dy/av : 008 : preview

The question comes up once per episode: what tools do you use?

I should have compiled a colophon or an FAQ long ago. Tomorrow I’ll take you behind the spikey-topped gates of dy/av studios, but the tour won’t cover many technical specs so I’ll use this space for the colophon:

Hardware. Canon GL2, primary camera. Canon PowerShot S800, secondary cameraa small point-and-shoot useful for shots which demand I (eg.) sniff deodorant covertly in a supermarket. PowerMacG5 (Quad Core, 2.5 GHz, 4.5 GB RAM, ridiculous). Sennheiser Microphone.

Software. Final Cut Pro, the basic sequencer. Adobe Photoshop & After Effects, the one-two punch responsible for anything especially interesting (cf. that bridge shot in the second episode; all of episode seven).

Time. approx. 12 hours per episode split across three hours pre-production (writing), two hours production (shooting), seven hours post-production (editing).

Music. Three artists, almost exclusively. Lykke Li. Jay Z’s live set at Glastonbury. Mike Skinner.

Motivating Question

The ultimate end of your classroom structures should be invisibility. eg. The best classroom management is unnoticeable. The best classroom lesson plan camouflages the planning while pushing the learning to the foreground. The extreme opposite of this is the teacher who creates a new seating chart every day.

  • How have you set up your classroom routine so that the wires and pulleys disappear?
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. Love this question, Dan. Anxious to see what you do with it both technically and conceptually.

    My initial response re: my own classroom goals:

    Make certain that the subject itself (10th grade Eng, in my case) is never the end-game of why we show up every day.

    This means simultaneously hiding the nuts/bolts (grammar, et al) as much as possible while being unapologetic in demanding that my students re-imagine every assumption they walk in the door with on day one. It also means making sure that every novel, assignment, and skill set we tackle is something that has customizable legs in the real world my students will face in their futures, not just in the department faculty lounge I was trained in.

    Writing, analysis, voice/presentation, editing, etc. are all noble feats that I’m happy to say my students do quite well with, but combined they synthesize into something far more significant over time.

    And such a synthesis can’t be contained by the traditional curricular heading of ‘English’ when it’ll matter most for them down the road.

  2. Oh wait I’m not supposed to change the seating chart every day? Damn.

    What’s a colophon?

    OK in all seriousness, ahem. Two things: priority goes to interesting problems, and set it up so the kids do as much of the talking as possible.

    We’ve had the “interesting problem” discussion here before. Accessible but not easy, tapping into the natural curiosity school hasn’t beaten out of them yet, requiring the incidental discovery (somehow) of math you want them to learn anyway, intentionally poorly defined so they have to learn how to ask good questions. I believe in this approach, but it’s incredibly difficult to do it well. But when it works, look out.

    Making the kids talk/work, I suspect, is going to go out of fashion shortly as the pendulum swings back to effective lecturing, but I am going to be stubborn about it. If I’m doing all the work, I’m learning, and all but the most tenacious auditory learners are out to lunch. I try very hard to keep lecturing to under 10 minutes.

    I don’t have any other crazy tricks up my sleeve. I try to make class interesting, be approachable and reasonable, and make it advantageous for them to cooperate. That’s the ideal anyway. I’m only entering year 4 so I have lots of improving to do.

  3. Well shoot. Those are both better responses than what I’m rocking tomorrow. Another note on the video tip: re-edits are downright impossible if you’re working on a deadline. What’s shot is shot.