Mr. Rivera (R): Stevens, what are you doing for review?
Mr. Stevens (S): Man, I don't know. I'm thinking of having students create something on their devices, maybe a website or a presentation.
R: That sounds good. What do you think about doing a competition between our classes?
S: That would be legit. I like the idea, but how are we going to do that? What about doing something on TodaysMeet? We could have the classes put in their answers for time. Maybe we could use Skype? I've seen some folks on Twitter setting up chats with other classes around the globe.
R: I like the competition, but it would be cool to see the screens as well. How about using Google Hangout? We could use the Reflector app, project our iPads for the groups competing, then the class would see their competition as they're working and we could pin them against each other.
S: Dude! That works. Since it's March, do you want to do a little "March Madness" style bracket where we take our best 8 groups versus your best 8?
R: Perfect. The winner could get a prize, like a dinner paid for by us. You in?
S: Done. Let's do this
Wrestling With Details
To ensure that everyone in the class was doing something while the two groups competed, we had students write down the problems from the board and we checked them after each round. Some students weren't writing the problems down during the challenge because they were cheering on their classmates, but we gave them time after each day to write down the problem, try it, and review it as a class.
The Inevitable Internet
It's impossible to prepare for everything, but we have to try. With technology, it's bound to go wrong. Both of us are tech nerds, so we tried every bag of tricks we could think of to make it go smooth. However, the internet happened. A lot. Since we both know and trust each other, a couple rounds came down to us narrating the group's steps as they worked through the problems and the first barked answer got the W. It wasn't perfect, but we made it work.
Middle school and high school schedules don't line up and this is a problem. The way that we worked with this was trying to line up our algebra classes with whatever time we could. What this meant was that first period had 30 minutes together. Unfortunately, 3rd period only overlapped by about 15 minutes, so it was tough to get the momentum going. Once it was moving though, it was moving.
Stevens has GATE and some extremely motivated kids. Rivera has everyone who limped into algebra and some who repeated it. This was set up to be a lopsided destruction, right? Quite the contrary. In the period 1 battle, the rounds worked out perfectly. Seriously, perfectly. We each started with 8 teams, narrowed down to 4 teams from each class, 2 teams from each class, then the final match-up was one of each. We couldn't have scripted it any better. For the period 3 battle, it was 8th grade GATE vs. basic algebra, surely a beatdown waiting to happen. In the "Sweet 16" round, 5 of the 8 match-ups belonged to GATE. However, those groups quickly balanced out with 2 of Rivera's groups moving on to the final 4. The finals belonged to Stevens' group, but it was the best match-up of the day.
How We Started
We knew each other's schedules, so at the right time, one of us invited the other into Google Hangout. We each had the presentation from Google Drive ready to go in the background as well as the iPad projected using Reflector. Once the connection was established, the students had the iPad, and we were ready to count, one of us gave a countdown. The fastest group with work shown was the winner. It was that simple, considering we could see each other's screens (aside from the aforementioned technology glitch).
Here are our Google Presentations:
Sweet 16 was all about multi-step equations
Elite 8 was all about graphing linear functions
Final 4 was all about systems of equations
Championships (best of 3)
Bracket of groups
We got the problems from here
-Create a handout that students can follow along with which includes bracket and questions being used
-Allow staff/admin to watch the live competition
Extensions for other subjects:
-Hold debates between two classes from anywhere in the US using GHO
-Use GHO to find a local or national expert on any topic that students might be researching
-Find local/national public official to spend time talking to your class
Both of us see this as a tool that could, and should, be used across all subjects and throughout any grade level to build in mystery and competition. For our winners, we got HomeTown Buffet to donate passes for each class' winners, but the real reward came in knowing that they had beaten another class from another school.