Grants:Project/Eventmath/Midpoint

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Project Grants This project is funded by a Project Grant

proposal



midpoint report


Report accepted
This midpoint report for a Project Grant approved in FY 2020-21 has been reviewed and accepted by the Wikimedia Foundation.
  • To read the approved grant submission describing the plan for this project, please visit Grants:Project/Eventmath.
  • You may still review or add to the discussion about this report on its talk page.
  • You are welcome to email projectgrants(_AT_)wikimedia.org at any time if you have questions or concerns about this report.


Welcome to this project's midpoint report! This report shares progress and learning from the first half of the grant period.

Eventmath: Math lesson plans based on current events

Summary[edit]

In a few short sentences or bullet points, give the main highlights of what happened with your project so far.

Outreach[edit]

We

At the end of each communication, we issued a call to action: "fill out our online form to join us and stay informed!" As a result, faculty from twenty educational institutions shared their contact information and interests, bringing our campaign goal within reach.

Design[edit]

We designed an inviting Eventmath portal. To make the portal easy to find and use, for both visitors and contributors, we incorporated principles from many areas of design. The tabbed interface consists of seven tabs, logically arranged into three groups:

  • visitor tabs (Welcome, Lesson plans)
  • contributor tabs (Contributing, Tasks)
  • meta tabs (Impact, Participants, Discussion)

Development[edit]

We developed, tested, and documented our designs on Wikiversity, bringing our portal goal within reach. During this stage, we

Methods and activities[edit]

How have you setup your project, and what work has been completed so far? Describe how you've setup your experiment or pilot, sharing your key focuses so far and including links to any background research or past learning that has guided your decisions. List and describe the activities you've undertaken as part of your project to this point.

Outreach[edit]

A tweet. Username: @professorbrenda. Display name: Brendan W. Sullivan (he/him). Text of Tweet: Here is a link to the slides from our presentation at #MAAthFest this afternoon: "#Eventmath, An Open-access. Community-built Repository Pairing Current Events and Math Lessons" 👉 bit.ly/EventmathSlides 👈
Tweet promoting Eventmath
Question from the Eventmath community form. "I would like to... (select any and all that apply) / Contribute whole lessons or improve existing lessons. / Use lessons in the classroom. / Add lesson feedback or endorsements based on classroom experience. / Assess lesson quality (peer review). / Update lesson guidelines based on education research. / Help with educator outreach. / Other..."
Question from Eventmath community form
  • We are both active in the math educators community on Twitter:
    • We tweeted about Eventmath and mathematical reasoning in the news, to build the Eventmath community.[1][2][3][4]
    • We used Twitter to promote offline outreach, including our presentation at the MathFest conference run by the Mathematical Association of America.[5][6][7]
  • We presented at MathFest in August 2021:
    • We delivered our talk as part of a session about the impacts of COVID-19 on mathematics education and quantitative literacy.
    • We chose to use Google Slides, since they met our needs:
      • they are free to use
      • they can be easily published to the web
      • they support real-time, remote collaboration
      • they integrate with the other collaborative software tools we’re using from Google Workspace.
    • We designed the talk using concepts from several fields: marketing, cognitive load theory, and the cognitive theory of multimedia learning. We detailed these principles in our July report.
    • We discussed the following questions:
      • Why is teaching numeracy challenging?
      • What resources address these challenges?
      • What value does Eventmath add?
      • What value can you add?
    • We responded to encouraging feedback: we joined the National Numeracy Network after the session organizer invited us to share our project with its membership.
  • We crafted an outreach message and shared it with the membership of vital national organizations:
    • The National Numeracy Network (NNN), an organization focused on quantitative literacy and education
    • The Mathematical Association of America's Special Interest Group on Quantitative Literacy (SIGMAA-QL).
  • We earned the opportunity to run a facilitated discussion at the National Numeracy Network’s annual conference:
    • During the online facilitated discussion, we will publish a lesson plan to Eventmath with help from the audience.
    • At the end of the facilitated discussion, we’ll take questions and suggestions about separate upcoming workshops that we described in the conference proposal.
    • During the online workshops, we will incorporate user testing.
  • Along with each outreach activity, we included a clear call to action:
    • We shared a Google Forms survey that we made, asking educators for their contact info as well as the type of contributions they are interested in making.
    • We learned about the community’s interests, which we describe in the Midpoint outcomes section.

