MAT Blog

5 More Apps to Boost Collaborative Learning

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Jan 10, 2013 2:05:00 PM

Collaborative LearningWe’ve asked this question before, but we’re going to ask it again: Why do our students come to school? Is it for the textbooks and your oratorical prowess? Unlikely. We’re not saying that you and your lectures are chopped liver or anything, but we do happen to think that it’s the collaborative experience—the relationships and the conversations between student and student and student and teacher—that truly makes coming to school exceptional.

To help your students get the most out of their collaborative learning experience and use technology to do it, we’re going to review 5 apps that’ll get you on your way.

5 More Apps to Boost Collaborative Learning

Wizehive (Free)
Looking for an easy way for your students to share conversations, notes, tasks, calendars, files, and other information in secure, private, workspaces? Look no further, WizeHive’s got you covered. If that wasn’t enough, WizeHive offers users the capability to enter information via email, Twitter or any mobile device.

Scribblar (Free)
Our friend Richard Byrn from Free Technology for Teachers turned us on to this app and we’re addicted. Scribblar allows users to collaborate in real-time to create or upload preexisting images and drawings. Users can edit, comment or use voice/text chat to share their thoughts. Don’t feel like taking the time to create an account? No worries, you can still create a Scribblar room, you just won’t be able to enable privacy settings or name your room.

Book Glutton (Free)
Reading alone is fun, but nothing can truly replace reading a text and coming to class to have a seminar-style discussion about it. Book Glutton has figured out a way for readers to take in-class conversations home with them—so the dialogue never has to end. 

If you use Book Glutton, you can create virtual reading groups that literally meet inside of the text itself. For example, say you want to comment on page 80, paragraph 4 in Catcher in the Rye. Go ahead and click on it, leave your comment for the rest of the class to read and respond to.

If you thought that was cool, you haven’t seen anything yet: Book Glutton offers users access to 797 open-source (completely free) classics!

NoteMesh is a free service that allows college students in the same classes to share notes with each other. It works by creating a wiki for individual classes that users can edit. Students are free to post their own lecture notes or contribute to existing ones. The idea is that users in the same class can collaboratively create a definitive source for lecture notes.

inClass (Free)
Our students live complicated and busy lives, but thanks to inClass, they can keep track of all their courses, share notes with one another, document tasks and receive reminders when something is due. But wait, there’s more: inClass gives your students the ability to take video, audio and phone notes and then share them with their peers. Sounds like music to our ears. Now you’ll never have to listen to excuses about forgotten homework again!

If you’re interested in enhancing your students’ collaborative learning experience and can’t get your hands on enough apps like thtese, check out one of our recent blogs, “5 Apps to Boost Collaborative Learning.” 


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Tags: apps for educators, apps for teachers, Cooperative Learning, Collaboration, classroom technology

Make the transition to fourth grade an easy one for your students.

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on May 26, 2012 5:30:00 AM

Fourth Grade is a transition year; help your students succeed!Fourth grade is a transition year for many students. Fourth graders are expected to read to learn instead of learning to read. They have mastered basic math facts and concepts and now must weave together these skills to solve increasingly sophisticated math problems. Fourth grade students' abilities to read and comprehend non-fiction texts are put to the test as the content areas increase in difficulty. In addition, projects become more complex and expectations rise for cooperative learning.  

It is important for K-3 teachers to understand what is expected of fourth grade students in order to help them prepare for this crucial year. Ask your administrator to help you set up collaborative time with your fourth grade colleagues for up-to-date, key input. You can be an effective ally by passing along highly prepared students!
The following are some basic expectations for fourth grade students that can help you as you plan:

  • The ability to read and comprehend both fiction and non-fiction texts. While teachers hope that all students are at grade level by the time they enter fourth grade, this might not always be the case. Regardless of reading level, students can learn comprehension strategies to be able to better navigate both fiction and non-fiction texts. 
  • Mastery of math facts and the basic ability to work with large whole numbers, fractions, and decimals. Students spent their primary grades focused on basic math facts, skills, and concepts. In fourth grade, as academic expectations become more difficult and skills more sophisticated, students must be able to integrate these previously learned concepts to solve math problems.  Fourth grade students should also understand and be able to work with the basic concepts of whole numbers, fractions, and decimals. 
  • Understanding of how science, social studies, and health concepts connect to prior knowledge. The real power behind content area learning is for students to understand the connections to their own life experiences and prior understandings. For example, students should be able to connect historical events learned in Social Studies to their own community.
  • Responsibility for independent classroom work. Fourth grade students may be faced with more traditional instructional methods which often require a higher level of independence. Teachers often require students to complete larger assignments independently with an ability to attend to a specific task for a longer period of time.
  • Completion of larger, more complex projects. More complex book reports, research projects, and class presentations are common in fourth grade.  Whether they are completed in class or at home, students should be able to work independently on these large projects.

Referencing your state's academic standards for fourth grade is an excellent way to understand exactly what is expected. Additionally, the Common Core Standards is another resource for understanding the academic expectations in fourth grade. 

Help prepare your students for the rigors of fourth grade by reviewing this quick guide on Cooperative Learning with Social Cohesion, and give it a try in your classroom, today!

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Tags: transition to fourth grade, preparing students, download, Cooperative Learning

Cooperative learning is the perfect strategy for math lessons.

