An Australian Math Classroom with iPads

A conversation with Tom Davidson in episode 93 of the 10-Minute Teacher

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

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Today Tom Davidson @trdvo shares how he uses iPads in his math classes to teach. He’ll talk about Explain Everything, SeeSaw, Aurasma and his workflow with some sample lessons. If you’re using iPads or want to compare how math is being taught somewhere else, this is a wonderful classroom Wednesday that you don’t want to miss!

math classroom with ipads

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In today’s show, Tom Davidson discusses his workflow for teaching math to elementary students including:

  • Why and how he uses Explain Everything
  • An example lesson using this workflow
  • SeeSaw and Aurasma with math
  • The mistakes he’s made with this workflow
  • Benefits of teaching this way

I hope you enjoy this episode with Tom Davidson!

Want to hear another episode on teaching math? Listen to Dan Meyer talk about helping kids who hate math learn it.

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Full Bio As Submitted

Tom DavidsonTom Davidson

I love teaching. I am passionate about using digital technology to allow students to demonstrate, reflect and share what they have learned or created.

Transcript for this episode

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[Recording starts 0:00:00]

Stay tuned to the end of the show to learn how to figure out if my friend Angela Watson’s 40 Hour Workweek Club is right for you.

An Australian math classroom with iPads. This is Episode 93.

The Ten-minute Teacher podcast with Vicki Davis. Every week day you’ll learn powerful practical ways to be a more remarkable teacher today.

VICKI:          It’s Wonderful Classroom Wednesday. And today, we have somebody that I have grown to admire from afar. Tom Davidson @trdvo from Australia has been someone that I’ve worked with on our MAD About Mattering project this year. And his zest for innovation and all that he does with his students is just awesome. So Tom, today, we’re taking a tour into your classroom. Tell us about some of the things you’re doing in your classroom that have you excited.

TOM:           One of the things I’m doing at the moment that I’m finding really exciting is our exploration, using Explain Everything on the iPads. What we’re doing then is mainly – it’s focused around our math. So I got to a point in my teaching where I wanted the students to be able to reflect on our investigative processes further, and how could they demonstrate to make their reflections as opposed to just writing things down on paper. So what I do is in my classroom, when we go through, and the process that I go through is I find a question. For instance, one of the problems I had; I had to prove that  base x height of the area of a triangle is half a rectangle or half a quadrilateral. I set a success criteria for them that they need to use certain amount of language and certain amount of processes within the proof that they’d write down for me. We go through the process of what is area, how do they work out an area. They go through the manipulatives of making a triangle, cutting it up, trying to get it into a quadrilateral.


And they have to explain to me as they manipulate it, record as they go. They use that to then create the proof of why that is so. At that point, they then have to go back and they need to reflect on what it is they’re doing verbally using the mathematical language that I set. I use a process of reflection that I’m starting to move towards. It’s called SOLO Taxonomy. A lot of it comes out of New Zealand. Pam Hook @arti_choke

is a big exponent of it. And EduWells; if you ever follow EduWells online, he’s wonderful. The process that we go through at this point is when they’re finished, they mark it off on a sheet saying where they are. They then move on to uploading that onto Seesaw, (see the past show “Creating Elementary Portfolios with SeeSaw ) another app that I use that allows us to then share with the community. The students can reflect on each other’s work and see whether they’ve met the criteria. So we’re getting the feedback, getting good quality feedback directly back to the students.

The final point that we get to, which is where I’ve been going lately, is using the augmented reality app Aurasma. (See the past show on Aurasma – )What we do is they have their work; we make copies of their work and some of their proofs. We then have a display in the classroom, again, to display their work. We then make the students attach via a trigger photo that we set up. They then download from Seesaw; they download the Explain Everything that they have uploaded onto one iPad, mainly my main class iPad. We then set the trigger up. So as they scan across the display wall, their Explain Everything comes up on their photo. And it’s set in reality. As you move it along, it stays where it is, attached to that particular trigger photo. And so when the parents come in, they scan and they can see their student’s work; not only just their paperwork, their bookwork that I have up on the wall as a display. But also, they have their voices, and their Explain Everything, and their explanation of what they’re doing.

