Posted in conferences, presentation on December 16th, 2014 46 Comments »
Here is the talk I gave at CMC-North last weekend: Video Games & Making Math More Like Things Students Like.
Students generally prefer video games to our math classes and I wanted to know why. So I played a lot of video games and read a bit about video games and drew some conclusions. I also asked my in-laws to play two video games in front of a camera so we could watch their learning process and draw comparisons to our students.
These are the six lessons I learned:
- Video games get to the point.
- The real world is overrated.
- Video games have an open middle.
- The middle grows more challenging and more interesting at the same time.
- Instruction is visual, embedded in practice, and only as needed.
- Video games lower the cost of failure.
Tim brings storytelling to the conversation:
As one of those weird AP Lit and AP Calc teachers – and a gamer – I think “story” is key in video gaming. Psychologists (like Willingham) and sociologists talk about the “story bias” of the brain. Nearly all long video games have a heavy story element. You are a character embedded in a story, be it open-ended or scripted. So often when I’m frustrated with bad game design I’ll push through because I’m committed to the story. So often when I finish the “missions” I give up on the well-designed “side-quests” because the story has rushed out of the game and it’s just a task-garden again.
I’ll play Angry Birds for a few minutes. I’ll play Temple Run till I beat my friend’s score. But I won’t put 20 hours into a game until I find a story I want to be invested in. (In the same breath, I’ll say that – in the sense of “story” that Willingham uses it – Angry Birds and Temple Run have their stories, too. Far more than many “story” problems in math books like to pretend that have.)
Not sure how you get rich story into math. How to become characters whose adventures we become invested in, not the scripted Jane who is trying to maximize the area of his pasture or the open-ended John who is trying to find a good way to estimate the number of people in a photo.
Anyway – the first lesson I learn from video games is: humans will spend hours on a good yarn.
My Panama Canal metaphor was just a joke from the onset so I had to admire Joshua Greene’s continued debunking.
Posted in conferences on December 10th, 2014 5 Comments »
This was supposed to be a brief preamble to a post about what I learned at a recent conference, but it ballooned into this long, glowing mash note to the conference itself. You should find some way to attend next year.
California Math Council’s conference in Monterey, CA, last weekend was the best conference PD I’ve ever experienced. Your mileage may have varied depending on your session choices (or whether you were even there) but every. single. element. fell into line for me.
- Great evening keynote with Tony DeRose of Pixar. (Shorter version here.) I love keynotes that are just outside, but not too far outside our discipline.
- An excellent pick of four sessions on Saturday. There were at least three great picks in every block. Painful choices. I went out for a few names I knew would be fun (Lasek, Fenton, Stadel). But I also ventured out for a name I didn’t recognize (Barlow) and learned an enormous amount about math teaching as well as about how to talk with math teachers about math teaching. I’ll share some details in a later post, which was supposed to be this post until I got all breathless about the conference itself.
- The Ignite sessions on Saturday evening were best-in-class. They were all entertaining and interesting, which is unusual enough, but three of them drew standing ovations. Five minute talks. Standing ovations. A standing ovation off of five minutes. Don’t worry. I’ll make sure you see them later.
- The community. I get such a charge off the crowd that assembles on the Monterey Coast annually. I walked around Point Lobos with mentors, broke bread with peers, and met lots of new teachers from local programs. One of the keynote presenters and I both gave talks we had already given elsewhere and we both noted how charged up the crowds were, how great the vibe was, relative to those other venues. No idea why, but I’ll take it.
- The venue. Unbeatable.
So great job, California Math Council. Everybody else: be sure to sign up to present and attend next year.
This is a talk I gave awhile ago looking at why students hate word problems, posing five ways to improve them, and introducing this thing called “three-act math.”
Posted in conferences on October 16th, 2014 10 Comments »
Here is my speaking calendar for 2015 in case anybody is interested in attending Dan’s Blog: The Unplugged Experience. Some of these sessions are private, others have open registration pages (see the links), and others have waiting lists. Feel free to send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with inquiries about any of them. It’d be a treat to see you at a workshop or a conference.
BTW. Delaware, Idaho, Nebraska, Rhode Island, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Wyoming will complete my United States bingo card. If you’re the sort of person who schedules these kinds of sessions for a school or district or conference in any of those states, please get in touch.
Two quick meta-items about blogging from the last week:
- I attended Twitter Math Camp 2014 in Jenks, OK, in which 150 math teachers who generally only interact online get together in person. I gave a keynote that could probably best be described as “data-rich,” in which I downloaded and analyzed details on 12,000 blogging and tweeting math teachers. Here are links to my slides and speech as well as the CSVs if you want to analyze some data yourself. (Who doesn’t!)
- A doctoral student in Canada is interested in blogging as “unmediated professional growth” and sent me a survey about my blogging. Here is a link to my responses. How would you have answered?