Fellows’ Lounge for November 29

We asked the Desmos fellows to reflect on how their practice has changed after participating in the Desmos Fellowship and attending our weekend retreat at Desmos headquarters in San Francisco, California. Here are some of their reflections.

Content Knowledge

There are many ways that you can increase your mathematical content knowledge, from taking courses to attending workshops to joining your local math teacher circle. In the Desmos fellowship, we increase our content knowledge both by using Desmos as a tool to solve math problems and by rebuilding graphs from other Desmos users. The Desmos Potluck activities have been a great way to both share what we are learning and to give others ideas to try on their own. Last week Patty Stephens recreated a ferris wheel shared originally by Jenn Vadnais. Glenn Waddell added on to what Patty built, also teaching Jenn something new about representing math in Desmos.

Activity Design and Student Experience

During the fellows weekend and in the weekly prompts we spend a lot of time talking about best practices for designing Desmos activities, as well as how to structure the student experience to maximize conversation and learning.

  • Julie Reulbach and her colleagues have started using a brainstorming process before building activities which involves using Post-Its to map out your goals and main interactions. Many thanks to Desmos designer Jenny Wales for sharing this process with us during the fellows weekend.
  • Patty Stephens values the different approaches and ways of thinking around building activities. Meg Craig appreciates that even though we have very different backgrounds, we are able to come together to help each other improve activities. Having a space to ask for feedback and reflect has been instrumental in improving our use of Desmos Activities and making powerful learning experiences for students.
  • Allison Krasnow has used her learning to begin redesigning each of her past activities to be more open-ended at the beginning and include challenges at the end.
  • Dave Sabol reminds us that activity builder is just a platform, and that the medium doesn’t make and teach the lessons, the teachers do. This is a helpful reminder that as we improve our design skills, it’s important to plan for class conversations and the student experience as well.

Collaboration and Continuous Growth

As mentioned above, collaboration is valued in our community. We accomplish more by sharing ideas and receiving feedback. No community can function successfully though if it’s not a safe place. We’ve been working hard to build a safe community from the start. Many of the fellows attribute their growth and willingness to participate in the community to the fact that it feels like a safe place.

  • Stephanie Blair shares that Desmos Fellows program has helped her be a more effective teacher of mathematics by having a safe place to ask questions to learn and grow.
  • Kendra Lockman and Tony Riehl appreciated the time spent together at the fellows weekend. Tony says “Getting to know the team and other fellows personally makes a huge difference in developing trust and the willingness to share ideas.”
  • Nolan Doyle saw that one of the biggest benefits to the Desmos weekend was building a culture and connections with others that can’t happen through the the online community. During the weekend Nolan and others talked about the benefits of going outside your comfort zone and being vulnerable in meeting new people and staying open to new perspectives.
  • Scott Miller appreciates that our community of learners has a passion for trying new things and self-improvement. The Fellows program has given him a space to ask and explore questions such as “what if…”, “yes, and…”, “have you tried…”, “I am having trouble with…”, “my students loved…”, “is it possible…” and have the forward thinking stance of “not yet”.

Whether or not you’re a member of our fellowship, we hope you have a community that helps you grow in similar ways. If you’d like to become a fellow, keep an eye on our Twitter feed for application details.