Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Twitter Math Challenges & MAPS

Audience. In the MAPS heuristics (mode, media, audience, purpose and situation) (Hicks, 2013), how important is audience? It's everything. While in the classroom, I often asked my students to write...nonfiction, fiction, poetry...whatever. I just wanted them to write. It wasn't until I introduced podcasting did my students' writing really improve. Why? The students had an audience. Even though the final written piece was never seen by the viewer of the podcast, the students worked for hours on scripts and written descriptions in order to produce a podcast the students were proud of. Why? Because they knew people were watching and listening, and not just any people, people they loved and cared about. Parents, aunts, uncles, siblings, and friends would comment weekly on the podcasts. Hicks encourages students to "share their work with their peers and the world, not push the content of others" (2013, p.146). The students were creating original pieces of work to share with the world and their pride of their work grew exponentially that year.

Now, as a technology coach, I often encounter teachers who know the importance of audience. One such teacher, Ms. McLaughlin, has her second-grade students actively engaged in Twitter. The class's Twitter handle, @missmacowls, is followed by many people all over the world. Each day it is a child's job to post one thought on the class Twitter account. Many times the class posts pictures of their recent project in science or their inquiry in math. This year Ms. McLaughlin signed up her classroom to participate in the Global Math Challenge. This is a challenge that allows classrooms all over the world to post questions or challenges for other classes around the world to solve. Each grade level has their own hashtag for example Ms. McLaughlin's kids follow the hashtag #gmttc2. Each week a classroom signs up to post a new challenge and the other classes will read and solve the challenge as a class and post. This week @mshsimpson1's class posted the challenge of "Can you figure out this tricky pattern? Christmas decorations are starting to go up. This home decided to put up just a few each night for 8 nights. We noticed a pattern. Night #1: 1 decoration, Night #2: 2 decorations, Night #3: 4 decorations, Night #4: 7 decorations and Night #5: 11 decorations. What was the pattern? How many decorations were up on the 8th night?" (You can find the entire Twitter strand link below.) The twitter strand goes on with Ms. McLaughin's class solving the pattern and posting a picture of their thinking on the stream.

Twitter challenge from this week

I believe this example follows the MAPS heuristics beautifully with an emphasis on AUDIENCE. Hicks says, "connected, community-based learning is important" (2013, p. 138). The students in Ms. McLaughlin's class are not completing a worksheet which will be seen by their teacher and handed back to them with only a grade. They are solving a RELEVANT (a pattern with Christmas lights) math problem by a REAL audience (other students from around the world). The students take pride in their work because they know others will see it and it matters. In a few weeks, they will switch roles and they will become the authors with the other participants being their audience. These students are building a relationship with other second grade classes across the nation and world.

In addition to audience, this Twitter project and specific feed also cover all aspects of the MAPS heuristic:

  • MODE - short, mathematical explanations 
  • The MEDIA in this instance is Twitter which lends itself to concise (140 characters) answers. Pictures support the work they did as learners (picture of the pattern on their whiteboard). Students have to choose carefully what words they will tweet and which picture they will choose to post based on what will have the most impact. 
  • PURPOSE & SITUATION - to discuss math problems with other 2nd grade classroom
I do believe there is room for digital enhancement for this assignment. A service such as Storify can collect and organize all tweets for a certain hashtag. Since Twitter can be difficult to follow sometimes as it is not always a linear conversation, using a third-party website, can increase comprehension especially for younger students. 

More Resources: 

Hicks, T. (2013). Crafting digital writing: Composing texts across media and genres. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.