The Right Way to do Smart Boards

As the school year winds down and I give this blogging thing a go, I figured a nice way for me to reflect on the year and hopefully share some things would be to recap some highs and lows.

I’ll be the first to say I haven’t taken full advantage of the SmartBoard in my class.  Basically, I use it as a projector.  I run through slides, pull up interesting websites or pictures, play Vi Hart videos, and occasionally it is used as a whiteboard.  But nothing really “Smart.”  Until this:

A simple download of Angry Birds to my desktop suddenly changed an electronic whiteboard into an interactive exploration of parametric equations.  In my Pre-Calculus text book, parametric equations is a one-section topic, thrown in with vectors but not with parabolic motion (which is studied 4 chapters earlier) and before polar equations.  It’s a little odd and  in order to properly teach it, I thought I needed a solid 3-4 days to do it.  Instead, some sacrifices were made and we added a couple of days to really dig deep into what was going on in Angry Birds, including the creation of our own Angry Birds course. We even measured initial vectors of slingshot-ed birds until the primary concern became “can anyone hit the target?!”

A refresher of modeling one-dimensional motion using one of Dan Meyer’s “Falling Rocks” 3-Act lessons was our start, followed by a discussion of Angry Birds, initial vectors, and some trigonometry and so on.  Suddenly, we had a reason for wanting to know a vector’s angle from the x-axis: will the bird hit the piece of wood I think it will?

I’ve found the beauty of the Smart Board is that kids, for one reason or another, love playing with it.  But they love drawing on my old-fashion white board too.  So, how can I really take this expensive piece of equipment and make it more than a combo projector-white board?  I think Angry Birds is a good start.

Next Year

  • Angry Birds in class, for a whole class period, not just the 5 minutes in between class and the 5 minutes at the start.  Let’s make teams.  Who’s the best player at Angry Birds? Why is she the best player? Why can’t you beat her? How can you beat her?
  • Do I save Angry Birds for when we discuss parametric equations or get right to it when we start vectors?
  • How can I turn a 5 day mini-unit into a 3 day mini-unit?  Or, how do I make this 5 day mini-unit more mathematically rigorous?  I’m a little worried the time taken away from the math to play the game, build a real-life level was too much taken away from practice in class (based on concept tests and the final exam after).
  • How can I fix this guided worksheet on one-dimensional motion?  Does it need fixing? Do I need it at all:  Intro to Parametrics
  • If I’m not going to get to Polar Equations anyway (like this year), can I play with a more thorough connection of trigonometry to parabolic motion prior to getting to Angry Birds?

Next on tap: The failure of my texting in class activity, and why I need to try it again.