Archive for the ‘screencasting’ Category

using iPad technology to support all students in mathematics

Posted on: April 7th, 2016 by jnovakowski

Last week I was invited to do a presentation with Richmond’s Learning Resource Teachers, sharing ways that teachers can use iPad technology to support all of their students in mathematics.


The use of technology can support students in different ways –  through the use of audio narration (ie. screencasting) of explaining mathematical thinking or strategy use and for many students, using their fingers to navigate or “print” using iPad technology is more accessible than using a pencil/pen. The visual (and often audio and kinaesthetic or gesturing) support is also particularly supportive and this is an area the math apps I have recommended attend to. The Math Tappers apps (developed by University of Victoria math education professors) all provide different types of visual supports and tools for students and provide different “levels” of entry points.


The TouchCounts app (developed by SFU math education researchers) involves moving visual support, audio support in multiple languages (students can choose) as well as the use of physical gesturing which all contribute to many different ways that students can access an understanding of composing and decomposing quantities/number.


The apps from The Math Learning Center is Oregon all provide virtual manipulative that students can access for both mathematical thinking and solving as well as representing. Students and teachers often use these apps to “app-smash” with, where they take a screenshot of what they created with the virtual manipulatives and then use that image in a annotation app like Skitch or PicCollage or a screencasting app like ShowMe or Doceri. This app-smashing creates a way for students to document and share their learning.


Here is a link to slideshare where I have posted the section of my presentation about the different apps. CLICK HERE.


inclusive learning communities: grade 8 math at Boyd, year two

Posted on: March 16th, 2016 by jnovakowski

Several schools in our district are participating in Inclusive Learning Communities projects, with a school team working alongside Learning Services staff to consider inclusive principles and practices. Hugh Boyd Secondary is continuing with a its second year in the project, investigating the question: How can we meet the diverse needs of our students in our grade 8 math classes?

A summary of last year’s project can be found HERE.

This year, the school team met with Shelley Moore and myself to look at class profiles, develop performance tasks for the beginning of a unit of study, consider and plan for inclusive practices within lessons and discuss ways of assessing students. This year, the teachers chose to focus on algebra (solving equations) and linear relations (graphing). We looked at the prescribed learning outcomes, considering what students needed to know to be successful at the grade 8 level – language, concepts, processes, skills. I introduced the team to the number balance as a way to think about balancing equations and emphasizing the concept of equivalence.

IMG_1506 IMG_1508 IMG_1511

New this year was a collaboration with SetBC – the school was provided with a half-class set of iPad tablets loaded with apps suitable for communicating learning in mathematics. SetBC facilitators provided support to the Boyd teachers in learning how to use screencasting apps such as doceri.

One of the lessons we developed together was having the students use the number balances to represent algebraic equations and then use the app ShadowPuppet to capture their process and understanding.

IMG_2496 IMG_2501 IMG_2503

A short video of this lesson can be viewed HERE. The teachers noticed the high engagement of the students and how some students were able to demonstrate their understanding of the mathematics in ways that played to their strengths.

The teachers followed up with lessons, continuing with the students creating screencasts using iPad technology.  The students were provided with choices of algebraic equations to create a table of values for and then graph using the doceri app (it has various graph paper backgrounds to choose from).

IMG_2595 IMG_2597

During our debrief session before spring break, the teachers identified the new practices that helped to meet the needs of their students and that they felt would endure for them: using a performance task before the unit of study to assess where students are in their understanding, using manipulatives/models, using open-ended learning experiences, presenting three or more different entry points for students (different complexity of questions or problems) and using iPad technology.


elementary math focus afternoon: September 28

Posted on: October 14th, 2015 by jnovakowski

On the afternoon of September 28, about 220 educators from 15 Richmond elementary schools converged upon Steves Elementary for our first of two elementary math focus afternoons.

Screen Shot 2015-10-10 at 12.07.41 AM

After an overview of current updates to the redesigned curriculum in mathematics and some thoughts to connect us as we work together, there were many sessions for teachers to choose from during two “break-out” times. Each sessions focused on at least one of the key aspects of the redesigned curriculum such as Big Ideas, a core competency or the First Peoples Principles of Learning. All of the sessions were facilitated by Richmond teachers – math mentor teachers, teacher consultants and some of the teachers from Steves.

