February 14th, 2009 by Dan Meyer
I do my best not to worsen the problem of uncritical, impatient thought, but my best effort at a solution to the problem is What Can You Do With This? where we pull the world into our classrooms through digital media artifacts.
I have spent the last month trying to determine a framework for capturing and presenting these artifacts effectively, a framework that will differentiate effective and ineffective use, that will explain why some of these artifacts provoke lousy questioning, forcing the teacher to gesture and explain and prod, shooting blanks wildly at the target of real-world relevance, while others are sublime, provoking different routes to different, equally justifiable answers to interesting questions.
I presented my usual PowerPoint dog-and-pony show to UC Berkeley's math/science teacher cohort on Monday. I had an extra half hour so I decided to test this framework to see if any of my ramblings here make any sense whatsoever.
The short answer is that, yes, off a brief introduction, most everyone could see why your textbook's halfhearted stab at real-world relevance withers next to a single, compelling image, to which we gradually apply a mathematical framework, only as students request it.
I reckon the majority of my time-strapped readership checked out of that one pretty fast. As drama, it's kind of boring. As digital media instruction, though, it's a road map and a full tank of gas.
You realize quickly that the camera won't move, that there isn't a soundtrack to establish the mood. (Should I be tense? Eager?) And then certain synapses of your brain start firing. You start constructing meaning from the scene however you can. You scan the margins. You check pedestrians for malicious intent. You notice you're in an affluent neighborhood. You try to identify the protagonist.
The cameraman, the editor, and the composer are all on a coffee break. It's on you to ask the difficult questions. It's on you to find their answers within the scene and defend them. It's on you to become patient with irresolution.