VICKI:          Tom, this just sounds like so much.


                    It would overwhelm some teachers. Back up and tell us, what grade, and do all your kids have iPads?

TOM:           Yeah. The way that I work is that we have – it’s grade six. And we’re in the Australian school system, so stage three is grade six. I don’t have one-to-one, because the way that I work is the students are working independently through this. So I will be sitting with a group of eight iPads; some of the students will be moving ahead and working their way through the task, which allows me then to be able to sit down with a smaller group of students to be able to help them and assist them and work their way through, the students who are struggling a little bit. So I can sit down and give them the one-to-one that they need, which then allows me to focus there. The students with the iPads can then start moving ahead and settle out for that differentiation within the classroom.

VICKI:          So how long did it take you to get to this workflow? I mean, this seems like so much. Was this easy for the kids to learn? Was this easy for you to learn as their teacher?

TOM:           Yeah. Look, we’re using different technology. I’ve done something similar with Explain Everything down to year one, which is six, seven-year-olds. It’s one of my desert island apps. It’s an app that I believe any grade can use at any time. With the recording, it’s just pressing a button and they can talk. The Explain Everything is a workflow that I’ve been doing. And it takes it easy. Well, it’s something that I’m also explaining throughout the school. We’re having most of the grades beginning to start using Explain Everything with smaller sets of iPads that we have throughout the classroom.

VICKI:          So what do you think the biggest mistake is that you have made as you follow this procedure; where they’re working their math problems in Explain Everything, and then eventually they reflect and they put it in Seesaw. Is there any part of this that’s really hard or that you want to improve?

TOM:           What I really like about Seesaw as well is that’s what I really believe, that if it’s too hard, I’m wasting my time; I don’t have time. So I need apps that work and work well.


                    Seesaw is one that does; another one that works exceptionally well. And I’ve picked that up this year, and we found it incredibly easy for the kids to be able to pick up and use. What I have been missing, and where we haven’t gone, is trying to get more people to get in, have a wider audience. And that’s something I need to pick up on to look at the quality, because that almost dramatically improves the students’ work. Because as a teacher, we’re never satisfied with what our kids can produce. Having the technology ready, knowing it yourself, knowing what it can do. We do have a few problems with Explain Everything. Often, the kids want to go further than what it’s capable of, like moving backwards and forwards throughout slides. And sometimes the editing can be a little bit tricky on the go. But once that students realize and get familiar with it – and the familiarization with Explain Everything is probably one of the things they need to get going. But the difference that I’ve noticed between my year-ones to my year-sixes is that the year-sixes try to go further than what actually the app is capable of.

VICKI:          Well, that’s a good problem, I would think. So Tom, as we finish up. How could a teacher get started with using Explain Everything in their classroom in math?

TOM:           Pick it up and run with it, and let the students have a go. It is intuitive. It’s having a plan, having a success criteria for the students so they know what they need to do and what they need to record and what you’re looking for, when you go into that lesson and go into that lesson sequence. That is probably the most crucial part. So they have a framework and a scaffold to what they – they know what you’re looking for.

VICKI:          So, remarkable teachers, we’ve taken a tour into Tom Davidson’s classroom. He has an awesome workflow for math, and really doing some exciting things with it. So I hope you’ll check out these apps. Also, in the show notes, I’ll include links to some of our previous shows that we’ve done on Seesaw. That seems to be one that’s very popular right now that lots of folks are discussing.


                    So I just challenge you. Tell us about your wonderful classroom. Tweet me and tell me what you do. And I’d love to hear it.

This month, Angela Watson’s 40 Hour Workweek Club will open up for memberships. And she only has two open [indiscernible 0:08:20] a year. Now, I’ve been participating for a year and I have learned so much about classroom efficiency. But, it’s not for everybody. So I’ve got a link for you to a quick quiz that will help you understand if the 40 Hour Workweek Club would be right for you. Just go to and take the quiz to see if the 40 Hour Workweek is right for you.


Thank you for listening to the Ten-minute Teacher Podcast. You can download the show notes and see the archive at Never stop learning.


[End of Audio 0:09:07]


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