Here is a link to the program for the afternoon and an overview of the sessions provided:

Elementary Math Focus Afternoon Sept 28 sessions

Please contact the presenters or myself through Richnet if you are interested in more information.

Three professional resources that were recommended throughout the afternoon are:

Screen Shot 2015-09-28 at 5.58.01 PM

We have a growing number of educators in Richmond becoming active on twitter. Any tweets tagged with the hashtag #sd38math for the day are archived HERE through Storify.

Screen Shot 2015-10-10 at 12.50.12 AM

Some of the resources shared during the afternoon:

introduction_math Aug 2015 - Introduction to BC Math Curriculum, K-12

whatsnew_math - What’s New in Math, K-9

BCAMT BasicNumberFacts1 - BCAMT pamphlet for parents on basic facts

The Sum What Dice Game Jan2013 - Sum What Dice Game

FH final Turtle Pond coding - Fred Harwood’s coding resources

Financial Literacy primary resources - Primary Financial Literacy Resources (QR codes)

High-Yield Routines September 2015 - High Yields Routines, SD38, K-8

We are hoping that this afternoon was a great launch for the school year, especially for the 17 Richmond elementary schools that have math as a school goal or professional learning focus. We all know that an afternoon like this can be inspiring and teachers take away ideas to use in their classrooms but professional learning takes time. At the end of the day, we asked teachers to turn to each other and commit to trying one or more new ideas that they heard about during the afternoon. We hope that teachers will continue the conversation we began by sharing what they are trying on twitter, through blog posts or conversations at their schools so that we can make our professional learning visible and learn from each other.

Screen Shot 2015-10-10 at 12.49.21 AM

Looking forward to the second event on January 18th!



Posted on: September 11th, 2015 by jnovakowski

Our second Summer Tech Institute for our district (with lots of guests from neighbouring districts) was held last week on Thursday at Westwind Elementary and was coordinated by teacher consultant Chris Loat. 193 educators spent a day of their summer holidays learning all about ways to integrate technology into their classrooms.

IMG_0301 IMG_0300

Apple “geniuses”  and “creatives” joined us for the first time and this added a new dimension to the day!


A link to the program with links to some of the presenters’ handouts and presentations can be found HERE.

I presented two sessions.

iPads in Math for the Primary Classroom

The first one was one the use of iPads for math in the primary classroom. Now, there are many not so good math apps out there, so I wanted to recommend some ones that developed conceptual understanding, provided meaningful practice of skills and concepts with visual tools and allowed for differentiation and choice.

The list of apps can be found here along with some links to blog posts Summer Tech 2015 Primary Math Apps list.

The apps I recommended are all free and all happen to be developed on the west coast. Some that will be new to teachers are the TouchCounts app developed by SFU Education researchers. It has English, French and Italian capabilities. Also, any of the apps from The Math Learning Center in Oregon correlate well with our curriculum. Their apps are available for different devices, including web-based apps. On their website find the app information under the Resources tab.

Place-Based Digital Storytelling

I shared the project I did with four Anderson teachers this spring, connecting their focus on the First Peoples Principles of Learning with their school’s innovation grant focus on iPad technology. A detailed outline of this project can be found HERE. Apps that we used included Google Earth, DoodleBuddy and 30Hands.

Congrats to Chris on another great tech institute! It was such a positive day and the synergy in the building was amazing!



what we know about patterning at grades 5&6

Posted on: October 31st, 2014 by jnovakowski

On Thursday morning, I visited Gillian Ewart’s grades 5&6 class at McNeely to work with the students around sharing their learning with technology. The class has moved on to investigating patterns. I explained that I had just been in a Kindergarten class where the students had been learning about repeating patterns. I asked Gillian’s students to explain to me what they meant by patterns. Students mentioned the terms input/output, expressions and “plus-ing numbers” with an example of a pattern rule of “starting at 2 plus 4″ with the number sequence of 2, 6, 10, 14, 18… and were able to use the terms increasing and decreasing patterns.

The students knew about t-charts and terms and what “n” stood for in an expression so I wrote the expression 2n + 1 on the whiteboard and asked the students to represent that expression using materials.

