In Marcellus the Giant, the new activity from my team at Desmos, students learn what it means for one image to be a “scale” replica of another. They learn how to use scale to solve for missing dimensions in a proportional relationship. They also learn how scale relationships are represented on a graph.

There are three reasons I wanted to bring this activity to your attention today.

**First**

Marcellus the Giant is the kind of activity that would have taken us months to build a year ago. Our new Computation Layer technology let Eli Luberoff and me build it in a couple of weeks. We’re learning how to make better activities faster!

**Second**

When we offer students explicit instruction, our building code recommends: “Keep expository screens short, focused, and connected to existing student thinking.”

It’s hard for print curricula to connect to existing student thinking. Those pages may have been printed miles away from the student’s thinking and years earlier. They’re static.

In our case, we ask students to pick their own scale factor.

Then we ask them to click and drag and try to create a scale giant on intuition alone. (“Ask for informal analysis before formal analysis.”)

Then we teach students about proportional relationships by referring to the difference between their scale factor and the giant they created.

You made Marcellus 3.4 times as tall as Dan but you dragged Marcellus’s mouth to be 6 times wider than Dan’s mouth. A proportional giant would have the same multiple for both.

Our hypothesis is that students will find this instruction more educational and interesting than the kind of instruction that starts explaining without any kind of reference to what the student has done or already knows.

That’s possible in a digital environment like our Activity Builder. I don’t know how we’d do this on paper.

**Third**

Marcellus the Giant allows us to connect math back to the world in a way that print curricula can’t.

Typically, math textbooks offers students some glimpse of the world – two trains traveling towards each other, for example – and then asks them to represent that world mathematically. The curriculum asks students to turn that mathematical representation into *other* mathematical representations – for instance a table into a graph, or a graph into an equation – but it rarely lets students turn that math *back into the world*.

If students change their equation, the world doesn’t then change to match. If the student changes the slope of the graph, the world doesn’t change with it. It’s really, really difficult for print curriculum to offer that kind of dynamic representation.

But *we* can. When students change the graph, we change their giant.

There is lots of evidence that connecting representations helps students understand the representations themselves. Everyone tries to connect the mathematical representations to *each other*. Desmos is trying to connect those representations back to *the world*.

A. O. Fradkin used her students as manipulatives in a game of addends:

The classic mistake was for kids to forget to count themselves. Then I would ask them, “How many kids are not hiding under the blanket?” When they would say the number of kids they saw, I’d follow up with, “So you’re hiding under the blanket?” And then they’d laugh.

Cathy Yenca put students to work once they finished their Desmos card sorts:

From here, it becomes a beautiful blur. Students continue to earn “expert” status and become “up for hire”, popping out of their seats to help a bud. At one point today, every struggling student had a proud one-on-one expert tutor, and I just stood there, scrolling through the teacher dashboard, with a silly grin on my face.

I’d love to know how we could employ experts without exacerbating status anxieties. Ideas?

Laurie Hailer offers a useful indicator of successful group work:

It looks like the past six weeks of having students sit in groups and emphasizing that they work together is possibly paying off. Today, instead of hearing, “I have a question,” I heard, “We have a question.”

David Sladkey switches from *asking* for questions to *requiring* questions:

My students were working independently on a few problem when I set the ground rules. I told my students that I was going to require them to ask a question when I was walking around to each person. I also said that if they did not have a math question, they could ask any other (appropriate) question that they liked. One way or another, they would have to ask me a question. It was amazing.

**Featured Comment**

Ryan:

]]>I also have kids sign up to be an expert during group work, indicating that they’re open to taking questions from other students. Sometimes, after a really good small group conference, I’ll ask a student to sign up to be an expert.

Here is how I’m voting in the upcoming NCTM board election. Ballots close 10/31. You should vote too.

There are few issues in mathematics education that both matter a lot and that NCTM can directly affect. One issue in that subset matters most to me:

I care how well NCTM accesses the capacity of its members to help each other develop

continuouslyas educators.

NCTM has the largest store of teaching knowledge of any math education organization in the world. Its 70,000 members comprise hundreds of thousands of years of math education experience. But NCTM accesses that capacity only sporadically. Fewer than ten times yearly at face-to-face conferences. Twelve times per year in its five journals. Occasionally in books and blog posts.

