dy/av : 010 : the season finale

dy/av : 010 : the season finale from Dan Meyer on Vimeo.


dyav, autobiographical

iPod Edition

dy/av : 010 : the season finale (640 x 480)

Previous Episodes

dy/av : 009 : don’t be prez
dy/av : 008 : behind the scenes
dy/av : 007 : the motiongraphics episode
dy/av : 006 : carver’s classroom management
dy/av : 005 : how i work
dy/av : 004 : thank you, teaching
dy/av : 003 : on the office
dy/av : 002 : the next-gen lecturer
dy/av : 001 : earn the medium

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. This is an incredible answer to my “Huh?” at the end of last week’s video. Love the music; love the effects; love the story. I just might have to add this video to my list as a way to look at different elements of plot. Relying on visuals, not words, to tell the story was such a smart choice. Fantastic conclusion. Next summer, another set?

    As I’ve written already, congratulations! I look forward to how this impacts the way you view teaching, the way you view the amount of time you spend at/on work, the way that time you commit turns into a condensed version of what you’ve done in the past, and the way you make concessions when to do otherwise would be disastrous. The “smarter, not harder” adage is trite, but I am desperately looking at how to do exactly that.

  2. Wiping a tear from my eye….

    Seriously congrats on a fine piece of work. I recall questioning your ability to complete the series but am glad you persevered. Did you plan out all 10 ahead of production? What influenced your decisions? Would you do it again?

    I love the constraints you used in this project. I think I need to get inside your computer again, skype you and get some of these answers. You game?

  3. An amazing piece of work and I watched in awe. I echo Todd in looking forward to seeing how your new status in life influences your view of time/life balance and the amount of time devoted to the “extras” in your profession. Yet again, congratulations and bravo for the excellent production here……..when I grow up I want to be able to do this kind of thing too.

  4. Thanks, thanks.

    I posted this one without preview or comment mostly because it’s my most personal episode and therefore (from my perspective) the least useful to you. (Stager passed out on the keyboard at this one.) But it was an episode (and, particularly, a final visual/audio cue) I intended from the start.

    If you’re totally uninterested in the farty minutiae of my day-to-day – and who can blame you – an interesting place to start with this kind of autobiographical piece – or any documentary where the subject is obviously aware of the camera’s presence – is to ask yourself a) what does this guy want to reveal about his life, and b) what does this guy inadvertently reveal about his life? Obviously, for the guy, you’d like (a) and (b) to be the same but they rarely ever are. Take a whack at it in the comments and don’t spare the whip. I need to work on this.

    And, yeah, thanks for the marriage well-wishes. I’m not sure at all how this will play out, if I’ll be able to get days like the one I just depicted in check, to keep the hours down, but I sort of suspect she and I will work it out.

    I can’t rule out future videos but, at this exact moment, another round of ten is the last thing on my mind. I’m fairly proud of the products themselves but I’m intensely proud that I kept up the weekly releases through the summer, through my wedding and honeymoon. The (self-imposed) pressure was exhilarating but, I’ve gotta admit, fairly exhausting.

    Can someone tell me how we can best close this out? Are there questions still unanswered about the process?

    @Jackie, that last line is significant (to me) but not in the sort of career-ending way it might suggest. It’s meant to suggest you now know me as a person, not just as a teacher. Maybe that’s a reach, but after closing nine episodes with the same tagline, a slight tweak amounts to a great deal of emotional heft.

  5. Love how Stager relates that he found you through Will. Many months ago, iJohn helped me do the same. And heck, have to admit that I have a hard time finding the time to follow everything, much less the amazing job you do in creating it. From your resignation last year, through your wedding related here – you not only personify an amazing teacher and edtech evangelist, but you epitomize what it is to be an amazing PERSON who also happens to be an educator.

    So I challenge your words that this might be the “least useful to you.” You have inspired many with your efforts, both inside the classroom, and out.

    Many happy returns on all of your recent life changes!

  6. I had to take a break before reading the comments.

    You totally won me over to video with this one.

    The more personal story got me–I’m a people watcher, SoAn major after all.

    But this is the first one that convinced me of the power of seeing things. The other episodes built on what you’ve said in previous posts, but nothing felt monumental to me. And while you’ve talked about late hours, working at coffee shops, work-life balance before somehow seeing it illustrated made me feel guilty for my lazy morning. (We have a 5-day weekend for a pow-wow before school begins. Reply to Twitter question: here they get us back 3 weeks before school begins. Though I didn’t find out about week 3 until a week and a half before it happened.)

