“OVERLAND PARK, KS—Appearing stunned and unsettled as they entered her classroom Wednesday, students from Ms. Frederickson’s fourth-period social studies class were reportedly overcome with panic upon discovering that, oh God, all the desks had been arranged in a giant circle. ‘I have no idea what’s going to happen here, but it can’t be good,’ said a visibly shaken Katie Wahl, 11, who according to reports began steeling herself for whatever god-awful group project, class discussion, or sharing of personal experiences the sixth-grade teacher might have in store for them.”
Equity Maps is an app for the iPad designed to help facilitators keep track of who all was talking in class and when. Imagine a Fitbit for class participation: teachers start by using any one of the blank seating arrangement templates to assign individual user icons (male or female) for each of their students. It saves rosters so you’ll only ever have to do a bulk upload once per year. Once you’re done adding session participants, you can click and drag any of these icons anywhere in the seating arrangement to show where each student is seated and start your class’s Socratic Seminar.
Push the session record button, and the app will start keeping track of the class dialogue patterns using a built-in stopwatch timer. As each new student speaks, you simply tap the corresponding student’s icon and the app will automatically connect a line between each student and the one who spoke just before them — exactly like if you were drawing a spider web in a printed notebook. If you’ve got AppleTV or a connection dongle, you can even project the session to your overhead in real time so that students can watch the spider web take shape before their very eyes.
While the computer-drawn spider web map is super neat to look at, it’s in the aftermath of each session where Equity Maps becomes a can’t-miss addition to any classroom. In addition to providing the visual map of how balanced the conversation may have been during that particular session, the app also gives you the ability to hit the play button so that you can watch a quick video playback to see the conversation web pattern unfolded in real time. With little effort, students can get a clear sense of who’s talking, for how long, and when.
The app also features a series of point-and-click look-for items, so that teachers can easily push just one button to generate individual student reports with detailed items like who’s citing specific examples from a text, asking great questions, or most effectively piggybacking off of earlier comments to drive the dialogue to deeper analysis and higher order thinking questions.
But my absolute favorite feature of the Equity Maps comes in the form of a feature it calls feedback frames. Feedback frames are automatically generated at the conclusion of each session, which offers a clear visual representation of how successful the overall seminar was in relation to the equity voice distribution as it was shared and fostered throughout the conversation.
I followed up with Equity Maps creator, Dave Nelson (@EquityMaps), and he explained:
“The Equity Quotient is a way of looking equity based on both time spoken and times spoken; we calculate the Gini coefficient of times spoken and time spoken and calculate the average based on 67% from Time Spoken, and 33% from Times Spoken. We’ve tried to create a way of looking at a combination of both with more emphasis on shared time.”
Talk about a game changer.
Likewise, for teachers like me who are keen on using small group “team vs team” scoring incentives — you can easily divide your students into two larger groups to conclude a class period with two rounds of a Socratic Seminar, with conversation in the inner circle and silent note-taking in the outer circle. Drawing once again from our Huck Finn inspired unit theme, the two teams with the lowest point totals in the day’s #Hashtag Hunt will be the first to enter the inner circle (“the rapids”). These students begin the Seminar in the rough waters in which they will take turns delving deeper into a specific thematic question of the teacher’s choice.The two teams with the highest point totals in the day’s #Hashtag Hunt will begin the Seminar in the outer circle (“the ferry”), which offers smooth sailing as they get to sit back and take notes quietly while their peers join in the first round of dialogue.
At the midpoint of the Socratic Seminar, the two groups will trade roles to conclude the activity. And naturally, we’ll start tomorrow’s class off by showing all teams their Equity Maps so they can see how they fared and how they can improve.