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Dec 27, 2011 5:37:00 AM

Marygrove MAT suggests the strategy of cooperative learning for math lessons.Often used as a buzz word in education to describe a wide variety of learning activities, “cooperative learning” is defined as "…a teaching arrangement that refers to small, heterogeneous groups of students working together to achieve a common goal." (Kagan, 1994). These groups are designed for students to work together to learn, discover, and have shared responsibility for the group's learning.

Although these structures are beneficial for any subject area, cooperative learning in math can be a powerful way to provide a variety of learning opportunities for students. There are several different structures that teachers can employ when planning cooperative learning in math.

1. Positive Interdependence. This means that the gains of individuals in a group are positively correlated with teammates.  Positive interdependence drives core cooperation; what benefits one team member benefits the whole group.  Altering a simple game of Math Bingo can promote positive interdependence. Instead of each student getting their own Bingo board, the teacher can assign pairs of students to share one board. The teacher then displays equations and asks students to complete the equation with their teammate.  Students work the problem together and then check their board, relying on each other to determine the correct answer. An individual cannot win the game without her partner, so the interdependence is crucial.

2. Individual Accountability. Each student in a cooperative learning group is responsible for an individual learning product as a share of the group work. In regards to cooperative learning in math, individual accountability requires each group member to possess the necessary knowledge and skills to perform or produce the work.  A complex problem solving scenario is a great way to promote cooperative learning in math and the necessity of individual accountability. The group can solve the multi-step problem together, assisting one another, and providing support; but each student is responsible for turning in their own solution and the teacher will select students at random to share their group's solution.  Even though they worked together, each student must be able to perform or produce the work.

3. Equal Participation. This essentially refers to the division of labor, as groups divide the work among all members and each student is responsible for his share of the work.  The activity should not be dominated by one student in the group and no one can opt out of participation. When teaching a unit on graphing, a teacher could use equal participation to show how a single set of data is interpreted differently based on the type of graph used.  Each group would receive a single set of numerical data and be required to analyze and interpret the data together. Then, individually, each group member would use the data to construct a different type of graph (bar, line, pie, area, etc).  This is a great activity to help students learn which graph works best for which kind of data. Since each team member is responsible for the same task, (construction of one graph), the participation is equal. 

4. Simultaneous Interaction. This is the easiest structure to execute for cooperative learning in math, as it simply allows students to have multiple cooperative interactions with other students in a single session.  Instead of a teacher asking one student (sequential interaction) to show how to solve a problem, he can ask students to share with another. Students can "turn and talk" to a peer sitting nearby and explain how they solved a certain problem. If the students have solved the problem differently, or arrived at two different answers, they would then work together to discover the correct solution or learn more about each others' process. This can be repeated numerous times with students partnering with a different student each time. Try doing a math relay—teams can take turns trying to solve a division problem, for example.

If you haven’t tried cooperative learning for math lessons, you are missing an excellent opportunity to allow math learning to be a truly fluid process for students. For some, it is not critical, but for those students who learn best by doing, and talking—such as kinesthetic and auditory learners— cooperative learning math groups can produce absolutely amazing results in your classroom. 

Download our Guide on Highly Effective Instructional Strategies for more information on how to get the most from your students, every day!

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Tags: download, Cooperative Learning, K-12 mathematics

Learn… and Eat Your Mistakes!

Posted by Dreu Adams on Jul 8, 2011 7:35:00 AM

Child with Oreo cookies

In today’s test-centric environment, many teachers find it difficult to create assessments that address multiple intelligences. Finding a way to incorporate multiple learning styles with kinesthetic or hands-on activities is vital to engaging children in the assessment process.

Here’s a great alternative assessment that teaches the phases of the moon using every child’s favorite snack:

Students take the assessment into their own hands by carving out the white stuff of a chocolate sandwich cookie to resemble each moon model. It is as delicious as it is educationally effective, and makes achieving this assessment much easier to swallow.

A simple rubric for demonstrating the phases of the moon can be used by folding a paper plate four times. Instruct your students to label and place their cookie “moons” in each eighth of the pie chart. (Pies, cookies…is it time for dessert?) An inexpensive tool for carving would be Popsicle sticks, or even plastic knives from the lunchroom.

The sandwich cookie assessment helps children learn to work together, using their hands as well as their minds (and mouths!). Identifying, creating moon models and labeling them on a non-linear chart are closer to the real life task of actually observing the moon in the night sky: it requires a higher order of learning. Engagement is guaranteed— in fact, have lots of extra cookies on hand, because temptation is great. You may want to plan this activity for after lunch, so that your materials will not get devoured.

This is an example of applying Constructivism to an assessment, a great strategy for engaging even the most hard-to-reach students, which enhances mastery and improves test scores. Another strategy that works well with this assessment is Social Cohesion. It emphasizes group activity and ensures that teachers put the right students together for optimum success. Students are encouraged to self-evaluate during and after team activities to promote greater problem solving and task achievement. The best part about it? It works.

Employ this sandwich cookie assessment today, and watch your test scores rise.

"You will get a High Probability of Enhanced Student Achievement

when these two strategies are used together:

  1. Homework and Practice 
  2. Cooperative Learning in teams or groups"

-Robert Marzano

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  • Gain insight into combining highly effective instructional strategies
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Tags: Social Cohesion, Cooperative Learning

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