d allow for the possibility of using iPad apps like ShowMe or Explain Everything to post audiovisual explanations or lessons created by teachers or lessons. I would also post resources children could access to support them while working independently. The extension group could have a lead part in sharing their expertise with other classmates in this main Edmodo group. they could even create their own mini “Khan Academy”.

I would then create a subgroup within the main Edmodo group for my Extension/Enrichment group. I envisage this group being formed from able students across all classes in a particular grade level, possibly across several if there are able students in lower Grade levels who could qualify. I would plan for this group to access materials and concepts beyond what is available to the main group but accessible through the same platform as everyone else.

Obviously there would need to be some significant planning and negotiation with all class teachers to ensure this worked within their programs. consideration would have to be made about how these students would participate in both the extension sessions and regular class lessons. I see this happening in a number of ways.

Option 1. The students begin the lesson with the rest of the class. When they have received enough instruction on what is expected of them, they move on to completing required work for their class teacher independently, leaving their teacher to work with those who need support. When they complete the set task, they submit it on Edmodo through the assignment section and then enter their Edmodo Extension Sub group to collaborate on the higher level tasks assigned by me. They communicate with each other either personally if in the same grade or via posting their strategies, solutions, suggestions, questions, comments on Edmodo for the rest of the Extension group to respond to. Their work will be completed digitally and submitted through the Assignments section of Edmodo so that I can feedback and collaborate with them on the tasks.

Option 2. Alternatively, for one session a week, the group would meet with me and work on high level problem solving tasks and extension work related to the unit of work their class in currently involved in. Using online enrichment programs like the website nrich, the group would be collaborating on problems, sharing their possible solutions and strategies not only with each other but by submitting group or individual solutions on the nrich site for other like minded students to collaborate on through global forums. I envisage opportunities for the students to use technology such as screen casting computer programs or iPad apps I previously mentioned like ShowMe to record their solutions and strategies audio visually. Using a site like nrich, which would allow them to self select problems to solve would give them the freedom to challenge themselves both individually and in teams. It would also give them the option to opt in and out to return back to their class if they choose to.

Option 3. A third model could be a choice of making daily decisions to complete regular class work as homework and deciding to work in their extension groups or individually on Edmodo on a daily basis. As their test results would have already indicated in being selected for the program, they have most likely mastered the skills being taught in the regular class program and a simple completion of the tasks for homework would satisfy their class teacher’s need for evidence they have understood that area so they can report on it later in the year. This option fits a Personalized Learning model commonly encouraged in today’s schools and would allow the student to remain engaged in Maths at or beyond their level rather than going through the motions of completing simple tasks.

How Edmodo would help me implement this program

  • All links to nrich and teacher/student created work would be posted on Edmodo, with individual entries tagged or saved in libraries so that students could always have easy access to the tasks.
  • The collaborative nature of leaving instant comments and feedback allows the group to stay in contact with each other outside of school to continue their problem solving together. This could become engaging homework, with the teacher able to remain in contact and feedback on the work they post on Edmodo.
  • Each member of the group can work on their own problem solving and submit it to me or their teacher independently of the group for personal feedback before sharing with group if they choose to.
  • The function of the Assignment process in Edmodo allows for children to receive private feedback and allow the teachers to collect, collate and mark each submission, enabling effective assessment to occur at all points in the program. Teachers can submit rubrics and criteria for marking the work on Edmodo so the students know what is expected of them. I have had success with such use last year working with a Literature Circle group.
  • The fact that all students from the classes are also using Edmodo for their Math work as well means that all students can easily be given the opportunity to opt in to or out of the Extension group at any time without any extra planning or organisation by the teachers. I think this would be an important option as it would encourage other students to take on the challenge of extension tasks if they choose to.
  • Other teachers can be given co teacher status and become involved in the program, either as observers or contributors. This would allow for professional feedback on the suitability and effectiveness of the program.

These are my initial thoughts and obviously this kind of radical change to the status quo of primary schools as I have experienced them would involve leadership, class teacher, parent and student discussion. I need to think through this more and would appreciate feedback from others on how they have managed the needs of the more able students in their classrooms. I would really appreciate readers leaving a comment and contributing to the conversation of extending and enriching the learning of the able mathematician.