The different representations the students created reflected the materials they used. Some students wanted to replicate a t-chart and label the terms of their patterns, often using the materials to do so, like the photo on the right below.

IMG_6405 IMG_6407

The photo on the left above shows how one student showed the “plus one” in each term but turning over the two-sided counter to show the yellow side. After sharing his example, we introduced the term constant. A growing vocabulary of mathematics language is associated with this topic of study.


IMG_6409 IMG_6408

The students took a gallery walk around the class to see how other students represented the expression and thinking about “how is this the same as my representation? how is it different?” Next, the students were asked to think of an expression that they wanted to represent, choose their materials and represent the first four or five terms. Some students chose whiteboards or paper to create t-charts to solve for their expressions to support them as they built their representations. The students then took a photo with their iPads, labelled the photo using the Skitch app and then explained their pattern using ShowMe, submitting their screencasts to the class account.

IMG_6412 IMG_6414 IMG_6415 IMG_6416

IMG_6417 IMG_6418

Some examples of their screencasts follow. These were their first attempts at orally sharing their understanding around number patterns and we asked the students to include as much of the specific math vocabulary as they could. We are considering these screencasts “first drafts” as most of the students just focused one part of a bigger explanation about their patterns. (please note that the sd38blogs platform is having difficulties with links to videos or embedding videos…here are the URLs for now until we get things sorted out)

For many students at this age, they become self-conscious sharing their thinking in large group discussions. Today we noticed the students were comfortable during the gallery walk where their models spoke for themselves and that the students are growing more comfortable recording their voices on the iPads. As a follow-up, some students will share their screencasts using the projector in the class and there will be another gallery walk where students need to figure out their classmates’ expressions, as expressed in their representations.



thinking about decimal fractions in grades 5&6

Posted on: October 22nd, 2014 by jnovakowski

I have spent two Thursday mornings in Gillian Ewart’s grades 5 & 6 class working with the students as they learn about decimal numbers (tenths, hundredths, thousandths) and how to represent them. Students at this grade level need a strong understanding of tenths and hundredths and then should be able to generalize this understanding to thousandths, ten thousandths, etc. Taking the time to work with concrete materials and visual tools to represent these numbers helps to develop strong conceptual understanding and sense about these numbers that will support students when they begin to apply operations (adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing) to these numbers.

The iPad app, Skitch, was introduced as a way for students to capture representations of decimal numbers. The students took photographs of hundred grids in the classroom and then used the drawing and text tools within the app. The students saved their images to the iPad’s photo album.

IMG_6176 IMG_6177

The students were then introduced to the screencasting app, ShowMe, and students were asked to show what they knew about decimal fractions/numbers by using the images they created in Skitch and then annotating the images further as they narrated their screencasts. Gillian quickly set up a class account on so the students could log in and save their screencasts to a shared site.



An example of one of the students first tries at a screencast is posted below:

A mathematics-based app that students used to start up their mathematical thinking at the beginning of our second session was Math Tappers: Numberline (an iPhone app). Students chose a range of numbers they felt comfortable working with and a type of numberline (different types of reference points) and then had to place a decimal number where they thought it should go. The students receive feedback as they play. The whole series of Math Tappers apps is excellent and they were developed by University of Victoria professors so they are particularly well suited to our curriculum.

Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 10.46.06 PM IMG_0546

Next, we introduced the app Number Pieces. The students had been working on representing decimal numbers using base ten blocks and this app has students work with base ten blocks as a virtual manipulative and label and annotate their representations. The students then either used the Number Pieces app or a photo of a concrete representation with base ten blocks to import an image into ShowMe. The students then created a short screencast (we gave them an upper limit of one minute this time) to share their understanding of representing decimal numbers.

IMG_6268 IMG_6269 IMG_6270 IMG_6272


By doing some oral rehearsal before recording, the students are getting more comfortable in communicating their mathematical understanding. The classroom teacher, Gillian Ewart has commented on the insights she gets into her students’ understanding and misconceptions as she listens to and views the screencasts which provide valuable information to plan what comes next in planning her instruction.


showing what we know in math…first time using iPads

Posted on: March 11th, 2014 by jnovakowski

On Thursday, I introduced iPads in the classroom to Tina Grigoriadis’ grades 3 & 4 students.  Garden City has 8 iPads (with more on the way) and the students were very excited to use them for math. They worked so well in groups of three, collaborating and sharing.