Design[edit]

As we made decisions, we incorporated ideas from many areas of design.

Project design[edit]

We decided to set up a project management infrastructure using tools in Google Workspace, since these tools are free, collaborative, easy to use, and comprehensive. This infrastructure has proven instrumental for assigning tasks, organizing ideas, and tracking progress. It has several key components.

  • Launch plan: We chose to make everything accessible from a single document that we created with Google Docs. Its main sections are listed below.
    • Activities schedule: When we need to know what to do next, we look at the schedule, where we divide up activities into discrete tasks and list them by approximate start date. To ensure we can easily see and rearrange tasks, each entry in the list fits on one line and includes a task description, as well as color-coded tags for the task owner, the completion status, and the deadline.
    • Activities descriptions: When we have a good idea for how to implement a task, and we don’t have time to implement it immediately, we record it here. Using the bookmarks feature, we link each task in the activities schedule to its associated description. This allows us to organize detailed ideas while maintaining an at-a-glance view of tasks in the schedule.
    • Activities log: When we complete a task, we log it in a table organized by month and by theme (as outlined in Project Plan: Activities in the grant proposal). This way, we are able to coordinate our ongoing activities while simultaneously preparing the monthly report.
  • Timesheet: We created a record of our time expenditures using Google Sheets and linked to it from the launch plan. This sheet has a row for each activity theme, and a set of columns for each grantee: estimated total hours, actual hours spent, and hours remaining. We populated it with an initial allocation of budgeted hours, according to our individual skill sets, and we programmed it to calculate hours remaining automatically.
  • Contact list: We designed a spreadsheet using Google Sheets that has tabs for individuals, organizations, events, and press outlets, as well as a tab that is automatically populated with responses to the survey we created with Google Forms. We linked to the contact list from the launch plan, to organize and track our outreach efforts.

We also have video calls to make quick decisions and assign new tasks based on our expertise. For instance, Greg has more experience with web design and site architecture, so he has taken the lead on overall site design and development. Meanwhile, Brendan has more experience with designing and using lesson plans in the classroom, so he has worked on the instructions and materials that will guide users in contributing to the site. But even with that division of labor, we check with each other often to share updates, brainstorm, and confirm any big decisions.

Web design[edit]

Eventmath Lesson plans page. Visible text shows "Search lesson plans" with a search bar to type in, and then "Browse by : Event type" with boxes labeled "Business," "Culture," "Economics," "Education".
Eventmath Lesson plans page
Tabbed interface of the Eventmath portal. One can see that the "Lesson plans" tab is open, and other visible tabs include "Welcome" and "Contributing."
Tabbed interface of Eventmath portal

We drew upon various areas of web design when making important decisions.

