Saturday, October 3, 2015

Reflections on Desmos Activities

We've been in school now for a month and a half, and I've managed to make it out to number of classes to try and observe Desmos activities on Activity Builder.  We've had some hits and misses (though more hits!), and I find myself making tweaks as I go.  It's been helpful to reflect on the lessons with each teacher, and I recently got some feedback from an administrator as well.

I wanted to record a few reflection points, mostly so I don't forget, and also in case it is helpful for others.  

  • Open up the teacher dashboard on an iPad or tablet so that you can monitor student work as you circulate the class.  During my last lesson I also kept a post-it note with me so I could take down names of student work to share with the class during debrief time. Doing this also helped me decide when we should debrief and keep track of time.
  • One-to-one tends to lead to students working in isolation.  We started noticing this last year in our classes, and we've seen the same thing on Activity Builder.  Two students per one device might work better.
  • If you are using Desmos as part of the instruction, consider pacing as well as where to stop for additional instruction.  If you have an exploration screen, allow students plenty of time to explore, discuss, and share out, and then bring the class together for some explicit instruction.  Consider going back to an exploration screen for students to use during a warmup or problem set the next day.  This might be the biggest reflection point of all for me, as it is helping me be more thoughtful about what the objective is for each lesson and how I can help students meet that objective.
  • For what it's worth, nearly all of the activities that I have ever done with technology in a math class take way longer than I thought they would.

That's it for now.  Any thoughts on this?  Anything to add?


  1. Super helpful reflections, Shelley. I posted this to our internal chat. I said I thought you had the most activities created / run / curated out of anybody, which makes this really valuable. I wonder if you'd find it helpful to be able to tap a star next to student work, to be used in a discussion later. Help or hinderance? Any guesses?

  2. I'd definitely appreciate and make use of that feature. Teachers I've worked with have asked if there is any way to hide the student name when sharing student work with the class. I think they would be more likely to use the feature if they had the option to hide/show names.

    Pre-Activity Builder, we did similar lessons using Google Docs. A powerful PD activity was looking at common misconceptions and exemplars, and discussing next steps for our classes. This didn't happen often though, as the process to sift through student work was time consuming. Having the ability to star student work could support this type of collaboration and reflection amongst teachers.