January 4 Day 667: Return to Remote

This was not the way I hoped to start Winter Quarter 2022. Remote in the first week and in-person thereafter.

“Have a soft start” they said. Unfortunately, in a 10-week quarter, there is no wiggle room. In the best of times, it is a delicate balance between empowering students to investigate new concepts on their own and modeling learning processes while developing a foundation on which to build. So for the past two weeks I fretted over the best use of our remote time.

I started with my goals. By the end of the first week, I want my students to:

  • Build community and know at least two other students to collaborate with both inside and outside the class time.
  • Buy-in to active learning, which will necessarily be different online than in person. (But maybe we can develop online processes that will transfer to in person activities?)
  • Make connections to previous mathematics learning.
  • Contribute to the conversation without fear or judgement.
  • And last but not least, understand content (specifically elementary row operations and (reduced) row echelon form as tools to algorithmically solve linear systems. )

My plan for achieving this? Low stakes anonymous contributions, group activities using a shared white board and breakout rooms, using call lists (in randomly generated orders), and modeling the desired behavior by taking risks and learning something new myself.

What did I learn in class today? I used a new shared whiteboard to facilitate activities. For remote teaching I have previously used Limnu or Jamboard. Today, I used Miro and I really liked the result.

I am not entirely a Miro newbee. I use it for math collaborations with a distant friend and it is integrated into the HopIn platform. So Miro was used as a Kudos board for MAA Award Winners at the 2021 virtual MAA MathFest. Honestly, I have shied away from Miro because I was intimidated by all the bells and whistles it offers. I’d rather have something simple that does the job…or so I thought….

Here is what I learned and LOVE about Miro.

  • The challenge of infinite whiteboards is organization and scale. Until you have used it for a while, its hard to know whether you are writing too big or too small. This is especially true for students using the technology for the first time (and trying to draw with a mouse.) The final product may export as a HUGE file. With Miro, you can add “frames” that are the size of an 8.5×11 piece of paper. Students understand 8.5×11 from years of experience. Further, exporting the board to pdf, makes each frame its own piece of paper—printing in the order they were added. Anything outside of the frame doesn’t export.
  • In-person activities that would be done with sticky notes were easily duplicated by adding the sticky note template. Students intuitively grabbed a note of their favorite color and typed their response. It was an easy introduction to the technology and didn’t require drawing skills with a mouse or specialized equipment.
  • There is a timer! And it plays music if you choose (select from sunshine jam, uptempo funk, smooth groove, calm flow, chill beats, or cosmic vibe). Music broke the awkward silence and helped keep us on task when I said things like “Take 5 minutes to individually respond…”
  • When the students were working in Zoom breakout rooms, I could watch their progress on the board and could see which rooms needed to be nudged. Additionally I coordinated the Miro timer to match the Breakout room timer. It helped keep people on task.
  • There is an easy voting option. Participants can vote for any object on the board (or a selection of chosen objects). I have the option to set the number of votes for each user and the time allowed. I can restrict users to one vote per object or allow multiple votes for the same object. I can imagine asking students to identify the muddiest point or vote on a next step. I’m pretty excited to try it on Thursday.

I’m satisfied with the progress towards my week 1 goals. I’m hoping that the students found our shared whiteboard adventure useful–so much so that they might be willing to bring equipment to class and keep using it even when we are in-person again.

Published by Jenny Quinn

Mathematician. Mother. Wife. Leader. I am a professor of mathematics at the University of Washington Tacoma. Mother of Anson and Zachary. Wife to Mark. President of the Mathematical Association of America.

3 thoughts on “January 4 Day 667: Return to Remote

  1. Dr. Quinn:
    I love this post. I was recently exposed to miro through a group training and was quite impressed (and intimidated) by it. Keep up the hard work. I’d love to watch you teach some time (even if I wouldn’t understand the material)!

    Liked by 1 person

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