  • Information architecture
    • We opted to use a tabbed interface with separate URLs for each tab, so that visitors landing at Eventmath from a web search can easily find what they’re searching for and understand where they are, according to the principle of front doors.
    • We designed a category structure that encompasses all Eventmath content, including lesson plans, media assets, project pages, and templates.
    • We paid particular attention to lesson plan subcategories, to ensure educators would be able to browse in multiple ways based on their needs (by math topic, by type of news, by required class time, etc.), following the principle of multiple classification.
    • We followed naming conventions and designed methods for sorting each category, accounting for numbers being sorted as strings (for sorting by date), to make content as easy to find as possible.
    • We decided to illustrate each lesson plan category with examples, following the principle of exemplars, in a single lesson plan directory.
    • We designed custom search boxes that restrict searches to the set of Eventmath lesson plans, in case a visitor or contributor is looking for a specific topic.
  • User experience and interaction design
    • We reduced the number of tabs and made their labels more descriptive, in accordance with principles for tabbed interfaces. For example, we replaced Guidelines with Contributing. The new label is more accurate, more welcoming, and serves as a prominent cue to visitors that Evenmath is a living resource, always open to contributions.
    • We optimized the workflow for lesson plan contributors. A dedicated page walks them through a series of simple steps, including a page-creation form: to create a webpage, contributors need only type their title and click a button, which then launches an editor that is preloaded with a lesson plan template.
    • We revised the lesson plan template to better reflect what educators will include and what they will be looking for, based on our own classroom experience. The design centers on three main sections: Activities, Assignments, and Resources.
    • We included example search text in the search box of the lesson plan directory, to help visitors search effectively, per UX guidance.
    • We grouped important lesson plan attributes into a custom infobox to improve the experience of both visitors and contributors. It includes essential information such as estimated class time, to help educators quickly determine if the lesson plan is suitable. Additional details on this template are included in the next section of this report.
  • Visual design
    • We made consistent use of colors in pages and templates, as an extra cue to let visitors know when they are on an Eventmath page.
    • We produced a wireframe and mockup of the lesson plan directory, based on principles for directory design. (For instance, we made conscious choices regarding font size, space, and contrast to avoid overwhelming the reader.)
    • We created a modern, accessible grid layout for the lesson plan directory. Unlike table layouts, the grid layout is automatically responsive to multiple devices and works well with screen readers that assist the visually impaired.
  • Search engine optimization
    • We optimized URLs by choosing descriptive page titles, and by placing Eventmath in the main namespace, which allows for shorter, human-readable URLs and better keyword placement.
    • We set up subpages in such a way that the most important pages will have the most pages linking to them. For example, all lesson plans automatically link to the main lesson plans directory. This will boost the directory in search results, which is helpful because we designed it as a landing page for new users.
    • We included key search phrases, such as "math lesson plans based on current events," in heading-level text, which is weighted more highly.
  • Product design
    • We included an Endorse button on the lesson plan template, to make it as simple as possible for new users to provide positive feedback. Similar to a like button, this element is crucial for sustaining a virtuous cycle of contributions.
    • We dedicated a full tab in the main navigation to a directory of participants, which encourages educators to add themselves by clicking a button; we chose to use a Join button, rather than edit links, since it makes the first step less daunting for new participants. We also designed the directory to help educators learn about each other and to foster community interaction.
    • We provided explicit instructions about sharing lesson plans and collaborating on them, as part of the contributor workflow.

Development[edit]

We implemented, tested, and documented our designs.

Templates[edit]

Box of text with the heading "Lesson plan overview." Categories shown are Title, Assumed knowledge, Activities, Class time, and Source
Lesson plan overview box

We developed ten templates that serve various functions. Some of these are based on existing templates, and in those cases, the documentation pages link to the original templates.

As an example, we describe the lesson plan overview box here; this description is adapted from our documentation. Links to the other templates are included in the Midpoint outcomes section of this report. For visitors to a lesson plan, the overview box...

  • Provides an at-a-glance overview of the lesson plan.
  • Displays a prominent "Browse" link to help in finding other lesson plans.
  • Categorizes lesson plans so that visitors can browse by class time and source date.

For contributors to a lesson plan, the template...

  • Structures the data that must be provided in a clear and intuitive way.
  • Protects wikitext that should not be changed.
  • Automates redundant tasks.

On a technical level, the template...

  • Pulls the lesson title from the full page title (using a page name variable) so that it's prominently displayed without requiring it to be typed manually.
  • Reuses the data supplied by the contributor to automatically place the lesson plan into categories with custom sort keys (using parser functions). This not only saves contributors the trouble of typing in the same information multiple times, but also prevents errors due to typos in the category tags.
  • Calls {{cite web}} so that the user doesn't need to navigate nested templates or manually type out citations.

