Fore example, in the First Grade our teachers are working 1-on-1 with boys to assess their ability to use a variety of strategies for addition and subtraction. Boys use a teacher-made activity on an iPad and talk through what they are doing and why they are doing it, as they drag “chips” across a number line, and use other “digital manipulatives” to communicate their thinking.
The app our teachers employ records the boys' voices and also the movements of the objects on the screen – it basically creates a movie that makes plain how the boys are thinking through the processes of addition and subtraction. This tool (method) enables the teachers to “see inside the boys' minds” to gauge their understanding (and identify misconceptions) better than they could have by looking only at the end result, which would just be a number on a traditional worksheet, or paper and pencil test. It enables younger students to “Show All Work” which is something our older math students are always encouraged to do in order to give the teacher insight on how they arrived at the final answer.
In a recent lesson, a first grade teacher guided a boy as he used a variety of strategies to solve addition problems on the iPad (video sample below). The boy not only had to come up with the correct answer, he also had to explain and show the strategy he employed.
What's happening in First Grade right now is a great example of innovative technology thoughtfully integrated into our curriculum and our focus on how to better assess student understanding.