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Riley Lark’s Red Dot

We know there are important steps [pdf] you can take to ready students for an explanation of key concepts. Riley Lark is helping you do several of them very easily with his open source ActivePrompt project. While Dave Major and I continue to bat around very specific implementations of digital curricula, Riley has created an extremely open framework, useful for all kinds of purposes.

This is everything: the student sees an image and has to place a red dot somewhere on top of it according to instructions given by the teacher. It sounds too simple to be of any use.

Two Uses

Drag the red dot to where you put the cafeteria so that it’s the same distance from each school.

Drag the red dot to where line m will intersect line n.

You see where this goes, right? Even with the second prompt, which isn’t explicitly “real world” in the sense that we usually mean it, students now have experience with the context, which makes it real to them.

Then we start to abstract it and help students work with these concepts:

These brief experiences help immensely to set up and motivate the explanation that follows. It would be great (note to Riley) if the teacher could establish the correct answer at the end of the task (a teacher dot) which would then inform the students how close their guesses came. Also: student names on mouseover, mobile compatibility, vertical lines, and horizontal lines.

You can play with it immediately on Heroku. Be sure to link up your creations in the comments so we can all play along.

BTW. My hope in sharing Dave Major’s work and Riley Lark’s ActivePrompt and my own experiments is that you will become agitated and unhappy with whatever curriculum you are currently using, and that you will express that agitation and unhappiness to the people who publish and sell you that curriculum. None of us are anywhere close to nailing the question, “What do you do on day [x] with concept [y]?” for the entire set of x and y. But before we answer that question, we need to define the modern digital textbook. So here’s my pullquote definition, heavily informed by Dave and Riley’s work:

The modern digital textbook isn’t a collection of content to be consumed. It’s a collection of experiences, of which content consumption is only one part.

Riley Lark’s red dot is one of those experiences.

2012 Nov 29. Riley Lark takes you behind the scenes and shows off several creative ActivePrompts.

2012 Dec 4. Learning Catalytics (a for-profit product) seems to have done a lot of good work in this area already.

17 Responses to “Riley Lark’s Red Dot”

  1. on 29 Nov 2012 at 9:19 pmChris Shore

    RE: Content vs Experiences… The word curriculum literally translates to mean “Racecourse.”

  2. on 30 Nov 2012 at 7:49 amRiley

    I’m super-surprised by how useful the app seems, and glad about it! Also, the venerable Dave Major has already fixed the mobile problem (you can fix or change things too at https://github.com/rileylark/activeprompt ). I can’t wait to see a promised video of students cooperating to make a star shape on a grid.

    Very exciting! The app took between 10 and 20 hours of work, which makes me really hopeful for what other possibilities there are for spare-time programmers.

    This is all possible because of the new “Firebase.” Check it out and get an invite – it’s _super cool._

  3. on 30 Nov 2012 at 5:11 pmDavid

    I’m curious if any of you have thoughts on the best way to make this kind of approach (having students make an estimate, then look at the class’s estimates) work in an asynchronous environment. Particularly, what happens when the first student marks their guess, and there’s no other student guesses yet for them to continue working off of? In-class they can just wait a couple minutes, but online we don’t want students to have to wait until the next day to continue working. Is the best solution to just seed the system with some reasonable guesses?

  4. on 01 Dec 2012 at 6:42 pmMike C

    One question. How long will the links last?

    Just made the above site to host your beautiful creation btw.

    I’v been following you Dan for a few years quietly by the sidelines. I can’t believe how quickly your ideas are coming to fruition. It gives me a lot of hope for the future

  5. on 01 Dec 2012 at 6:57 pmMike C

    Some more thoughts….
    1. instead of the red dot lasting until the user exits their site, have it last for 10 mins or some duration.
    2. Any way for the dot to be locked in place once I open the teacher link? I’m imagining using this in a computer lab or with iPads and projecting their responses. I know once the students figure out when they move the dot it will move on the screen it will be a free for all.

  6. on 02 Dec 2012 at 7:07 amKevin Hall

    If you’d like to have more students use these online modules you’re creating, and if you’d like some data on how effective they are, I have a suggestion that would be easy to implement.