The only medium that will allow an NCTM member in Scranton, PA, to help another member develop continuously in San Diego, CA, is the internet. My tweeting and blogging colleagues know exactly what I’m talking about. They know the exhilaration of asking a question from a veteran and getting an answer in minutes. They know what it’s like to read someone’s interesting idea one day, try it out the next, and then offer the originator some useful feedback.

They’re developing, and developing each other, continuously. They don’t want to wait for conferences, journals, books, or blog posts.

So how am I voting? A few years ago, I’d vote for any candidate who even mentioned the internet in her candidacy statement. Now I’m looking for people who have a plan for helping NCTM’s members develop each other continuously. I’m looking for people who seem receptive to the experiments in online professional development Zak Champagne, Mike Flynn, and I put together annually under the name “ShadowCon.” I’m looking for people who understand that NCTM’s membership is *underutilized* for most of the year.

Here are promising excerpts from the candidates’ statements.

Robert Q. Berry III (President-Elect) [Twitter]:

Membership is a major challenge facing the Council. NCTM must rethink its membership model, working to ensure that longtime members continue to value NCTM while showing potential members the value of associating themselves with NCTM. This can done by tapping into their interests in social media and other digital technologies to promote interactive communities of professionals. Such efforts broaden the Council’s space for professional learning while maintaining meaningful engagement with the membership.

Nora Ramirez (President-Elect):

NCTM has the knowledge, experience, and skills to support both national and state affiliates in developing the abilities to advocate effectively for issues that are critical to them. Affiliates interested in this initiative would meet both face-to-face and online to learn, plan, and collaboratively develop or identify resources.

David Ebert (Director, High School):

NCTM needs to consider all forms of professional learning, including electronic learning opportunities, sustained yearlong professional learning, and joint professional learning opportunities personalized for the needs of the teachers within an affiliate.

Jason Slowbe (Director, High School) [Twitter, Web]:

NCTM should develop an online platform offering members a living portfolio for their professional development. NCTM already attracts top-notch speakers; now it should empower speakers with tools for building a following and facilitating year-round development. Attending sessions should be the beginning, not the end, of the conference experience. NCTM should enable attendees to pin, share, and discuss resources from within and beyond NCTM, including conference handouts, blog posts, articles, and student work. Integration with affiliate conferences and other stakeholders would connect teachers and grow membership organically. NCTM should leverage both the power of collaboration and its unique position as the world’s largest math education organization to influence more teachers and students.

Rick A. Hudson (Director, At Large):

Teachers today communicate in very different ways from the past, and NCTM must make use of the new media while building on its current strengths to reach a wider audience. For example, the quality of NCTM’s conferences is one of the Council’s greatest strengths, and we must think proactively about ways to share content from conference sessions virtually to reach a larger group of the membership and to extend the conference experience for those in attendance.

DeAnn Huinker (Director, At Large) [Twitter]:

A task force on building the next generation of teachers can consider resources, tools, and innovative ways to reach out to prospective teachers, such as providing access to blogs and online mentorships.

Daniel J. Teague (Director, At Large):

NCTM should take the lead in creating online and downloadable video courses (see Jo Boaler’s How to Learn Mathematics and Scott Page’s Model Thinking) to be used by individual teachers and departments for extensive work in these areas.

Desha L. Williams (Director, At Large):

Maintaining and expanding membership is a challenge for NCTM. The age of technology has created avenues for teachers to access information that was once available only within NCTM resources.

Vanessa Cleaver (Director, At Large):

Although I am a huge fan of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media, I believe that these sources are to some extent now meeting the needs of educators for interaction with one another and exchange of information in non–face-to-face settings.

That’s what matters to me and how I’m voting. What about you?

**Featured Comments**

- Steve Weimar outlines NCTM’s current efforts towards helping teacher develop continuously online.
- Cal Armstrong wants to see current or recent teachers in leadership positions
- Brandon Dorman would like to see NCTM accredit its members using technology like Mozilla’s Open Badges.

We create a pseudocontext when at least one of two conditions are met.

First, given a context, the assigned question isn’t a question most human beings would ask about it.

Second, given that question, the assigned method isn’t a method most human beings would use to find it.

The dog bandana is the classic example. Given a dog, would most human beings wonder about the correct size of the bandana? *Maybe*. But none of them would apply a special right triangle to answer it.

Here’s the game. Every Saturday, I’ll post an image from a math textbook. It’ll be an image from one of the “Where You Will Use This Math!” sidebars.

