Playlists…The Next Generation by Jason Appel

Jason Appel is a math teacher and Technology Integration Fellow at Barrington High School in Barrington, RI, with twenty years of middle and high school teaching experience in Rhode Island and New York City. He is currently a Fuse RI Fellow.

Read my first blog post for more information about my FuseRI project.

In a recent survey, a number of students indicated that they found it difficult to work with my playlists,like this one. They identified two problems. The first was too many tabs:

“click here” to watch a video (new tab)

“click here” to practice problems on IXL or Khan Academy (new tab)

“click here” to complete these problems on Formative (new tab)

The other complaint was losing their place. Many of my playlists are designed to be completed over the course of several class periods. Students found that they would inadvertently skip steps, or just forget where they were. At the same time, I struggled with my workflow during class. I needed three or four tabs open at a time on my iPad in order to monitor my students’ progress. It just wasn’t working as well as I wanted.

Around the time of the survey, I’d begun working closely with the developers of a tool calledFormative (check out the article I recently published at Edsurge.com about the relationship I’ve formed with them). Formative is built for formative assessment, but I read a hack on their new community forum about embedding outside resources directly in an assignment. This gave me the idea to try Formative as my playlist delivery tool. Edpuzzle already generates embed codes, so that would be easy. I then came up with the idea of adding a T/F question after each step, simply asking if it was completed. Answering True was an indicator to me and the student that he/she completed that step. My students came up with their own idea which I love. If they completed a step, say practicing a skill on Khan Academy, and wanted to move on, but felt like they might need to revisit that step later, they chose False instead of True. I liken this to putting a star next to something in your notebook as a reminder to come back to it. Here’s a recent example of a playlist introducing special right triangles.

I’ve been using Formative for playlists for over a month now and so far we are loving it. My students appreciate that everything is in one place. They also love the truly instant feedback they receive. I set my playlist assignments to “Instant Scoring” so any question that can be graded automatically is graded within a few seconds. I can quickly and easily score and provide feedback for “show your work” questions, and best of all I can monitor progress with one screen. I’m incredibly excited about the evolution of my playlists, especially because my students are loving the improvements.

There’s one more change I want to mention here. A few of my students said they didn’t like learning from a video. Now they have the option to ask for a mini-lesson instead. Most students (about 75% or so) are sticking with videos, but a small group prefer this new option. Some will watch a video, and then ask for a mini-lesson afterwards if they feel they didn’t understand a portion of the video. If you look at an example playlist, you will notice that I’ve added a mini-lesson option to go along with each video. My only comment to myself about this change is…duh. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner, but this is why you must ask your students what is/isn’t working for them and then do something about it. Until next time!