Chicago Follow-Up

  • You noticed, didn’t you?

    Pat yourself on the back if you must, but know that the irony of a post on “brevity” running longer than that oft-referenced Tolstoy novel wasn’t lost on me. I took that post through seven draftsIdle, agenda-less curiosity: does the rest of the edublogosphere get it right in one take or, if not, how many drafts do you run through on an average post? and, even after burning back a lot of brush, I knew I’d catch some heat. I blame all your Twitter-addled attention spans.

    Anway, to minimize reader fatigue, it’s worth mentioning that I did what anyone oughtta: add pictures! Kinda symmetrically too:

  • None of you seemed to mind my four-slide sales pitch, though, and I just want to point out again how little technical skill it required:

    We stole photos and scanned handwriting. The end.

    You wanna get cute, you add some yellow and a small blur to age photos which were taken, like, last week. Maybe you toss on a drop shadow so the handwritten captions seem to rest on the photos.

    The challenge was writing compelling copy. (I attached three different punchlines to that final slide.) The challenge was pairing the best copy with the best photo. (Not all pairings are equal.) The challenge was enlarging the photos and positioning them so the kid was slightly off frame. The kid wasn’t the focus. The challenge was deciding where to place focus.

    And whatever skill I have at meeting those challenges, I promise, it didn’t come from a math degree at a public college. It came from asking those questions, “what is essential?” and “can I say it with less?” with everything I make: slides, lessons, posts, photos, everything.

    If you’re into throwing money at problems, though, you can pick up a digital subscription to Before & After magazine, one of the absolute best periodicals for practical design and digestible theory, for $24USD. They’ve got some freebies waiting for you.

  • Finally, watch this space. We’re bringing a contest your way soon. I want to see what you can do with four visual slides and zero multimedia gimmicks.
I'm Dan and this is my blog. I'm a former high school math teacher and current head of teaching at Desmos. He / him. More here.


  1. Long-time reader; first-time poster here.

    At the risk of being Capt. Obvious, while your “four-slide sales pitch” didn’t require much technical skill, it probably did require a great deal of what we like to see in our students: critical thinking skills, analysis, and evaluation.

    As much as I love utilizing technology in my teaching, I also am very wary of technology for technology’s sake. You don’t need a lot of bells and whistles to jam their little brains squarely up into the top third or so of Bloom’s taxonomy. Technology is just one tool a creative, connected educator uses to help his students develop those higher-level skills.

    I always enjoy reading your stuff, Dan. Keep it up.

  2. PS – on your aside – I fussed over my first blog post for nearly an hour last night – definitely not a one-take job (yet).

  3. Depends. Sometimes they’ll go straight from my head to the page (they’re using the ones full of spelling mistakes) and others will have had several days tweaking before they appear online. Usually depends on the content (and how controversial I’m being) and how much time I’ve got!