I’ll post the image without its mathematical connection and offer five possibilities for that connection. One of them will be real. Four of them will be decoys. You’ll all guess which connection is real.

After 24 hours, I’ll update the post with the answer. If a plurality of the commenters picked the textbook’s connection, one point goes to Team Commenters. If a plurality picked one of my decoys, one point goes to Team Me. If you submit a word problem in the comments to complement your connection and it makes someone lol, collect a personal point.

*Fun.*Teaching is a pretty serious occupation. It never fails to brighten my day when you all ping me with pseudocontext.*Caution.*My position is that we frequently overrate the real world as a vehicle for student motivation. I hope this series will serve to remind us weekly of the madness that lies at the extreme end of a position that says “students will only be interested in mathematics if it’s real world.” The end of that position leads to dog bandanas and other bizarre connections which serve to make math seem*less*real to students and more*alien*, a discipline practiced by weirdos and oddballs.*Caution*.

**This Week’s Installment**

(If you’re reading via email or RSS, you may need to click through to vote.)

I’ll update this post with the answer in 24 hours.

**BTW**. Don’t hesitate to send me an example you’d like me to feature. My email address is dan@mrmeyer.com. Throw “Pseudocontext Saturdays” in the subject.

Polls are closed. The commenters got rolled on this one, with only 3% having guessed the actual application. So one point goes to Team Dan.

Most commenters guessed “calculating probabilities,” which likely *wouldn’t* have been a pseudocontext. Humans wonder lots of questions about probabilities when it comes to darts, many of which are most easily answered with mathematical tools.

But this is high-grade psuedocontext. Given a dartboard, few humans would wonder about the dimensions of a square that circumscribes it exactly. And even if they *did* wonder about it, none of them would name the radius *r + 12*. They wouldn’t even name it *r*. They wouldn’t use *variables*. They’d *measure* it.

The publisher included the dartboard as a means to interest students in special products. If you believe, as I do, that the publisher has done more harm than good here, positioning math as alien rather than real, what can be done? How do you handle special products?

**Featured Comments**

Q #11: Pretend [certainly not a woman’s name] has no concept of darts, zero aim, and is liquored up at the bar anyway. What is the probability that he’ll hit a 20? Twice, with his eyes blindfolded?

Question: What percent of the dart board scoring area is red? white? blue?

Extension: Are the red, white, and blue percentages of area the same on an American flag?

Man, this “context” is an absolute embarrassment and wastes the time of students and teachers. This sort of thing is driven by textbook requirements for “full coverage” — some lessons have a useful “why” picture and description, therefore all of them must.

Awful.

Scott Farrand reacts to the commenters’ loss:

Now I see how to make the dartboard fit into our task. First we each randomly assign each the five options that Dan gave us to 4 of the 20 sectors of the dartboard, so that 1/5 of the sectors correspond to each option. Now all we need is a blindfold, and … let’s see if we can improve our results from 3% correct to about 20% correct.

Also, please enjoy this back-and-forth about the nature of pseudocontext between Michael Pershan, David Griswold, Sarah, and me. I know I did.

]]>If you had told me that it would take me five years of teaching to figure out how to mentally leave work at work then I might not have continued in this career. I’ve gotten incrementally better at it each year but this year I’ve committed to prioritizing it. Here are a few things I’ve learned that help me do that. I hope you can, especially if you’re just starting out, find a piece of advice that will help you live a more balanced life.

I’ve grown to admire a kind of teacher I used to disregard – the teacher who knows she could create a better lesson than the one she taught last year, who knows she could help a student bring a B to a B+ with after-school tutoring, who knows she could do wonders coaching the basketball team, and who makes a principled choice *not to do any of that*.

That principle is:

It’s better for me to do 90% of what I know I can do this year if that 10% I save for myself means I’ll still be a teacher

nextyear.

Cresswell’s post exemplifies that self-discipline. His post is practical also. He offers four of his best strategies for making teaching sustainable. Comments are closed here, but I hope you’ll load up his blog post with strategies of your own. This job can’t have enough of them.

]]>I was asking the question, “Can you predict whether or not a bottle will land?” A modeling problem.

Commenters like Meaghan asked the question, “What conditions will set yourself up for success in bottle flipping?”

How much water in the bottle? What kind of angle on the toss? Clockwise or counterclockwise? These are *statistical* questions.

