Less Thinking, More Action (Plan)

Taking the time to sit down and write about my action plan has been a long time coming. I’ve been trying to find a solution to my action plan question…

“How might we promote organization and student ownership while relaying the importance of independence in a personalized framework?”

What I was looking to solve by asking this question was :

“Is there a tool that can help consolidate all of the materials for the personalized units (explained in my last blog post) where students would only have to go to ONE place?”

I’m going to take you through some of my thought process, so bear with me. I promise I’ll get to my action plan!

Some things that my action plan is aiming to fix:

  1. The organization – I want students to have to go to ONE place, not many to go to see and use the materials for the unit that is interactive.
  2. I want to provide timely feedback, with less work from me. Can I leverage technology to help?
  3. I want to make it at least seem like there are multiple entry points (less linear)
  4. Is there a way to make tracking easier for the teacher?routechoice

After some brainstorming at Cohort21 F2F #2, in my mind there were several routes to take:

  1. Create an iBook for the unit.
  2. Create an iTunes U course for the unit.
  3. Create a Google Site to house the information for the unit.
  4. Create a Blackboard site using course sites.
  5. Use Google Slides.
  6. Someone at Cohort21 also suggested Hapara.

So I did what any list-loving person does and created a Pros/Cons list for each:

Tool Pros Cons


  • very user friendly, visually appealing, interactive
  • Can embed Geogebra Applets


  • Students would have to re-download iBook if any changes were made
  • May seem overwhelming for students to have such a large file with entire unit
iTunes U Course


  • Students do not have to download iBooks attached, so I could attach many iBooks (possibly one for each topic)
  • The private course seems like there is teacher tracking embedded
  • Only public courses can be used with MacBooks (all of our grade 9 students use MacBooks)
  • There may not be a quick way to make it public
Google Site


  • Can embed Edpuzzle, Geogebra applets, Google forms etc…
  • Could make visually appealing for students and have everything in one place
  • May seem linear if only on webpage – would have to have many sub pages
  • Not interactive (iBook has hover feature)




  • Has a great way to create quizzes that self-mark
  •  Seems like dated technology
  • Not able to embed the things I would like to
  • Not an immersive experience for students
Google Slides


  • Can link from one slide to another easily
  • Does not have to be set up linearly
  • Not interactive
  • Does not seem as user friendly and immersive for students

Screen Shot 2012-11-27 at 4.20.02 PM

  • Great for Google docs/spreadsheets etc.
  • We may not always use Google docs/spreadsheets. Often they are PDF’s or videos.


After many lists and discussions here are my first choices:

1. My first choice as of right now would be iTunes U because I like the ability to link iBooks. iBooks are great for us, and as far as I understand this would provide an opportunity for students to open the iBooks without having to download them. This means that if we changed anything there would be an update and students would not have to download the newest version. However, there seems to be some technology issues with this, as a course must be public to use it on a MacBook. Because of this, I don’t know if this will be a viable option (as much as I want it to be – Maybe one day!)

2. My second choice would be an iBook that would contain the entire unit. It has all of the user friendliness and interactive nature, and creates an immersive experience for students. There is a problem that if we, as teachers updated it, the students would have to re-download it every time.

3. My third choice would be to create a Google Site. This seems like the most viable option as there are capabilities to embed Edpuzzle (I’ve been wanting to use it for a while), Geogebra applets, and Google Forms as quizzes. I could also have Flubaroo self-mark the Google forms to give instant feedback to the students.

To end my rambling (again), what I’ve decided to do for my action plan is:blog_actionplan_v01

  • Create either a Google Site or an iBook for our linear relationships unit in grade 9 to house our information. I’m still deciding between the two.
  • If possible:Embed Edpuzzle videos, Geogebra Applets and Google forms marked by flubaroo with the results emailed to students.

Some things I’m still wondering:

  • Is there a way to import an image into Google Sites and have multiple parts of the image link to different things?
  • Is there a way to create a bank of questions in Google Forms and have students link to a random set of questions with one click?
  • Which will serve my needs and wants more. An iBook or a Google Site?
  • What else can I incorporate that I haven’t thought about? – I need to be careful about this, since I don’t want technology to lead the way I teach, but I’m curious what’s out there.