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12 Responses to “Maths Extension/Enrichment and Edmodo”

  1. Anju Thalla Says:

    I really like how you organized and presented your thoughts in differentiation. Your strategies sound feasible. Not to the extent that you have described, but I have using the general idea of the strategies with Edmodo in my 6 and 7 grade math classes in New York. Here are some of the issues I have come across, and would love your feedback on them.
    1. I have about 95 kids in my 3 classes. Even after using the quiz on Edmodo, I feel like I am constantly uploading new material and grading / reviewing the submissions. Even when I am doing this on my own time, I feel like I am always trying to play catchup. Any suggestions on how I can be more “efficient”?
    2. Maybe this is a problem with just my kids but motivation also seems to be an issue. I find that most will do just what they need to to get by, but will not push themselves to the next level, until I say that it may count for extra credit. I really want them to “want” to reach the next level of problem solving by applying themselves and think that the platform as described by you would be excellent. How can I do this?
    3. And then there is the issue of accessing the material. I use IPad’s in the classroom, and some of the content will not show correctly due to compatibility issues.

    Any thoughts / suggestions for the above will be greatly appreciated. I would love to share and collaborate with you to implement the differentiation programs using Edmodo.

    Thank you.

    • mgleeson Says:

      Thanks for the comment, Anju. It sounds like you have a real commitment to improving Maths in our Grades.
      1. It sounds like a very different situation to mine. You seem to be solely responsible for those 95 students whereas I work with 7 other teachers and collaboratively plan and teach with 200 children. Is there another teacher you can share the load with?
      Sometimes it comes down to the material itself and how you structure the lesson that impacts on the time it involves. I’m not a big quiz setter. How big are your quizzes? How often do you administer them? As I pointed out in my post, I would be using rich open ended questions that require different approaches and responses to a single task rather than a lot of closed questions with a lot of single answers to correct. I generally assess during my lessons and with the students on Edmodo I can record my comments on the spot as I work with them. This is the general method of how schools are trying to go where I work although there is plenty of struggle in changing over from the question and answer tradition.

      2. motivation is always an issue. It is a bigger issue when the work becomes an added on extra rather than a replacement or different set of work. I’m targeting the more able student who are motivated by working on more challenging problems but I don’t know if they want to be doing more work. Differentiation is about different levels of work not differing amounts of work. The extra work ( and this isn’t encouraging ;) ) should be coming from the teacher initially in planning the differentiated tasks that are geared towards the students working at their level but doing similar amount of work. I intend to use the problems already presented on the nrich website for the content in the enrich/extend class. The work for me is identifying the Maths curriculum content the problem involves so it matches what the other students are doing in the regular groupings. I live by the philosophy of less is more. Students don’t have to do 30 questions to prove they get it. 2-3 independently explained deep explorations of engaging rich problems is enough to convince me they know it. I know that flies in the face of conventional testing. An example of how my philosophy has worked is a year 9 student I tutored for 6 weeks before his end of year exam. He barely scraped in a 50% result before I got to him. I spent 6 weeks narrowing down 3 chapters of his text book ( about 70 pages ) into a half page of 6 key concepts that he could apply to any problem in those chapters. That motivated him to study – 86% final exam. So don’t give them more with extra credit as the incentive – give them reason to succeed.

      3. iPad limitations are an issue. We have combination of iPad and laptop access. Do you have computer access?
      The submitting of work on Edmodo on an iPad is an issue as you can’t add attachment. Web based embedding of online work from other websites does but that may be an issue. I know in my case uploading the ShowMe videos of the problem solving will work because the Showme app uploads straight to their site then the student can just post the link on Edmodo. As a lot of the work I’m planning for is using nrich, which is mostly text/image based, I won’t have a problem with access to material on iPads. If they want to submit documents through attachments to eAssignments they’ll have to use computers though.

      Not sure if that helps your cause. I’m a tech geek that prefers digital to paper based work so I work better and more conscientiously when I get online submissions. Try to get some of the assessment happening during class. Happy to discuss more with you. Maybe we can connect via Edmodo.