Paul Jorgens followed that angle with his class:

It started with an argument in class last week about the optimal amount of water in the bottle. Should it be 1/4 filled? 1/3? Just below 1/2? I told the group that we could use our extra period to try to answer the question. We met and designed an experiment. We thought about problems like skill of tosser, variation in bottles, etc. We started with 32 bottles filled to varying levels. During 20 minutes of class, 32 students flipped bottles 4,220 times. We the all filled in our data on a Google Sheet.

[..]

I meet again next week with the small group that had the idea. I think they want to produce something for school news. Did we answer the question about how much water to put in the bottle?

Check out the graph of their data.

The Paper Helicopter is a similar exercise in experimental design. These activities come from the same template. If we understand that template, we can swap lots of different questions into the experiment, including those that seem most interesting to students in this moment.

We can teach students how to use mathematical tools to answer questions that interest them. We can also assign detentions. If there’s any middle ground, I’m not seeing it on Twitter right now.

**Featured Tweet**

.@ddmeyer thanks for the idea about bottle flipping you Tweeted last week. Tried my own version today and Ss loved it!

— Jasper Fox Sr. (@JasperFoxSR) October 17, 2016

**BTW**. Here’s a Desmos activity you can use to facilitate data collection in your class. Your students add their data on the first screen. Then they see the sum of their class’s data on the second screen.

Relevant background information:

Last spring, 18-year-old Mike Senatore, in a display of infinite swagger, flipped a bottle and landed it perfectly on its end. In front of his whole school. In one try.

That thirty-second video has six million views at the time of this writing. Bottle flipping now has the sort of cultural ubiquity that can drive even the most stoic teacher a little bit insane.

my brother's teacher banned bottle flipping what

— irelia (@booseungkwon) October 5, 2016

Some of my favorite math educators suggested that we turn those water bottles into a math lesson instead of confiscating them.

I was game. Coming up with a math task about bottle flipping should be easy, right? Watch:

Marta flipped

xbottles in^{2}+ 6x + 8x + 4minutes. At what rate is she flipping bottles?

Obviously unsatisfactory, right? But what *would* satisfy you. Try to define it. Denis Sheeran sees *relevance* in the bottle flipping but “relevance” is a term that’s really hard to define and even harder to design lessons around. If you turn your back on relevance for a second, it’ll turn into pseudocontext.

For me, at the end of this hypothetical lesson, I want students to feel more *powerful*, able to complete some task more efficiently or more accurately.

Ideally, that task would be bottle flipping. Ideally, students who had studied the math of bottle flipping would dazzle their friends who hadn’t. I don’t think that’s going to happen here.

But what if the task wasn’t *bottle flipping* (where math won’t help) rather *predicting the outcome of bottle flipping* (where math might). You can see this same approach in Will It Hit the Hoop?

The quadratic formula grants you no extra power when you’re in mid-air with the basketball. But when you’re trying to predict whether or not a ball will go in, that’s where math gives you power.

**Act One**

So in the same vein as that basketball task, here are four bottle flips from yours truly. At least one lands. At least one doesn’t. Each flip cuts off early and invites students to predict *how will it land?*

**Act Two**

How can I shoot a slow-mo video of a projectile and have it appear over a coordinate plane in the background? @ddmeyer #bottleflips

— Mike Linskey (@MikeLinsk) October 3, 2016

Okay. Here’s a coordinate plane on top of each flip.

If you’ve been around this blog for even a day, you *know* what’s coming up: we’re going to show which flips landed and which flips didn’t. Ideally, the math students learn in the second act will enable them to make more confident and more accurate predictions than they made in the first act.

*But what is that math?*

I asked that question of Jason Merrill, one of the many smart people I work with at Desmos. I won’t quote his full response, but I’ll say that it included phrases like “cycloid type thing” and “contact angle parameter space,” none of which fit neatly in any K-12 scope and sequence that I know. He was nice enough to create this simulator, which has been well-received online, though even the simulator had to be simplified. It illustrates *baton* flipping, not *bottle* flipping

**Act Three**

Here is the result of those bottle flips. For good measure, here’s a bottle flip from the perspective of *the bottle*.

I’m obviously lost.

Here’s a link to the entire multimedia package. Have at it. If you have a great idea for how we can resurrect this, let me know. I’m game to do some video editing on your behalf.

