Background. I’ll share an activity. Offer some ideas on what’s wrong. Invite you to share your own diagnosis/treatment. Then (end of week) share an upgraded version of the activity. (More details about this series are available here.)
Activity and Diagnosis
A couple years ago, I sat against the wall in my sons’ bedroom, taking screenshots of my smartphone once every four minutes for an entire evening. (Why, you ask? For math!)
About a year ago, I created an Activity Builder version of the task. And I’ve never been satisfied with it.
I think it’s better than nothing at all, but undeniably worse than the slide-driven, conversation-rich, paper-and-pencil version I posted on my blog a while back.
When it comes to the Desmos activity building code, this activity—even in its AB-powered form—succeeds on several fronts, including “create problematic activities” and “connect representations” (among others).
However, it struggles in ways that overshadow its strengths. Most notably:
#5 – Give students opportunities to be right and wrong in different, interesting ways. The AB version of Charge! feels too scripted. Too narrow. Rather uninteresting. “Do this. Now this. Next, this. Now do this.” And so on, all the way through the activity. There’s really just one path, and the activity leads students along it with minimal opportunity (or even need) for careful reflection or critical thought.
#8 – Create objects that promote mathematical conversations between teachers and students. This is a tricky one. I believe the activity could generate classroom discussion, but that the sheer number of screens works against that possibility, rather than in support of it. Let’s assume a 50-minute class period, with 45-minutes dedicated to this activity. That’s just 2.5 minutes per screen, which isn’t terribly conducive to classroom discussions. It might be wise to trim the number of screens so that there’s room for deeper discussions on a smaller set of screens.
#13 – Ask proxy questions. Would I recommend this activity? Nope. Not in its current form. I’d be much more comfortable recommending the original slide-based version. With the activity parsed into 18 step-by-step style screens, there’s no one screen with anything really interesting happening on it. One of my colleagues likes to consider the quality of an activity by asking whether any of the work students do on a given screen could be considered fridge-worthy. In other words, if they could print it out and take it home to show mom and dad, would it end up on the fridge as a proud display of something deep or delightful? Again, because I’ve chopped the interesting work in Charge! into 18 tiny bits, the answer is no. Nothing fridge-worthy in this approach.
- Will you offer your own diagnosis? A second opinion of sorts? What do you think is wrong with this activity?
- Better yet, will you offer suggestions for your own treatment? How would you make this activity better?
- Better still, will you build and share a new, better activity that addresses the shortcomings identified in one of the diagnoses?
Drop a line (or two) in the comments, or let me know what you think on Twitter (@mjfenton).
I’ll be back Friday with a new treatment of my own.