  2. Mary Says:

    It sounds like the students need acceleration, not enrichment to maximize their learning. Why not pre-test the students prior to each unit and flexibly group the students across the teachers. If they have mastered the concept, fractions for example, accelerate by teaching fractions as integers.

    I don’t mean to downplay your interest in using Edmodo. You have already spent a great deal of time thinking about it; however I think ALL students would benefit from pre-testing and given opportunities to accelerate their learning.

    • mgleeson Says:

      I tend to agree with your point Mary about all the children needing pretesting before a unit. And we do that at our school so we can address the different levels of understanding. As I said I would like all the children to be accessing Edmodo at their level and I would like to think any child could access higher level thinking tasks if they want to. We’re having a discussion at the moment about how to address the more able students. I’m still getting my head around whether it is enrichment ( work beyond the curriculum) or extension ( the next level within the curriculum.) that these kids need to really challenge them. It may well be after a while we discover only a select few really want or need the enrichment ( which my Edmodo plan may provide) and the rest of the able just need open tasks that give them the chance to extend their knowledge of a particular Maths area. Thanks for the feedback. It’s got me thinking about it more.

  3. Henrietta Miller Says:

    I have a small extension group for maths running in edmodo the extension teacher and I post more challenging problems and videos for them to watch and she sets special assignments. They love it. I find them in it all the time. Posing and solving problems, sharing their learning and being ‘nerdy’ without anyone making fun of them. I also have general groups as well for all subjects. My students love edmodo.

    • mgleeson Says:

      I thought you would Henrietta. I’m thinking that may be how it ends up for a while. In my role as Maths Leader in the Senior Grades, Leadership is looking at how I can address the challenge of the more able children not being extended in regular classrooms and working with them as a group has been thought of as an option. Edmodo for me was a way of keeping them on task behind the scenes while still having some input through collaborative feedback. Still thinking. Don’t want them seen as the separate group getting special attention. In the past I have been able to work in the classroom and move them into work beyond what others were doing but it was irregular contact. Trying to develop a consistent program. Thanks for the feedback.

  4. Mary Says:

    Mark,

    Some background on why I’m suggesting acceleration as one approach—our district is struggling with lower than expected growth at one of our grade levels. This cohort has high CogAT scores (http://www.riverpub.com/products/cogAt/details.html). The students are making growth, but they are not growing at the rate one would expect.

    Our director of assessment is recommending the teachers consider acceleration and descriptive feedback as starting points. These recommendations are based on John Hattie’s work Invisible Learning where he analyzed more than 850 studies on the practices that most influence student achievement. Learning strategies with an effect size of greater than 0.40 are worth implementing. Acceleration has an effect size of 0.88, which is one of five strategies with the most leverage.

    Combining acceleration with your extension/enrichment model with Edmodo would be the best of both worlds. You are probably aware the United States has adopted a K-12 Common Core math curriculum. One shining point is a clear definition of the eight mathematical practices, or characteristics, of mathematically proficient students. Edmodo can certainly enhance those practices.

    In addition to nrich, are you familiar with Dan Meyer’s blog (http://blog.mrmeyer.com/) and his 101 questions site (http://www.101qs.com/)? There may be some “perplexing” mathematical tasks for your students.

  5. Susan Nolan Says:

    I am curious. You say you have students submit their work electronically. How exactly do they complete math problems and submit them electronically?

    • mgleeson Says:

      Apologies for late reply, Susan. Because we have iPads to use, the children are able to use whiteboard or screen casting apps to record all their work, including voice recording, save it a a video or screenshot in photo library and post it to Edmodo as a file. It works well. Alternatively, many of the tasks are problem solving and their strategies and ideas are just added through Edmodos post/reply system. We aren’t necessarily to equations and calculations all the time. words are sometimes enough.

  6. Josh Says:

    (As you have allured to) Basing your group on NAPLAN testing may be a hit and miss affair. As the statistics that I have noticed are that there is almost 50 / 50 correlation between those that achieve highly in NAPLAN and those that achieve highly in comprehensive assessment.

    In other words only about half of those that you are selecting are probably capable of extension or enrichment work that will not also leave gaping holes in other parts of their learning.

    All the best,
    Interesting article though

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