Teaching High School Math Using Google Classroom and Seesaw – How we Transitioned to a 100% Paperless Math Class

By: Matt Rhoads, Ed.D

Dr. Matt Rhoads is a Tech and Instructional Leader and Innovator with hands in Adult Ed, K-12, and Higher Education. He is the author of several books and is the host of Navigating Education – The Podcast.

Transitioning from co-teaching freshmen math face to face to co-teaching the same class virtually caused my co-teacher and me to completely redesign our class. Much of our thought process was geared towards trying to emulate our original class procedures, instructional pedagogy, and supports as much as we could to provide to our general education and Special Education students in our class. We also wanted to develop an online class design that would provide an equitable approach so all of our students can access the content at their own time and pace in addition to providing access to both co-teachers for one on one support. Thus, my goal here is to provide you with insight as to how we transitioned our face to face course to a fully online math course. I am going to provide you with our thought processes, the edtech tools we used, and how we decided to deliver content to our students. Specifically, I am going to focus much of the conversation on using two separate learning management systems, Google Classroom and Seesaw, to provide the most equitable platform in tandem for our students to access the content and to receive quality instruction and feedback from us. Before Moving the Class Online – Face to Face Class Structure of our Math Class Our face to face class model utilized direct instruction and then scaffolded large group guided practice and then small group independent practice. This lesson trajectory allowed us as co-teachers to strategically work with students in two-ways. First, it allowed us strategically pair students together; which created peer tutoring opportunities and positive role models. Then, it provided us opportunities to work with students one on one, which allows us to target students who needed re-teaching and support to build their efficacy and bridging gaps in their understanding. A week would generally start with learning a new concept in a scaffold approach followed by a more gradual release as we progress throughout the week. Our long block days were geared towards reinforcing concepts learned in the week by small group instruction and strategic one on one support. Then, at the end of the long block day, we would have a formative or summative assessment. To end the week, on Friday we had students catch up on their work, reflect on their learning for the week, and analyze their assessment results by breaking down their latest assessment by conducting test corrections with the help of their peers and teachers. Before moving fully online, 90% of our work was done with paper and pencil. The vast majority of our assignments were printed worksheets with notes, graphic organizers, and problems strategically placed. We used Google Classroom to post our weekly content slides with notes, warm-ups, and other resources. Additionally, the majority of our assessments were completed using Google Forms and grade reflections were integrated into Google Classroom. This helped streamline grading and provided us opportunities to release scores to students for test correction and reflection exercises. Moving Fully Online with Google Classroom and Seesaw When we were told we had to move to online instruction, our first thought was to think about how we were going to provide students with assignments in an equitable manner. Also, concurrently, we wanted to keep Google Classroom pretty much in-tact like we had it before moving fully online to ensure students did not have to re-learn learned routines over the last 7 months of school. We knew Google Classroom also had limitations in terms of allowing students an easy way to submit assignments in a multitude of different ways (i.e., file upload, writing on documents directly [does not exist]). Overall, I felt Google Classroom had a cumbersome file uploading interface for students, which required several steps we felt like our students may have difficulty in doing. Thus, we decided to only integrate a few more features into Google Classroom for online learning like integrating Google Meet for live class sessions, Calendly office hour links (I’ve written another post on how to do this), and providing videos on our weekly content slideshows.Β  As a result, Google Classroom for our online freshmen math class includes the following features. Note: Features in bold were added as a result of moving fully online.
  1. Using the Tab Feature to Create Weekly Modules
  2. Weekly Slideshows Containing Notes, Integrated Videos and Screencasts, and Assignment Directions
  3. Creating and Assigning Math Formative/Summative Assessments on Google Forms and Student Reflection Forms
  4. Interface for Hosting Google Meet Meetings (Google Meets is fully Integrated into Google Classroom)
  5. Access to Important Documents and Resources (i.e., Syllabus Addendum, District Online Learning Documents)
  6. Linking Calendly Office Hour Sign-Up Document for Students to Access
