Although the winter weather in full swing, many schools are facing weather cancellations and needing to use these as e-Learning days. The details of an e-Learning day varies from district to district, but the concept is the same – students must complete certain learning tasks outside of regular classroom hours. These activities then allow the school to qualify the weather cancellation day as an e-Learning day so that schools do not need to stay open late into the summer in order to make up those school days. With more and more school districts employing e-Learning days as replacements for school cancellations due to inclement weather, teachers are needing to employ more digital technology tools that allow students to engage with classroom learning from home.
Desmos is one tool that I’ve only recently been introduced to and which I can see being hugely beneficial for e-Learning days for Mathematics lessons. I find that Mathematics e-Learning days are often focused either on simple homework assignments using the textbook or game-like apps that may not be specifically aligned to a learning objective. Desmos is an excellent tool because it already provides lessons that have been created for very specific topics such as quadratic equations.
One lesson in particular that I enjoyed reviewing was the lesson titled “Talking Time,” which focused on helping students understand the different ways that people talk about time and telling time. Desmos provides a teacher guide for this lesson with an activity checklist, a place to record learning objectives, the ability to pace certain screens within the activity and add personalized notes, and even tips for teachers. Desmos also estimates the amount of time that a lesson will take, which is hugely important for teachers preparing e-Learning assignments to ensure that any learning tasks are the appropriate level of difficulty and can be completed within a reasonable amount of time for the e-Learning day requirements. Lastly, Desmos allows teachers to see which activities are available on mobile apps, tablets, or laptops, which is also critical for students depending on the technology capabilities they may or may not have outside of class time.
Finally, the best part about Desmos, in my opinion, is the accessibility that this app offers to students. The lesson that I reviewed (“Talking Time”) was a superb lesson for all students, but might also be a great companion lesson to pair with other lessons related to time-telling which could be beneficial for students who have limited English proficiency and may need additional support to understand American dialogue regarding telling time. In addition, the lesson plan included a Accessibility note that stated, “This activity is not screen reader friendly, so we recommend pairing visually impaired students with a sighted classmate.” While is it disappointing that this activity is not accessible to all students, it is helpful for teachers to be able to quickly see accessibility notes that may impact certain student populations. Overall, Desmos offers a resource for mainly advanced Mathematics courses, but this tool includes meaningful learning activities beyond simple games or additional textbook assignments.