I have had the honor this spring to be hired to create video content for ASSISTments, an online program out of Worcester Polytechnic Institute. I have written about ways I already use ASSISTments to bring choice to my practice in earlier blogs (see Up-cycling, UDL-style) but this spring has really brought the use of these videos to the forefront for me because I have been so involved with making them.
Providing Electronic Choice
My evaluation goal for this school year was to provide at least one choice for students 100% of the time in homework or classroom instruction (see this blog post). ASSISTments played a huge role in this goal because our district uses the Eureka Math/Engage NY curriculum and ASSISTments has loaded the Problem Sets and Exit Tickets into their program. That allowed me to provide students with a choice between an electronic version (on ASSISTments) and the paper assignment (copied and handed out in class) for any assignments in Eureka.
Expanding the use of ASSISTments
I was already grateful to ASSISTments for providing me with a quick and efficient way to expand my homework options on about 90% of my assignments, which went a long way towards helping me achieve my evaluation goal. However, once I was accepted to work for ASSISTments making online content for their current research project in 7th grade, my understanding of how to leverage the program exploded.
With the new research study, 7th grade students have access to hints and explanations for problems they are assigned. I was able to create explanations for my students to view to help them when they got stuck on a problem. What a gift! I used the opportunity to create these videos at first for our current content, which happened to be our last Module (Statistics), and then I used it extensively in our review work.
For our grade-level classes, we spend about three weeks reviewing core content from the entire year in preparation for a two-day, two-part (calculator and non-calculator) cumulative assessment. In the past, these three weeks have often devolved into marathon online game sessions on Math Playground….followed by failing scores on quizzes and tears on the cumulative assessment, despite the weeks of practice time.
This year, thanks to ASSISTments, I was able to create an individualized (to my students), targeted, grade-level, high-quality set of problems to match each content area. After taking a (paper) self-assessment to start the review process for each topic, students then were encouraged to begin their review work in ASSISTments. Why the encouragement? Because my colleague and I knew that, if one of our students got stuck, they could access my instruction via an explanation.
The results were significantly better than in past years. Of course, the lack of time on Math Playground helped in general, but I also share my observational data that I saw students accessing my teacher-created videos rather than just clicking their way mindlessly through practice on Khan Academy or other resources.
From here, what?
In following up with Cristina Hefferman from ASSISTments, I learned that TeacherASSIST is available to all users, across different content areas, allowing teachers to create videos for their own students to use. In addition to this ever-more-valuable resource, I also think that maybe teachers might consider finding ways to make some video content for themselves, even if they aren’t using ASSISTments or Eureka/Engage. I bet we have all watched our students succumb to the lure of “watching videos on Khan Academy,” which is sometimes code for “doing other things while Khan Academy is playing in the background.” I think our students find the video aspect of Khan Academy more engaging than when we make answer keys or worked problems available. How could we harness that appeal? What teacher-created resources would allow teachers to empower students to access the resource(s) most relevant to them?