For quite some time now Dan Meyer has been posting compelling images and video over at his blog and asking math teachers “What Can You Do With This?” (WCYDWT). In essence, how can you use media to help students identify perplexing questions that you can then go about and solve using math. The discussions on Dan’s WCYDWT posts are always pretty interesting resulting in lots of great ideas to take into the classroom. Dan’s upped the ante lately with WCYDWT live. Here’s how he put the word out about the first session. Online in DimDim: 20 people, 45 minutes, 1 compelling piece of media. Go!
This past Saturday I was fortunate enough to be one of the 20 for the second WCYDWT Live session.
On the Set Up
I’m taking the open course Facilitating Online 2010 so Dan’s session was interesting to me from that point of view as well as from a math educator point of view. I hadn’t used dimdim before, so it was interesting to see what it was like. I did have some audio problems so unfortunately I missed some key parts of the session at the beginning. I was impressed with how dimdim worked–definitely not as feature rich as Elluminate, but it gets the job done at a great price–free.
Invites to the dimdim room were sent out 30 minutes ahead of time. Some folks on the list were getting a little squirrelly as they’d not converted time zones properly and were worried that they missed their chance. At precisely 3pm Dan got things going. He presented the media (a clip from the movie Holes). When he asked us what perplexing question the clip raised he employed a simple but effective technique. He asked us to type in our response, but not hit enter until he gave the word. This allowed everyone to get their ideas down without being distracted by other ideas popping up in the chat window. Nice!
We worked through the problem (you can see all the details here) and the messages in the chat area were flying fast and furious. This was the first time in a long time that I was in an online session and felt overwhelmed with the chat. I’d start typing something in, see what others had just said, delete mine try again and so on. I think this was partly because the session was so focussed on a particular problem and not a more general discussion.
Model for Online PD
Right at 3:45 Dan wound up the session. It started when he said it would, it ended when he said it would. He respected our time and didn’t ‘take’ any more than advertised. The 45 minutes was totally focussed and left me wanting more. Definitely a model to follow! He did not spend any time on ice breakers or a run through of how to use the tools. In this case I think it worked, because when people texted in their tech problems, someone in the group was usually kind enough to offer assistance. I think it was also reasonable to assume that Dan’s blog readership are generally pretty tech savvy and would just figure things out.
For details on the specifics of the Math problem, how Dan rolled it out, and the ensuing discussion please check out these posts and associated comments: Promo (how he advertised the session), Problem and Analysis (the lesson and how it went), Postscript (gotta remember to make my own students feel this good ).