Crazy enough to change…

We as educators are at a crossroads of change. We have a vague and blurred vision of where we should head, and a not so clear way to get there. We hear words like ‘personalization’, ‘blended’ and ‘mastery’, but all have our own interpretations of what those mean. The more articles or books I read, the more confusing but exciting it becomes.

Before I even begin to talk about my action plan there needs to be preamble, so here we go…

A really long Preamble:

Over the course of the last three years a few of my colleagues and I have been a part of a large change in the way we teach math. I’m no expert by any means, but just someone who is slowly working to chip away at the shift in math education (at least what I think it looks like). After a lot of research, tons of theoretical conversations with my amazing colleagues about pedagogy, and tons of adjustments along the way, here are some of the changes that we have implemented:

“Mastery Units”

  • Units that have topics that lend themselves to tons and tons of practice, the students are put in charge of their learning where they work towards mastering ‘topics’ that are separated and displayed in the classroom at the beginning of the unit.
  • Students work towards mastery by first watching a video, completing a worksheet to practice, then completing a formative to prove to themselves and to me that they understand it.
  •  Students work at their own pace in their own time, with A LOT of support for me. They have guidance from me, and deadlines along the way. Often these ‘deadlines’ are vague like: “by next class you should have 4 worksheets done”. If I find a group of students are struggling with a concept or question – I use this opportunity to jump in and have a quick full class discussions

They can write tests early in the “Mastery Units” – I.e. We have test deadlines not days! (AH!)

  •  Students can write tests early. This change was terrifying for me. What do we do if they’re done early???? Turns out it doesn’t happen too often, and those students are more than happy to practice some math contest questions, complete an extra activity, or use the time to complete their portfolio – more on this later.


  • We have gone through the curriculum and pinpointed specific or general criteria that meet our need to evaluate the students by a conversation. We do this once per student once per unit. Often there is criteria (even in the math curriculum) that uses words like  should be able to: describe….”. This, in our eyes, lends itself well to a conversation instead of a test question. I really enjoy the conversations and find they are a valuable piece of evaluation for each unit, as I really find out what each student knows, not what they can memorize.

Personalized – When Possible

Overall we’ve found that certain units and content are better taught a certain way. Skill based units generally are best when students are given ample opportunity to practice – this works perfectly with the personalized units. Graphing data and relationships is perfect for projects! Everything we implement includes the thought process of how can we make this as personalized as possible. By personalized we mean that there should be multiple entry points and we’re working on multiple exit opportunities too. We don’t even know what a truly personalized math classroom looks like yet!

I’ve helped to build all of these changes, but now what?

Some challenges we’ve had with the ‘mastery units’:

  • Student organization
    • Students have trouble tracking what they’ve done and where they have to go next. We’ve tried paper tracking sheets as well as digital, but find the students need teacher feedback to really know where they stand.
  • Going many places to work on the same thing
    • From the videos in Google Drive, to the worksheets on paper, to the formatives on paper or online – sometimes I can tell the students are frustrated with the gathering of information and resources to learn.
  • Linear format
    • Although we consider it personalized, because the topics are listed in numerical order I find the students often complete them in the order they are listed. I would like to find a way to make it really seem like there are multiple entry points.
  • A lot of the same – need to switch it up
    • We know that no student learns the same way, so why would we teach every unit the same way? It’s important that we’re always changing, and that includes the structure of personalized ‘mastery’ units.
  • Student/teacher tracking
    • I find myself tracking and marking constantly. This is fine when it sparks discussions between myself and students or students and each other, but can become a lot and would be great if there was a better way to track it.

After consistently researching and trying new things I’m more confused than ever. What really works in the classroom? I find myself searching for an answer, but is there one? Am I really going to find something to help me solve all of my problems? Probably not, but all I can do is chip away at my goals, continue to solve problems along the way and be crazy enough to change my thinking and practice…

The only thing that’s crystal clear to me is…

we want less of this:      

And more of this: