I thrilled to say that today I achieved a professional goal that I had set for myself back in the summer of 2015. Today I presented at the NCTM regional conference in Kansas City.
As I sit here tonight, I wanted to take a moment to reflect and record my thoughts much like Jennifer Fairbanks did a few weeks ago. I found Jennifer’s reflection and tips very helpful when preparing for this conference, so thank you Jennifer. People helping people…
The realization that I might actually be a quality presenter at an NCTM conference came to last October when I attended the NCTM regional in Orlando. It was there where I gained the confidence and motivation to take action toward being a presenter. I attended a couple of sessions put on by Desmos Fellows and saw how powerful their presentations were. I knew I could present something on Desmos and it would be helpful to whoever attended. I noticed that Kansas City was hosting a regional conference this year. Kansas City is a short 6 hour drive from Brookings; I knew I wouldn’t find an NCTM regional conference much closer anytime soon.
When the session proposal window opened, there was a lot of buzz in the Desmos Slack about people planning to attend the three regional conferences this fall. Fellow Jessica Breur (@BreurBreur) and I agreed to present together and we decided to submit two proposals, with our fingers crossed at least one would be accepted.
One proposal, “Facilitating Productive Classroom Conversations with Desmos Activities,” was approved. I shared the news with Jessica and we were excited.
Jessica and I have both presented a number of times and various conferences on this topic. We both had same idea of how the session should run. I need to give Jessica a lot of credit for taking the lead on the planning and preparation. We used an older presentation of hers as our starting point and made appropriate adjustments to fit our needs. On the eve of our presentation, we met after dinner to practice and made final tweaks.
Our presentation was scheduled for 9:45 am this morning. I arrived at the room plenty early. Jessica arrived a few minutes later. Once the session before ours ended, we headed into the room and set up. Jessica connected her computer to my phone’s hotspot to ensure we had strong WiFi for our presentation.
Jessica and I had planned to float around the room to introduce ourselves as people started to settle in. Our goal was to get a feel for the Desmos knowledge and experience in the room in case there was a need to adjust our presentation at all. We correctly assumed there would be a wide variety of users in attendance. As the room started to fill, we began to fail at our goal of introducing ourselves to everyone. Soon every seat in the room was taken and people were being turned away at the door.
We began our presentation with brief introductions and then jumped right into Marbleslides. We asked participants to team up with a neighbor and to complete the activity. We soon found out that the WiFi was going to struggle to support the 90+ users in the room. Some people started using their phones for hotspots, while others simply tried the activity on their phones.
After about two minutes of floating around the room and seeing a lot of people struggling to get into the activity, we decided to go off script. Our original plan was for participants to take on the role of a student and complete the activity in pairs. Instead, I went into the activity as a student and talked them through what the students would be doing in the activity. I also modeled what a teacher would be seeing on the dashboard and showed off some of the conversations tools. We were able to answer a few questions from the audience before moving on.
Jessica then led the next piece focused on the Pool Border Problem. It is such a great activity to use to generate a variety of responses. Jessica did a superb job of demonstrating how to use Snapshots and modeled so many great teacher moves.
We then had participants play Polygraph: Quadratics for a few minutes. While walking around the room, I could sense the enjoyment from the participants. Polygraph is a pretty simple activity to understand and when have a room full of math teachers and ask them to play with math, the results tend to be pretty solid.
Jessica and I had a Card Sort ready to unleash if time allowed for it. Unfortunately, largely in part thanks to the WiFi issues, we were behind schedule already and decided to bypass the Card Sort activity.
Next on our agenda was to give an overview of the teacher.desmos.com site. Jessica handled the discussion of how to search for an activity and how to navigate around the teacher site. I spoke on what it looks like when you go to the activity screen and how to preview an activity and generate a classroom code. There was a lot of information presented in a short amount of time; I wish we had a bit more time to talk in more detail about those features.
Lastly, we gave participants about 10 minutes to create a Desmos account if they didn’t already have one, browse around the teacher site, and search for an activity they could take back into their classroom. Some participants headed out the door to their next session (there were some overlapping times for sessions). We were able to answer a lot of questions on an individual basis.
Overall, I thought the presentation went very well. I hope the people who attended were able to take something away from it. I really hope those who had not heard about the Desmos activities will take a chance and use one in their classroom. Their students will thank them if they do.
A couple of quick shout outs. First, thanks to Joel (@joelbezaire), Hedge (@approx_normal), and Annie (@mrsforest) for attending our session and for the positive vibes on Twitter. Second, shout out to Jessica for being a superb co-presenter. It was great working with you. Third, thank you to the administration at Brookings School District for supporting the professional growth of your staff and allowing me professional leave to attend these conferences. I learn a lot while at these conferences and always bring back something new for my students.
Finally, a shout out to my wife Stephanie and my kids for allowing me to chase my dreams. I’m no SuperDad, but I know it’s not easy when I leave town for a few days. I love you all!