To make this template easy to use for beginners, clear instructions are provided in the preloaded wikitext that is supplied by the Eventmath lesson plan template.

Extensions[edit]

We’ve made thorough use of two extensions.

We used the InputBox extension to create the custom input elements: the search boxes, the form for creating lesson plans, the Endorse button, and the Join button.

Technical note

Although the InputBox extension allows a user to add a new section to a page, the section will always be added at the very bottom of the wikitext in the source, which places both endorsements and participant entries outside the main Eventmath content areas. Fortunately, we found technical workarounds for each button.

We used the DynamicPageList extension to build a self-updating directory of lesson plans: links to example lesson plans in each category are automatically updated. For example, if a lesson plan is placed in the calculus category and not the draft category, it will be listed under Calculus; if it also involves economics, it will be listed under Economics. Without these dynamic lists, contributors would have to add an unreasonable number of links manually, all of which would be subject to user error.

Technical note

The DynamicPageList extension supports various parameters that have allowed us to customize the lists. Only ten examples are shown in each category, so that users do not need to scroll endlessly to reach the next set of categories. The extension also allows the lists to be automatically sorted, so only the most recent or highest rated lesson plans are shown, depending on the category. In case a user wants to see the full list for any category, we designed our custom display box to include a link in the header. We also included a purge link on the directory page to force an instant update, in case a contributor has just added a draft and wants to see it listed in the drafts category.

Preloaded text[edit]

We set up templates to preload into the source editor whenever contributors are completing a common task. For example, as mentioned in the design section, clicking the Create lesson plan button opens up an editor with an outline of a lesson plan already in place.

For each task, we also created an instructions page that automatically loads above the editor. These instructions pages cover adding a new lesson plan, adding an endorsement, and adding an entry to the participants list.

Technical note

Inline instructions are also provided within the preloaded wikitext of the lesson plan template, as HTML comments. This way, detailed instructions appear right next to the place that they are needed.

Categories and redirects[edit]

We created an Eventmath category as a subcategory of the Learning projects category on Wikiversity. The Eventmath category contains all resources created for Eventmath, organized into subcategories: Eventmath lesson plans, Eventmath media assets, Eventmath project pages, and Eventmath templates.

We also created subcategories of the lesson plans category that enable visitors to browse lesson plans in multiple ways, depending on their needs.

Since category pages are not created automatically, we also created category pages with custom descriptions. The descriptions include guidance on the type of content that should be placed in each category, as well as explanations of custom sorting mechanisms that are used, if any. The category for Eventmath project pages is an example.

Finally, we added a redirect on the old Eventmath portal in the portal namespace so that it points to the new site with the tabbed interface. Similarly, we renamed some pages so that page titles would be more descriptive and more consistent.

Technical note

Although the lesson plans directory links to many categories, we have not yet created all of the category pages. We are also in the process of improving the structure of some categories, such as the class-time and source-date categories. Specifically, we may use subcategories in place of the current sorting mechanisms, to improve the browsing experience.

Tests[edit]

We documented template tests on the template pages. We found that publishing test cases has the added benefit of simultaneously demonstrating usage. Our display box template is a good example of this.

We have also performed initial testing on mobile devices. Some testing remains.

Lastly, we tested video archiving at https://archive.org/web/ to check if users would be able to reliably use videos as a source for lesson plans. Despite conflicting information, the test succeeded, and the archived test video was indeed playable by the next day. This opens up a lot of possibilities for Eventmath lesson plans, since video is a primary medium for news consumption.

Midpoint outcomes[edit]

What are the results of your project or any experiments you’ve worked on so far?

Please discuss anything you have created or changed (organized, built, grown, etc) as a result of your project to date.

