Despite the hundreds of other things going on this spring, I found time to apply for the Desmos Teaching Fellowship. I was incredibly fortunate to be selected, and the Desmos team was incredibly generous to fly us all out to San Francisco for the weekend to learn from them first hand.
Unfortunately my flight was delayed two hours, but all I missed the opening ice-breaker. We spent Friday doing “Math and Mingle”, where we just hung out in the Desmos offices and did math and met other members of the fellowship. It was a nice chill time, but I was exhausted from traveling and from just finishing the MfA Summer Think conference that ended 36 hours earlier, so I don’t know that I was as sociable as I could have been. But it was nice to see some old friends that were in the fellowship!
The next day was a full day, and in the morning Michael started by leading us through the Desmos principles for activity building. The Desmos team is just so thoughtful with how they work through activities. I need to print this list out for when I make my own, because I know I definitely don’t consider all of these points. And it’s a testament to the team that so many of their activities already do. I struggle to be creative in lessons, but maybe these principles can help me build up to something.
Then we went through a bit about the design process that Desmos uses, which was really interesting, but also REALLY overwhelming for the amount of time that we had. I kicked around the idea of an activity I kind of already had, but I don’t feel like I did it enough justice.
But that was also partly because right after the Design Process section ended, Dan showed us the new features available in the computation layer of Desmos. This feature (which is currently only available to Desmos fellows) allows the user to start tweaking some of the nuts and bolts in activity builder so that the general public is able to do all the cool things that the Desmos team has been doing. You can reference values from previous pages, you can add start buttons and trigger animations, and a whole bunch of other things I’m just now figuring out. I spent hours over the weekend just working through the CL scavenger hunt to figure out what nifty things I could make. I still have two more tasks that I haven’t gotten to yet, but I already feel much more comfortable with the syntax, and I think there are going to be some absolutely incredible activities coming out of the community soon.
After an entertaining keynote by Eli during lunch, we then had some work time on a task of our choosing, and we ended the day with break-out groups. I attended the one led by Scott and Jenn on how to lead good Desmos PDs. I’ll be helping with the Desmos Summer Institute in NYC the day after I get back from TMC, and leading a PD at MfA in the spring, so I took a lot of notes on things to include. Much like teaching, a good PD session is of the you do – we do – i do variety, and it definitely informed my outline for summer institute. Then Desmos threw us a happy hour!
Sunday was our last day, and Dan led us through a sample Desmos Calculator PD (I just realized I’ve been calling all the Desmos people by their first name without any context, but I’m cool with that). Again I picked up some tips on how to lead a good Desmos PD that I’m going to throw in my toolbox for the future. The afternoon was some more work time, then we had a speed-dating session where we got to meet new people and see what they were working on. Some of the group did some CRAZY things given we only had a couple hours to work. I just showed up my kinda lame animation that I was actually really proud of, just because I managed to figure it out all by myself.
We finished the weekend off with polos, a swag bag, and pictures. Then most people went home, but a few of us came back to Desmos HQ to watch the Game of Thrones premiere. A huge shout-out to Eli for volunteering the space and his HBO account!
It was a fantastic but exhausting weekend. If I get to go next year, I’m going to make sure to give myself a break between conferences so I have energy for both. But I learned so much that I can’t wait to start implementing in my own classroom. Using more Desmos was a goal last year that wasn’t quite realized, and I hope that this year I can finally make it happen now that I’m teaching the same courses again.
And now to get ready for TMC…