PhotoMath: New Killer App for Students?

Logo PhotoMath landscapeOver the past few hours, many news sources like CNN and Engadget have reported on the app PhotoMath. According to their website, this app claims

PhotoMath reads and solves mathematical expressions by using the camera of your mobile device in real time. It makes math easy and simple by educating users how to solve math problems.

Wow! What an enlightened view of how this app might be used.

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Ok…Now Go Collaborate!

Even Batman and Robin needed a common foe to bring them together as a team. Each week they faced off against more and more challenging criminals. As they became better crime fighters, their opposition had to step up their game. By the second season, we saw first two…then three or four master criminals working together to pull off some heist or to defeat the dynamic duo one and for all. The message was that they could do more as a team than any one could do alone.

This is my hope my collaborative teams…together they can do more than any one of them can do alone. However, you can’t throw four or five students together and expect them to be productive right away. Ease them into working together and then have them make some decisions together.

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Setting Up Collaborative Teams

In my last post, I looked at how I set my students up in the Google environment. In this post, I want to look at how I assigned students to teams.

The easiest way to assign students to teams is to simply assign them randomly and wait for the fallout. Left on their own, students have a tendency to socialize, not work toward a common goal. A group without a leader is likely to flounder aimlessly until the very last minute. A group without any technology skills will often implode. To be effective, the groups need to be an appropriate mixture. I needed Batman AND Robin (and maybe Batgirl). They had complimentary skills…experience and youthful enthusiasm….brains and support. Teams that have these types of complimentary skills, are most likely to succeed.

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Google…The Ultimate Bat Tool?

Wiklipedia

Batman’s utility belt first appeared in 1939. In this comic Batman used a choking gas capsule as part of his arsenal. Since then, the utility belt has expanded to include more and more incredible tools. Batarangs, grapple guns, glue globules and freeze grenades all appeared just in time to save Batman’s bacon.

In a similar manner, tools from Google have appeared and improved to help save my bacon. Until a few months ago, Google Sheets, Docs, and Slides were an afterthought to Microsoft Office. Office offered everything I could possibly want. However, it was often difficult for my students to have those same tools due to cost constraints. In a single class, I might have students using three or four different versions of Microsoft Office. As an instructor, it was difficult to create documentation for those versions…and there were the versions for Apple products to contend with. A simpler solution was to use a free product like Google Sheets or Docs. I could create one handout on a topic…like creating a graph in Sheets…and know that every student would be using the exact same version of Sheets.

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Holy Smokes Batman! What Is That?

“Robin and Batman” by ABC Television – eBay itemphoto frontphoto back. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

That Robin, is project-based learning…”a dynamic classroom approach in which students actively explore real-world problems and challenges and acquire a deeper knowledge.” (Edutopia) Extreme exposure has been known to drive teachers mad.

And there it was the solution to all of my problems…project-based learning. Engage students in a significant activity based on a interesting question (WOP!). Give them scaffolding resources to keep them on track (POW!). Have them complete a realistic assessment to demonstrate their learning (KAPOW!). It was a terrific plan and for a while kept Gotham content and happy(KA-CHING!).

But as everyone knows, Gotham City is filled with an array of nefarious characters ready to defeat the peaceful city. Sometimes powerful measures must be taken to defeat the likes of Riddler, Joker, Catwoman, Egghead, and Penguin.

“Batman villians 1966″ by Greenway Productions – eBay

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