  • A growing community. While most of our promotion will occur in the second half of the project, once the site is fully developed, we have already made significant progress on our campaign goals. Specifically, we have 24 responses to our Google Forms survey, with contact information for faculty from twenty educational institutions. Respondents were able to select multiple interests, and the results show interest in all areas:
    • 15 indicated an interest in contributing or improving lesson plans
    • 22 indicated an interest in using lesson plans in the classroom
    • 13 indicated an interest in adding lesson feedback or endorsements
    • 9 indicated an interest in providing peer review
    • 3 indicated an interest in updating guidelines based on education research
    • 4 indicated an interest in educator outreach
  • A complete site structure with an intuitive tabbed interface and a comprehensive category structure.
  • A lesson plan template that's preloaded when a new contributor clicks the Create lesson plan button. The preloaded template includes the following features:
    • a custom draft header that orients site visitors
    • an overview box that helps both visitors and contributors
    • a custom Endorse button that encourages community feedback
  • Supporting Eventmath templates. These include several templates for the tabbed interface, a display box, a draft header, a custom infobox for lesson plans, a participant list entry template, and a lesson plan endorsement template.
  • Supporting instructions pages. These instructions automatically load above the editor when a contributor is completing a task, including adding a new lesson plan, adding an endorsement, and adding an entry to the participants list.
  • A fully developed, welcoming Participants page to build community. This page features a custom Join button that makes it easy for educators to join the community.
  • A fully developed Contributing page. This page walks users through the steps of contributing a new lesson plan in the gentlest, most focused way possible. This includes clear guidance on naming lesson plans (which is crucial for usability and discoverability), a list of resources for finding lesson plan ideas, a working search box for existing lesson plans, a form for creating a new lesson plan with the click of a button, and tips on how to share lesson plans and receive feedback. Overall, we designed this workflow to be manageable for educators lacking experience with MediaWiki software.
  • A fully developed Lesson plans page. This page includes a custom search box, custom display boxes for easy browsing, a modern and accessible CSS grid layout, and dynamically generated lists.
  • Exemplary lesson plans. We tested the workflow and templates by publishing lesson plans applying proportions to the US Electoral College and comparing streaming service pay rates to artists. These will serve as examples for new contributors.
  • An adaptable education model. We’ve created a model for Wikiversity projects in other disciplines, from economics to Spanish! All of our work – the outreach strategy, the project design, the site, and the templates – could be adapted to help learners of other subjects to become critical consumers of news and social media.

Finances[edit]

Please take some time to update the table in your project finances page. Check that you’ve listed all approved and actual expenditures as instructed. If there are differences between the planned and actual use of funds, please use the column provided there to explain them.

Then, answer the following question here: Have you spent your funds according to plan so far? Please briefly describe any major changes to budget or expenditures that you anticipate for the second half of your project.

Our project finances page contains our totals, and this section contains a more detailed breakdown.

In order to reach our internal deadlines, we accelerated our work schedule in the last two months. Greg alone put in over 140 hours since we started work on this midpoint report, mostly on technical development. Brendan put in 26 hours during the same period. As a result, we recently exceeded the initial time estimates on which the grant budget is based.

The table below contains a detailed breakdown of how we’ve spent our time thus far.

Activity theme Greg's hours Brendan's hours
Adapt existing materials to Wikiversity 149 58
Develop quality standard 0 0
Promote on social media 0 9
Deliver live online workshops 1 5
Produce videos 0 0
Promote via the press 1 0
Promote to events and organizations 22 36
Total hours (excluding reporting) 173 108
Reporting, advisor communications, learning pattern 68 21

At the time of the grant proposal, our total time expenditure was difficult to predict precisely, since technical development invariably involves unpredictable challenges. The challenges we faced included

  • fixing bugs in code (this is predictable, but the time spent to fix the bugs is not!)
  • adapting templates with idiosyncratic feature sets (e.g. supporting custom background color but not custom text color)
  • handling conflicts between extensions and templates (e.g. when an extension places content outside the area designated by a template)
  • working around non-obvious limitations of MediaWiki software (e.g. in some Wikimedia projects, including Wikiversity, numerical sort keys are not sorted numerically, and there is only one possible sort order, so usefully sorting lesson plans by source date requires extra care)

To account for these unforeseen time expenses, we request a budget increase of 10%, per the grant project funding guidelines.