    Back in October, Dan wrote a post about three “Horrible Math Adaptive Systems” (http://blog.mrmeyer.com/?p=15273). The first one in Dan’s post is run by a research group at Worcester Polytech. Students do homework online, and when the system sees that they’re getting questions on a certain topic wrong, it recommends external webpages for them to view.

    This is a pretty new feature of the adaptive system. The researchers think they can use it to measure which external websites actually do a good job of explaining things. For example, if students who can’t solve 2x+4=9 on their first try are sent to one of Dan’s online modules before trying the next equation, their success on that next problem will be a measure of the effectiveness of Dan’s module (albeit not a measure of deep comprehension).

    Personally, I believe that modules such as the ones that Dan’s proposing will be dramatically more effective than Khan and the other things out there now. But wouldn’t it be nice to have some data to show the rest of the world that that’s the case? Then this project could start to shift the national conversation about online math, instead of existing just in its own world of awesomeness.

    I’m not one of the WPI researchers, but I imagine all you’d have to do is ask them to include your modules in the set of randomly-assigned links they send students to for remediation during problem sets. Since Dan is pretty high-profile, they’d probably agree.

    What do you guys think?

    Oh, here is a 2011 article about this new feature of their system: http://web.cs.wpi.edu/~nth/pubs_and_grants/papers/2012/ITS/Gong%20submission_189.pdf

  7. on 02 Dec 2012 at 4:33 pmJoseph

    Not entirely on topic, but found on the internet:

    http://marnanel.livejournal.com/1547111.html

    Maths

    When I was six, my class was given an arithmetic test at school. One question said:

    “Write a story about the sum 12+4=16.”

    And I was confused about this, because it happened that I’d been away on the day when they explained about word problems. I had no idea at all what the question could be asking for. After several minutes of thinking, I wrote:

    “One day, the sum 12+4=16 went out for a walk. Then it came back. The end.”

  8. on 03 Dec 2012 at 9:17 amDan Meyer

    David:

    I’m curious if any of you have thoughts on the best way to make this kind of approach (having students make an estimate, then look at the class’s estimates) work in an asynchronous environment. Particularly, what happens when the first student marks their guess, and there’s no other student guesses yet for them to continue working off of? In-class they can just wait a couple minutes, but online we don’t want students to have to wait until the next day to continue working. Is the best solution to just seed the system with some reasonable guesses?

    Dave Major and I have talked about this problem at length. Our conclusion was the same as yours.

  9. on 03 Dec 2012 at 10:58 amMike C

    I have it all set up at my website for inequalities. I cant wait to see the students shade in a number line with all their guesses.

    https://sites.google.com/site/mrcampbellatths/lessons/inequalities

  10. on 03 Dec 2012 at 11:27 amRiley

    Hey Mike – I’m excited to see what happens! Double-check those links, though – it looks like the images are broken. Let me know if you need help figuring out what’s broken~

  11. on 04 Dec 2012 at 9:03 amMike C

    They work on my mac. And if i right click I can download the image. I put them in as pdf’s, does that matter?

  12. on 04 Dec 2012 at 9:07 amRiley

    I wouldn’t expect PDFs to work. Maybe Safari is more clever about it – the images look broken in Chrome and Firefox

  13. [...] done by Dan Meyer and others in graphing stories, 101qs.com, the 3 act stories, and most recently the dead simple but amazingly versatile red dot. There are people like Shawn Cornally who are doing work that is just fundamentally impressive. [...]

  14. [...] his Riley Lark’s Red Dot post, which gives examples of worthwhile tasks which I will write about in another post, Dan opens with [...]

  15. on 22 Jan 2013 at 5:56 pmSteve Thomas

    I made a version of Riley’s balance scale using Scratch 2.0 (alpha) with cloud variables.

    http://mrstevesscience.blogspot.com/2013/01/balance-scale-test.html

    The advantage of Scratch is it is easier for a teachers to use and create their own “active prompts” Also it wouldn’t be limited to just placing red dots.

    Now its far from perfect, first its in Scratch 2.0 which is alpha.
    Second, I would probably want to modify it, so you didn’t see all the answers until everyone had guessed (or at least most students).

  16. on 23 Jan 2013 at 8:24 pmSteve Thomas

    Sorry, seems it only works if you have a Scratch 2.0 password. Will repost when all can access.

  17. […] lessons with integrated, formative polling. I'm talking about Riley Lark's ActivePrompt software built right into the […]