But when it comes to bottle flipping, if “math” is the answer, I’m not sure what the question is. Please help me out. What is the lesson plan? How will students experience math as power, rather than punishment.

Sure, it’s probably a bad idea to destroy the bottles. But it’s possible we shouldn’t turn them into a math lesson either. Maybe bottle flipping is the kind of silly fun that should stay silly.

**2016 Oct 7**. Okay: I was wrong about #bottleflipping. A bunch of commenters came up with a great idea.

**Featured Comments**

I see a couple students playing the game during some down time and my immediate reaction is, “There’s gotta be some great math in there!” One of the boys who was playing sees my eyes light up. He looks at me in fear and says, “Mrs. Raskin. Please. I know what you’re thinking. Please don’t mathify our game. Let us just have this one thing we don’t have to math.”

Mr K:

I suspect I should put as much effort into making this teachable as I would for dabbing.

Meaghan found a nice angle in on bottle flipping, along with several other commenters:

It would be neat if you could spend a, for example, physics class period talking about experimental design (for fill ratio questions or probability questions) and collecting the data, and then troop right over to math class with your data to figure out how to interpret it.

Paul Jorgens has the data:

]]>It started with an argument in class last week with the optimal amount of water in the bottle. Should it be 1/4 filled? 1/3? Just below 1/2? I told the group that we could use our extra period to try to answer the question. We met and designed an experiment. Thought about problems like skill of tosser, variation in bottles, etc. We started with 32 bottles filled to varying levels. During class over 20 minutes 32 students flipped bottles 4,220 times.

@ddmeyer I'm committed to starting to blog this semester. Any advice? (I'm an Ottawa, Ontario HS teacher) 1/2

— Ann Arden (@annarden) September 7, 2016

One final indulgence for my blog’s tenth birthday: a list of ten lessons I’ve learned from ten years of blogging.

**Figure out why you’re blogging.** I started blogging ten years ago because writing helps me think and I needed some public pressure to think through my lessons at the end of the school day. Nowadays I blog because blogging makes me curiouser and wiser. I don’t want to say there are bad reasons to blog, but if you’re blogging first and foremost for fame, fortune, or readers, you’re going to feel very fried very quickly.

**Find your cohort.** Then encourage each other relentlessly. Ten years ago, my cohort probably included more administrators and English teachers than math teachers. The pool of edubloggers was so small we all followed each other, encouraged each other, and griped at each other. Find people who started blogging around the same time you did. For many people, your blogging and tweeting cohort will be the faculty lounge you’ve always needed and never had.

**Be careful with auto-generated #content.** For a long time people used plugins that would algorithmically attach a stock photo or a set of related links to your posts. Those have fallen somewhat out of favor, which is a positive development. If your goal for blogging is to develop your ideas or create a community, there just aren’t many shortcuts. Do the work.

**Be the blogger you’d want to read.** Figure out what you like about writers you read. As you work to develop your own style and voice, borrow theirs for awhile. Me, I like short sentences and clippy paragraphs. I like a mix of confidence and humility – someone who has strong opinions but holds them loosely. I like people who don’t take themselves too seriously. I try to write a blog I’d like to read.

**Be nice.** No nicer. No, dude, you think you’re being nice but you’re still really crabby. It took me awhile to realize there were, like, *actual people* behind the screen names and web addresses. I still struggle to criticize ideas online in ways that don’t bum people out. Related: punch up or don’t punch at all.

**Figure out what blogging measures in your life.** If you find yourself not blogging after a good run of blogging, that may just mean you don’t have the time for it. But in my case I figured out that it meant *I wasn’t learning enough*. Lately it means *I need to get into a classroom* or *I need to do some math*. That’s valuable self-knowledge.

**Tend your comments.** I delete spam quickly. I delete abusive comments. Occasionally, I email people privately to let them know they need to be nicer. If someone has a typo or an unclosed HTML tag or a link that didn’t get formatted properly, I’ll often fix those. Delete comments that don’t add value or propel conversation – even complimentary ones! If someone posts something positive but unconstructive like “Agreed!” I’ll often email a quick thanks and then delete the comment. People will rise to whatever bar you set, so set a high one.

**Learn from your readers.** A healthy comments section is like a really smart extra brain you carry around all the time and can consult whenever you want. Also, when people care about you and know what you care about, they’ll send you articles and ideas and links they think will interest you. That’s crazy. It’s better than any existing recommendation engine. The brain you carry around with you spontaneously generates knowledge for the brain you keep in your head.