The class has been learning about multiplication and has just begun to learn about division and its connection to multiplication, specifically looking at arrays. Tina had many visual supports up in the classroom to support students with their mathematical understanding.

We introduced the students to the MathTappers iPhone app called Multiples. It has options for working with different levels of factors and practicing both multiplication and division, with ten frames and hundred charts as visual supports.

 The students then worked together, creating three different arrays using math materials. They learned how to take photographs with the iPads and then import these photographs into an app.

We then taught the students how to use the doceri app to use photographs, diagrams and the students’ voices to represent and share their understanding of multiplication and division through the use of arrays.

 Some students preferred preparing a script that they could read as they recorded their voices on the iPad.

Here are some examples of the students’ screencasts:

These screencasts reveal a “first-timers” use of the app – figuring it out, seeing what it can do. Most of the students described multiplication and division equations for the array they had photographed. A further extension (maybe for second-timers) would be to further explain their thinking about the connection between multiplication and division and how an array supports their understanding.
When we asked the students what they liked about using the iPads, one student commented that he was having fun but then he realized he was learning at the same time. As educators, we know that engagement leads to higher rates of learning and retention of information and these kinds of experiences that are hands-on, minds-on and collaborative are highly engaging for students.

water cycle simulation in grades 2&3

Posted on: March 9th, 2014 by jnovakowski

The McNeely grades 2 & 3 teachers continue to explore ways of using iPad technology to capture students’ learning in science. On Monday in Anna Nachbar’s class, we discussed the water cycle – precipitation, collection, evaporation, condensation. We had lots of recent examples of precipitation to refer to – rain, sleet and snow.

We simulated the water cycle using the classic boiling kettle and cold cookie sheet demonstration. We poured the water into the kettle (collection), turned the kettle on and boiled the water, watching the steam come out (evaporation) and then watched as water droplets formed on the bottom of the cold cookie sheets (condensation) to the point that the poured down the cookie sheet and onto the desktop (precipitation).

The students worked in pairs and took photographs of each stage of the demonstration. Some students also took photographs outside as it was a very rainy day and there were good examples of collection (puddles), precipitation (rain) and condensation (clouds).

 The grades 2 and 3 students then were introduced to the app PicCollage and the students included four photographs, one for each stage of the water cycle. They added text to label or explain the stages.

With PicCollage it is easy for students to email their project as a jpg file and the following are some examples of the students’ work:

Two students did some “app smashing” and used the image they had created in the PicCollage app and used it in the ShowMe app to further explain the stages of the water cycle:

 In Deanna Mayotte’s class, we did the same simulation but this time, the students used the screencasting app ShowMe to document and explain the four stages of the water cycle.

And I liked how these two students connected each stage of the water cycle to what was happening in the real world outside!

During this professional inquiry, the teachers and I have talked a lot about the value of having the students develop a repertoire of apps that they can use to represent and share their science learning. After spring break, we intend to introduce another app or two and then maybe decide on a science task we can do and have the students choose the app they would like to use to share their learning.

creating double bar graphs to compare winter olympics medal counts

Posted on: March 2nd, 2014 by jnovakowski

The grades 5 and 6 class at Garden City has been learning about bar graphs. As part of a collaborative inquiry amongst a small group of teachers at the school, we have been looking at how iPad technology can enhance mathematical communication and engagement.

This week we provided the students with the medal counts charts from the 2010 and 2014 Winter Olympics. The students were welcome to use another data set or quickly create their own survey to collect some data, but the focus was on the creation of graphs using the iPads so I think all of the students just used the medal counts for their data set.

The students used the screencasting app doceri to create the graphs, after a short discussion about when and why you would use a double bar graphs. We reviewed the parts of a graph and then students worked in small groups to create their graphs. There was some frustration in labelling the axes and the students wished there was a typing/text feature that was easy to use.

The students’ explanations in the following screencasts reveal a few things – misuse of mathematical vocabulary in labelling axes, understanding of the components of a graph to convey information clearly and a hint at the purpose of bar graphs. We didn’t provide specific criteria about what the screencasts needed to have and if we had, we might have received more consistent information included in all the screencasts. The students seemed to have a good sense about what information they should try and convey though, without our explicit guidance.

