Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Desmos Fellowship 2017 Reflection

I’m writing this blog post on my flight home from San Francisco.  I figure I’d better transition my thoughts into words before I return home to the responsibilities of being a father of four. 
The Desmos Fellows weekend was awesome.  It was everything I had imagined plus 120% more.  Here are some highlights, in no particular order…

Star Shock – Team Desmos
When I first arrived at the Desmos Headquarters on Friday afternoon, who other than Dan Meyer (@ddmeyer) was there greeting us at the door.  I’ve met Dan before on two separate occasions, but this one felt a bit different.  Inside the HQ, I cross paths with Shelley Carranza (@stcarranza).  I introduce myself to Michael Fenton (@mjfenton).  Not long after, Eli Luberoff (@eluberoff) enters the room. 

As introductions begin, I realize that I’m sitting in the chair that Desmos programmer Denis Lantsman (@dlants) typically sits in.  Jenny Wales (@jenny_wales), Cori McElwain (@CoriMcElwain), and Zack Ellis (@overZellis) are sitting nearby.  Many of the people who are responsible for creating activities I use in my classroom are all here.

As the weekend continued, I was able to interact a lot with the team from Desmos.  During lunch on Saturday, Michael and I had a conversation about our children.  I picked Dan’s brain about his thoughts on transitioning some 3-ACT tasks into Activity Builder.  I asked Eli if he is planning on billing SDCTM for his travel to South Dakota this past February.  I listened to Jenny talk about how neat New Orleans is.  All of these conversations helped the shock wear off a bit.

Michael Fenton, Jarrod, and I

Star Shock – The Fellowship
Prior to arriving, there was a lot of activity on Twitter and on the Desmos Slack from members of the Fellowship.  Some of the Fellows I had been following on Twitter for years.  I have read their blogs and borrowed their ideas and favorite lessons.  I felt like I knew a little bit about some of the Fellows but in a very impersonal way.

The personalization of those connections began even before I set foot in California.  In route to San Francisco, I had a stop in Denver.  While there, I met Jon Orr (@MrOrr_geek) and Angela Reilly Harden (@angelarh).  In the weeks leading up to the Fellows weekend, I had worked with Jon on an Activity Builder centered on algebra and “Two Truths and a Lie”.  Jon and Angela joined Jarrod (my Brookings colleague and fellow Fellow) and I and the four of us exchanged stories as we found our way to our hotel.

As I drifted around the room at Desmos HQ, I found myself shaking hands with a number of familiar names from Twitter and MTBoS.  I recognized some names from activities found in Desmos.  I started to wonder how I was selected to be a part of such a talented group of people.

Jon Orr and I

Professional Development
A big highlight of mine was being able to listen to the PD sessions put on by the Desmos team. 

Saturday morning, Michael gave a presentation about the Principles for Activity Building.  He had us work through Point Collector as a student and then analyze which design principles were being used during the activity.  It was great to do a deep dive into the 13 design principles.

Jenny and Shelley presented on the Desmos design process.  I learned a really cool strategy for creating activities that uses 8-squares and sticky notes.

Eli spoke to the group about the history and evolution of Desmos.  It was awesome to see some of the artifacts Eli was able to access and inspiring to hear about the future of Desmos.

Scott Miller (@smiller229) and Jenn Vadnais (@rilesblue) presented a session on strong presentation moves when speaking about Desmos.  I really enjoyed learning ways that I can improve my skill level as a presenter.

Dan led a two hour session focused on working with teachers and how to become a Desmos Certified presenter.  I really enjoyed learning about the types of things the team at Desmos wants us to be focusing on while giving presentations.  One big takeaway from Dan’s session was that technology allows teachers and students to co-construct the experience.  I hope to become a Desmos Certified presenter soon.

Michael's Presentation

Eli speaking about the history of Desmos

New Tools
Dan also led a session that introduced the Fellows to a new tool that we have access to inside of Activity Builder called Computation Layer (CL).  CL grants access into more of the guts of Activity Builder and allows creators to do a number of things that previously couldn’t have been done.  With my limited computer programming experience, I understand about 3.14% of what I have access to in CL.  During our work sessions, I learned a lot about CL thanks largely to Paul Jorgens (@pejorgens) and Angela.  I plan to continue to learn more about programming and using CL.

I’m very excited to see what some of the brightest Fellows can create for us to use these next few months.

Dan showing us CL.

Angela, Paul, and I

The City
This was my first time ever in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Jarrod and I enjoyed exploring the city.  Items we checked off our bucket list include seeing Alcatraz Island, the Golden Gate Bridge, riding a Cable Car, and eating at House of Prime Rib.  The weather was beautiful and the food was excellent.
Golden Gate @ Sunset
Hangin' on the Cable Car
Totally Impressed!

I’m excited to be part of this awesome group of people.  They re-kindled my fire to improve my practice, be a leader, and help change how student experience mathematics.

Desmos HQ

I love the fact that there is every issue of Mathematics Teacher in house.

Desmos Fellowship 2017

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