**Amplify your readers.** I pull interesting comments up into the body of the post itself and let people know I’ve done that. I try to do that quickly, before the post gets emailed the next day, so email readers understand how much I value my commenters and can benefit from their thoughts too. This process creates a bunch of interesting and virtuous cycles. One is that I get more (and more useful) comments the more people know I’m paying attention to them. Another is that the next generation of interesting math education bloggers is *in your comments right now*. So amplify them. Embolden them to set up their own project. (See also: Ten Years of Blog Comments.)

One of the things I love about @ddmeyer 's work: asks great questions, elevates voices of those who respond, https://t.co/gHn55GaY7K

— Bill Fitzgerald (@funnymonkey) September 24, 2016

**Turn learning into more learning.** If you do all of this and you do it regularly, my guess is you’re going to get offered some interesting opportunities. For me, I was offered chances to study with great researchers, to design curriculum with great designers, and to work with great teachers all around the world. I went into all of those opportunities thinking, “What will I find here that I can share with the folks back at the blog?” Again, not for fame, fortune, or readers. But because I knew you’d all make me curious and wiser.

**Related, but not algorithmically generated:**

- Eight Years of Blogging About Teaching
- Get a Blog Already Okay?
- What Correlates?
- Why Do You Blog: Then vs Now

**Featured Comment**

]]>The advice I’d give others about comments is simply to ask for comments when you want them. The way blogs work in 2016, you probably don’t have very many people reading you via RSS and not so many people regularly checking your comments sections. You are probably connected to other educators on social media, though these people might not know that you want feedback on your ideas. If you invite feedback, though, you’ll get more of it. That’s my advice.

First, I set myself up with a new blog theme. (If you’re reading this via email or an RSS reader, you’ll have to click through to check it out.)

Second, rather than reflect on ten years of *my posts*, I wanted to reflect on ten years of *your comments*. Over the last ten years, 4,600 people have written 20,000 comments on this blog, spanning two million words, the very first of which was written by Chris Lehmann.

My goal in blogging is to become curiouser and wiser with every post. Some of that happens in the post itself – through research, analysis, writing, etc – but so much of it happens in the comments.

To offer one current example, I posted Cathy Yenca’s method for teaching zero exponents last week. Forty comments later, my commenters offered two *more* methods for teaching them and helped me see how all three methods are related. I’m curiouser and wiser now than I was forty comments ago. That happened because of all of you and I wanted to thank a few you of you personally.

For example, here are the ten people who commented most often in every year that I’ve blogged.

Year | Name | Comments |
---|---|---|

1 | Todd Seal | 84 |

2 | ken | 106 |

3 | Jason Dyer | 74 |

4 | Jason Dyer | 53 |

5 | Bowen Kerins | 50 |

6 | l hodge | 72 |

7 | Kevin Hall | 46 |

8 | Kevin Hall | 39 |

9 | Ken Tilton | 49 |

10 | Paul Hartzer | 42 |

And these are the ten people whose comments have helped shape my work for the longest span of time – from their first comment to their last.

Year | Name | Years |
---|---|---|

1 | Karl Fisch | 9.2 |

2 | Tom Hoffman | 8.5 |

3 | Kate Nowak | 8.5 |

4 | Ian H. | 8.2 |

5 | Sam Shah | 8.2 |

6 | Chuck | 8.0 |

7 | John Pederson | 7.8 |

8 | Michael Paul Goldenberg | 7.8 |

9 | Nick | 7.7 |

10 | Michael Serra | 7.6 |

In 2011, I started to understand the gift of an active comments section, and how that gift needed encouragement and tending. So I began to add particularly helpful comments to the body of the post itself in a “Featured Comments” section. I made sure my commenters knew they had been promoted, hoping the endorsement would encourage them to continue bringing that kind of value.

These are the twenty people whose comments have been featured two or more times since 2011.

Name | Featured Comments |
---|---|

Bowen Kerins | 6 |

Dan Anderson | 3 |

Dave | 3 |

Michael Pershan | 3 |

Barry Smith | 2 |

Bruce James | 2 |

William Carey | 2 |

Tom Woodward | 2 |

l hodge | 2 |

Larry Copes | 2 |

David Wees | 2 |

Steve | 2 |

Laura Hawkins | 2 |

Jason Dyer | 2 |

Jason Buell | 2 |

Kate Nowak | 2 |

Michael Serra | 2 |

Nathan Kraft | 2 |

Ryan Brown | 2 |

Scott Farrar | 2 |

I sent a personal note of thanks to everybody mentioned in this post. Each person has made a significant donation of time, words, and insight to the project of making me curiouser and wiser.