Learning[edit]

The best thing about trying something new is that you learn from it. We want to follow in your footsteps and learn along with you, and we want to know that you are taking enough risks to learn something really interesting! Please use the below sections to describe what is working and what you plan to change for the second half of your project.

What are the challenges[edit]

Source code in an editor with the title "Editing Template:Eventmath tab" on top and complicated looking code in the editor.
Unstructured code is hard to read!

What challenges or obstacles have you encountered? What will you do differently going forward? Please list these as short bullet points.

  • Presenting requires good storytelling. To reach our target for workshop attendance, we wanted to build relationships with people already inclined to attend professional events. So, when we saw an opportunity to present at a national conference, we seized it. Although we had not yet implemented our site designs, we overcame this by presenting a narrative based on our grant proposal, acknowledging the support we had already received, and inviting the audience to join the project.
  • Eventmath requires thoughtful design. We knew we could interest math educators, but we also needed to make it easy for them to contribute. With a willingness to learn, we were able to implement our design: common tasks are automated, and contributors with no editing experience can create, categorize, and endorse lesson plans, all by clicking a button or following simple instructions. We’ve compiled what we've learned into a template development guide for new grantees (this is shared below in the form of a learning pattern).
  • Development requires detective work. For the tabbed interface, the template closest to our needs supported custom background colors but not custom text colors. To maintain a consistent design and improve accessibility, in accordance with the portal goal of our proposal, we needed to adjust both. This small change required coding logic and other features into multiple templates, after taking the time to understand the unstructured code (to accommodate multiple use cases, whitespace that makes code human readable is not generally supported by MediaWiki software). Fortunately, our small investment in learning template development has paid off big, making it relatively straightforward to track down the source of such issues.
  • Project management requires time. The project launch plan we developed has been indispensable. If we propose another grant project, we will allot time in our budget for project management.
  • Reporting requires synthesis. To help others learn from our activities, we need to communicate them in a coherent form, which is often different from the necessarily chronological form of our activities log. We will account for reporting activity, including publishing learning patterns, in the initial budget proposal of any future projects; we will also seek feedback specific to this issue.

What is working well[edit]

What have you found works best so far? To help spread successful strategies so that they can be of use to others in the movement, rather than writing lots of text here, we'd like you to share your finding in the form of a link to a learning pattern.

Learning patterns/Doing more, with templates: A tutorial for Wikimedia project creators

Next steps and opportunities[edit]

What are the next steps and opportunities you’ll be focusing on for the second half of your project? Please list these as short bullet points.

  • Add content to the Welcome and Impact tabs. For instance, we will create a “Featured lesson plan” box on the Welcome tab.
  • Host workshops to onboard new users and help them contribute. As described in the grant proposal, we will deliver live, online workshops to help new users learn to contribute to the site and give feedback on each other’s work.
  • Create inbound links. Linking from appropriate places within Wikiversity, as well as relevant external sites, will help us reach our target for search ranking and help educators discover Eventmath. External sites may include our own websites, sites of professional organizations, and faculty pages of contributors.
  • Create promotional and instructional videos. We will create a video based on a lesson plan, a welcome video, and a video explaining how to contribute a lesson plan.
  • Develop a quality standard for lesson plans. As described in the grant proposal, we will create a quality assessment scheme and a process for featuring high-quality lesson plans.
  • Outreach and promotion. We will promote Eventmath to interested groups and individuals via email, social media, and the press. We’re looking forward to helping Eventmath grow!

Grantee reflection[edit]

We’d love to hear any thoughts you have on how the experience of being an grantee has been so far. What is one thing that surprised you, or that you particularly enjoyed from the past 3 months?

We have both been pleasantly surprised by the level of autonomy we have and the trust placed in us by the Wikimedia and Wikiversity communities. We started this project because of our passion for helping students learn and apply mathematics, and it has been wonderful to be able to follow that passion freely toward the creation of an immediately useful resource for students and educators!

References[edit]