I don't have a lot of Algebra II students, 50 across two classes. This is my fourth year teaching Algebra II so I've hit a familiarity level with the content that I've started experimenting a lot. It's easy to experiment with two classes, a little more difficult if it were five. I had some people coming to watch today so I figured why not try to find something creative for them to see. I have enough iPads such that it can be 2:1 or 3:1 in these classes. The idea was to have them teach themselves how to multiply matrices, which usually clicks in place when they see the numbers splayed all over the place and they spend some time brooding over the pattern. I would prepare some notes on the subject to guide them through it and require a task at the end. Initially I was like "oh iBooks Author, your day has come!" but my vision for the notes deck was so simple and my time short that I fell back on my buddy Keynote. I used Brisk to generate the matrices. The slides were dumped out as a PDF and through the magic of iCloud were delivered to each iPad through PDFPen.
The first few slides were some review of adding, subtracting, and scaling. They were not required to write out answers to any questions I posed, merely discuss them with their partner(s). There were 15 slides to work through that slowly built through how to determine if matrix multiplication is possible, the size of the answer matrix, and the mechanics involved. Here was the money visual I was after:
And finally their task for the day:
The kids were talking to each other the ENTIRE TIME. It was kind of amazing. I would say they were about 85% on task as well. Boiling the class down to a group of 2-3 was fantastic. There was someone to bounce ideas off of or help interpret what was going on. They followed along with the directions well, paused to discuss what they should discuss, and were screaming for my attention when it was time to assign them a problem. The notes were simple enough that they could piece together the ideas themselves. I really tried not to overload them with dialogue and instead let the process do the talking. Every time I've taught multiplying matrices, color coding the numbers helps immensely. They could self-pace through the material and use two examples to model the correct process for their assigned problem.
A fire drill interrupted the second class, so we lost about 10 minutes and couldn't do a summary together at the end. The initial run of the slide deck had clever build ins but in PDF form, that's one page per build action, so the PDF was way way longer than it needed to be. I had to scramble to trim it down over lunch. I had to nudge some groups along who weren't quite grasping it. I'd say it was a little lower than if we had done a teacher-centered version of this, but it was still a little more than I thought. Prep time for this was high. It took about an hour to make even this simple thing. I checked to insure the iPads had the PDF ready to go but then PDFPen decided to lose its mind when it came time to pass them out to the kids. I think part of the problem is my class set is in deparate need of iOS and app updates that I haven't had time to do. A combination of Dropbox and iBooks saved the day though.
It was a nice activity. I think it could work again in the future. I might even try it again this week. However, you really lose something when you have a mathematics amateur piecing something together for themselves without a mathematics expert there to ask the right guiding questions. I was impressed with how self guided most of them were, but there were some who were like "can't you just explain this like normal?" Where I will say this acitivity wins big in the flipped classroom genre is that I didn't "flip" anything. They weren't told to read these notes the night before (and come back having not done it), they weren't sitting there in isolation on their own computer with headphones, they weren't beholden to a video that might not stop when they want to stop, they weren't sitting there with a textbook written ten levels over their head beating them to death with "real" math and "check it out!"s and "math after high school" junk.