Whenever people ask me how I got wherever it is I am right now, I always tell them about you, about how my ideas and thinking developed twice as fast as they had any right to. And I attribute that difference entirely to your time, words, and insight.

Wherever it is I’m going, I intend to get there exactly the same way.

**Featured Comment**

]]>Congrats and well done! I think I remember that day back in 2007. I got to work, threw in a Nelly CD, fired up my Netscape browser and made my comment. Incidentally I drove the same Toyota Camry that I still drive to work. Later on I think I went home and watched Lost and then read about #hashtags

We’re proud to debut our free Classroom Conversation Toolset, which has been the labor of our last three months. You can pause your students’ work. You can anonymize your students’ names. You can restrict the pace of your students through the activity. We believe there are productive and counterproductive ways to use these tools, so let us explain why we built them.

First, the edtech community is extremely excited about personalized learning – students learning at their own pace, uninhibited by their teacher or classmates. Our Activity Builder shares some of that enthusiasm but not all. Until last week, students could click through an activity from the first screen to the last, inhibited by nothing and nobody.

But the cost of personalized learning is often a silent classroom. In the worst-case scenario, you’ll walk into a classroom and see students wearing headphones, plugged into computers, watching videos or clicking multiple choice questions with *just *enough interest to keep their eyes open. But even when the activities are more interesting and cognitively demanding than video-watching and multiple choice question-clicking, there is still an important cost. You lose collective effervescence.

Collective effervescence is a term that calls to mind the bubbles in fizzy liquid. It’s a term from Émile Durkheim used to describe a particular force that knits social groups together. Collective effervescence explains why you still attend church even though the sermons are online, why you still attend sporting events even though they’re broadcast in much higher quality with much more comfortable seats from your living room. Collective effervescence explains why we still go to movie theaters; laughing, crying, or screaming in a room full of people is more satisfying than laughing, crying, or screaming alone.

An illustrative anecdote. We were testing these features in classes last week. We watched a teacher – Lieva Whitbeck in San Francisco – elicit a manic cheer from a class of ninth-graders simply by revealing the graph of a line. She brought her class together and asked them to predict what they’d see when she turned on the graph. They buzzed for a moment together, predicted a line, and then she gave the crowd what they came for.

She brought them *together*. She brought *back *the kids who were a bit ahead and she brought *forward *the kids who were a bit behind. She de-personalized the learning so she could socialize it. Because arguments are best with other people. Because the negotiation of ideas is most effective when you’re negotiating *with *somebody. And because collective effervescence is impossible to experience alone.

So these tools could very easily have been called our Classroom Management Toolset. They *are *useful for managing a class, for pausing the work so you can issue a new prompt or so you can redirect your class. But we didn’t build them for those purposes. We built them to restore what we feel the personalized-learning moment has missed. We built them for conversation and collective effervescence.

**Featured Tweets**

.@Desmos remains one of the only things in ed-tech worth a damn https://t.co/Z82Aw7Wo2m

— Audrey Watters (@audreywatters) September 20, 2016

Quick video tutorial & preview: @Desmos New Features: Pause, Teacher Pace, Anonymize https://t.co/rHvlOOhYyr #mathchat #edtech @EdSurge

— Stacey Roshan (@buddyxo) September 22, 2016

Social learning can be magical. @ddmeyer on building "collective effervescence" as kids work on #edtech. @desmos: https://t.co/46HrHCaaph

— Alex Hernandez (@thinkschools) September 20, 2016

All the discovery of @Desmos, combined w/ your teacher pace: it's the Reese's Cup of class management! https://t.co/KPdEAQUaXv via @Desmos

— Bob Lochel (@bobloch) September 20, 2016

This is a great example of how to think about the problems of personalized learning https://t.co/iit5ffu3De cc @mfeldstein67

— Mike Caulfield (@holden) September 20, 2016

Brilliant. https://t.co/scEioXmjE8 @ddmeyer

— Jennifer Carolan (@jencarolan) September 21, 2016