googleclassroom Now, let’s discuss our move to Seesaw as our second online platform for the class. We felt that since our class comprised of 90% paper assignments before moving online, we needed a learning management system that provided students an opportunity to write digitally onto our posted assignment, print out the assignment and then submit the work by taking a picture of it, or by copying the assignment onto a scratch piece of paper and submit the work by taking a picture of it. Additionally, we wanted a platform we could provide written digital feedback on student’s assigned work. After research and looking at how my wife uses Seesaw for her second-grade class (who’s also a Seesaw Ambassador; she has a YouTube Page dedicated to learning Seesaw), we decided to use Seesaw as the second learning management system for our class because it had all the features we felt were needed for our students to access and interact with our classwork. For the Seesaw component of our online class, we utilize it for the following features:
  1. Assigning Weekly Classwork for Students
  2. Provide Additional “How-to” Videos on Math Concepts with Posted Assignments
  3. Provide Formative Feedback by Digitally Writing or Commenting on Turned in Assignments
  4. Assess Student Written Work to be Graded for the Gradebook
seesaw interface As a result of using Seesaw, we were now 100% paperless and had the same capacities as we had during our face to face class to grade and provide feedback on student work! The student interface of assignments on Seesaw demonstrate this. See how students can interact with the content we post below. seesaw student inferece Synthesizing Google Classroom and Seesaw Together & Content Delivery ModelΒ  During our first week of online instruction, we knew we had to teach our students new class routines using Google Classroom and an entirely new platform in Seesaw. To ensure we taught them how to incorporate both platforms, we provided instructions of how to integrate Seesaw and Google Classroom in two ways. First, we sent an email to our students before our online class launched with their Seesaw remote learning code and a link to Seesaw. Then, we posted our first module in Google Classroom that included two “how-to” videos of how to access Seesaw, learn its interface, and interact with the content we have posted as well as turn in the work that is assigned on the platform. Lastly, during our first live online learning session, at the beginning of the first few classes we had, we provided a tutorial of how to access our content on Google Classroom and Seesaw. Ultimately, this helped the majority of our students learn the classroom routines. We further reinforced these routines during our following live class sessions to ensure students were on the same page with us. Now, let me talk about how content is delivered using both Google Classroom and Seesaw as shown in the diagram below (which is from our online syllabus). We wanted to frontload content on each platform to allow students two full days to interact with the notes and tutorial content videos at their own pace before these directions and concepts were reinforced and re-taught in our live class sessions on Wednesdays and Fridays. During the live class sessions, we use an online whiteboard (Here’s a post on co-teaching math online using Whiteboardfox) and ask students to follow along on a scratch piece of paper as we model how to complete the work. Additionally, students get an opportunity for Q/A session throughout various points of the hour-long live class. Then, on Thursday, on our last self-paced student day, we post our four-question formative assessment Google Form on Google Classroom to help us inform our instruction for Friday based on student performance (not all students complete it; but, we get a good sample size on what to focus on). We suggest students complete the four question assessment before our Friday live class session. However, students have until Sunday evening at 11:59 pm to turn in all of the work for the week. Yet, as we all know, deadlines with distance learning can be extended to each student based on their own schedule and flexibility. essofalg Conclusion Much of what we conducted in our face to face class has been moved online. Overall, we feel like this interface allows students to access our content in the most equitable fashion as possible. This is not to say there were several technical glitches and spending a number of hours helping a number of students access content. But, overall, we feel like it has been successful. More challenges still await us. We continue to struggle with how to make our class more collaborative. We are continuing to brainstorm how to develop more student to student interaction. We’ve integrated Flipgrid once a week for student check-ins and we may expand its use for students to explain how they solved particular problems we assigned throughout the week. At the end of the day, I hope this post has been informative. I hope this motivates you to think outside of the box and think about how students can interact with math content online. You can integrate more than one learning management system to successfully teach math online. I recommend utilizing this multi-platform methodology to teach any level of mathematics from the middle school level all the way through the college level. If you have any questions or thoughts, please contact me on Twitter @mattrhoads1990 or comment on this post. I hope your final takeaway is that you can go paperless with math instruction online and be equitable at the same time to provide your students with quality online instruction.

Published by Matthew Rhoads, Ed.D.

Innovator, EdTech Trainer and Leader, University Lecturer & Teacher Candidate Supervisor, Consultant, Author, and Podcaster

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