And yes, the students could have just as easily created these graphs using paper and written out their analyses instead of using a screencasting app. After introducing apps like doceri, they become part of a student’s repertoire and hopefully, they will be given choices in how they might represent and share their learning, and those who want to use paper and pencil can and those who want to use a screencasting app can do so or there might also be an option 3!

When we are assessing mathematical understanding, does it matter how students show us what they know? I don’t think so. I think our role as teachers is to make sure students have many opportunities to show what they know about something, in ways that work for them. We want all our students to be successful and screencasting apps like doceri allow students who may have difficulties writing their thinking down on paper a way to show what they know, using visual supports and diagrams to enhance their explanations.

assessing mathematical communication

Posted on: February 16th, 2014 by jnovakowski

I made my monthly visit to Quilchena Elementary on Wednesday and the intermediate teachers and I worked together around assessing communicating about mathematics.

In Una Simpson’s grades 4 and 5 class, the grade five students had been learning about quadrilaterals and their attributes while the grade 4s continued to develop their understanding of prisms. As a performance assessment task, Una designed a task where the grade four students would create a quadrilateral on a geoboard (real or virtual – on the Geoboard iPad app) and then the grade five students would ask their partners questions about the attributes of the quadrilateral that could be answered yes or no.

Una recorded some language prompts on the whiteboard such as angles, parallel, perpendicular, congruent, etc to support students’ questioning. The students took a photo of their quadrilateral with the iPad and then inserted it into the ShowMe app and then recorded their question and answer session, with the grade five student trying to determine the size and shape of the quadrilateral.

What we quickly noticed is that although the grade 4 students could all create quadrilaterals, they didn’t actually have the language for and understand the questions their classmates were asking them about the attributes. I listened with interest as a grade 4 student confidently say “yes” that there were parallel sides in her shape when there clearly was not. I pointed this out to the students and of course the grade 5 student was frustrated because it had thrown him off in trying to figure out the shape.

Una and I agreed that the task itself was excellent for assessing students’ use of mathematical vocabulary and to assess understanding of attributes of shapes, but that students needed to be paired with students who had the same instruction and background knowledge for the task to be successful. So when teaching a combined class, if you do not expose all students to both sets of learning outcomes, you would need to separate this task by grade levels. The grade 4s could have easily have done a similar task but using prisms (using three dimensional blocks in the classroom) instead of the quadrilaterals.


In Andrew Livingstone’s grade 7 class, the students are accustomed to using self-assessments in other curricular areas, using a four point scale in line with our BC Performance Standards language. The intermediate teachers worked together to create a self-assessment scale to use with math journals, specifically focusing on communicating mathematical thinking. When we discussed it, we realized it could also be used with screencasting that the students have been doing with the iPads.

The students had already completed individual ShowMes using a practice question from the Grade 7 Numeracy FSA. A few students volunteered to share their ShowMes up on the big screen in front of the class so that we could use the self-assessment tool with them. I spent some time going through each level of criteria and what that might look and sound like in a ShowMe. We then shared the first ShowMe, with the students having the assessment tool in front of them. It was interesting to note that none of the students recorded anything on the assessment tool until after the ShowMe was over. I shared how I took notes during the ShowMe, so that I had “evidence” for my assessment for each level of criteria. The students soon realized that this would have been helpful. We discussed how they “scored” the ShowMe and asked for specific examples of why they chose “fully” or whatever level they chose.

For the second ShowMe we watched, the students took notes as they watched and had a better sense of what kinds of things they should be watching and listening for. They agreed the second time was easier than the first and that it would get easier the more they did it.

Here’s a short little video from our session together:

With both examples, we had long discussions about the difference between “Show your work” and “Explain your thinking” building on previous discussion we have had with this class about descriptive vs explanatory thinking. For these tasks, the show your work was really about showing what you did to complete the task/how you did the calculations whereas the explain your thinking was the metacognitive part, the explaining the “why” you chose to solve it the way you did and your reasoning involved in completing the task. We are finding that we are really needed to pull this out of students, that they just do the reasoning part but aren’t used to articulating it. We are going to make a few revisions to the assessment tool to help students understand these differences more clearly.