In order to cover the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram with my astronomy classes, I decided to try a live interactive tool as a formative assessment. This was an in person, small-group activity that I piloted in all three of my sections of astronomy. They used laptops to complete the activity.
Why Google Jamboard?
Google Jamboard is an interactive whiteboard product that allows content to be created synchronously and asynchronously. Students were trying to learn how an HR diagram works by correctly placing the stars on the diagram. This was meant as an inquiry-based way to use peer instruction to learn how to plot stars on the HR diagram.
There were some bumpy moments, but all three sections managed to end up with more, or less correct implementations of the HR diagram. When one compares the three side-by-side, the results are pretty darn close.
This was the first time I tried using a Google Jamboard in this way. Giving up control and letting the students find their way through this was tough at first, but it was fun and instructive. I will admit that at first the free-for-all nature of dragging and resizing the “sticky notes” was a classroom management challenge. But eventually everyone get into the spirit and it was fun and helpful.
This did feel like a peer instruction exercise in knowledge construction and I got to see it first hand. As a formative assessment where students really do have control over the tool, this was a new technique for me personally. My gut tells me that in a virtual environment, the lack of student interaction with one another in a whole-class setting would make this activity problematic. If students were in small groups and synchronously working virtually, this activity might work. The lack of immediate feedback to help with classroom management seems likely to cause this activity to become a wild jumbled mess very quickly.