    I’m with Jackie, missing the last-line, but the explanation makes sense. And it fits with the video. Just still feels

    A better way to close out? I just watched the video for a second time. Left me pining for nonschool, nonhome places to work, so I’m off the a library for a serious unit-planning, materials-creating shift.

  7. Dan, don’t assume that since this was a more personal video, it was less useful to us out here. This was well worth 3:14 of a really busy day for me, and I’m glad you posted it.

  8. 1) I loved this last one *because* you drop the monologue and make it personal. In doing this, as opposed to the previous episodes, you most closely follow your own Do No Harm Powerpoint advice: chuck the words. You *show* it all instead, and consequently I feel you best utilized the tools of your medium here (harkening back, again, to your own advice in ep 1). I feel that I learned more about you as a teacher than all the others put together.

    2) Also this is arguably the episode which had –ta da– the most cohesive narrative/story, and you know the human brain and story.

    3) Technically, it had a titch of “how many cool video effects can I blitz through?” feeling about it for me. But then again, I think this

    is one of the best music videos of all time, and you know where I stand in terms of tech sensory overload/input overall. So anyway. There’s a note from the “less is more” camp, I guess.

    4) I think Stager probably has nailed it in terms of judging your audience. I loved this episode, yes, but greatly because we’ve been dueling about truth and story and marriage and effort and achievement for almost a year now. I would never say I know you; but surely, I am interested in how you work, and thus, who you are. I am already invested, in otherwords, via your blog, in the video product.

    4a) Not only am I *invested*, but I also have the *background knowledge* to make sense of the questions you visually raise about your practice. I can imagine, for example, for someone who hasn’t been following your work, the walk up to your bride being merely confusing– or worse, a superficial sop to the “sweetness of life”.

    (Isn’t this funny? I didn’t intend this at all, but as I write it, there it is: just like for any Algebra student off the street, your video only has meaning with investment and appropriate background knowledge.)

    So the central question I would have you answer for yourself would be: How can video you make provide a) the opportunity to invest and b) the appropriate background, so that a teacher can use it for the ultimate goal: to *facilitate learning*?

    Entertaining and thought-provoking as your series may be, I don’t think it actually answers this question. Here’s why: because I would argue your BLOG provided the lion’s share of the investment and background, miles before anyone clicks on the little blue arrow.

    How weak– or strong– would this series be, do you think, if you played it, just so, for, say, my building-wide faculty meeting on Monday? Would we learn? Would we care?

    Whoops. There’s that damn “C” word again.

    All right. Beat me up now.

  9. Dan,

    Let me congratulate you on a successful video series and reminding us how important and effective a well-done visual can be. I think some of the criticism leveled at you misses the main point. I never saw these podcasts as “stand-alone” video sermons, simply as natural extensions of your blogging.

    I hope in the future that you can balance personal life and teaching. That’s one I’m working on, though I have no immediate answers.

    You’ve been fun to watch, even the teeth brushing.

  10. If there was ever a moment to pull the Hillman Curtis comparison out of the ol’ messenger bag, this is that moment.

    Consider it out on the table, shined up, and ready to be gift-wrapped for a speedy flight out to Cali.

    Funny how a well-told ‘story’ truly transcends the specifics of any of our chosen disciplines, as well as the sharpened blades of our biases.

    I’m glad to know you, Dan. And glad to be learning from you along the way.


    P.S. Perhaps you’ll take the baton on the H.C. nod?

    I suspect you’ll do him beautiful tribute, as well as to introduce the dy/dan gang good service by steering their collective radar that way. I know my 10th grade kiddos will be imagination-deep in his visual vignettes in the coming week.

    I wonder how many other classrooms would be well served by the same inspiration (and a well guided dy/dan tour down his video rabbit hole).


  11. I don’t know if it was intentional, but what caught my eye was the reflection in the window from 2:00-209. I was wondering Who’s that? Was this just to build suspense or just an interesting accident?

  12. Thanks again, everybody.

    Dina, you crack me up, girl. You get going on these long stretches that start out pretty lucid but which have me totally befuddled by the end.

    I’ll agree that you learn the most about me as a teacher in this episode but I’ll clarify that you learn little about teaching, itself, apart from my own morose conception of it.

    I’ll grant you also how much easier this process was having already established a character and a personality through a few hundred posts.

    I just think your last hypothetical is a little out there on the fringe. I realize episode two plays like any number of posts you’ve already read, but is it less useful for the restatement? Turning the hypothetical around, if I had never written those original posts would it be more helpful?

    PS. Iron & Wine made a great video that goes nowhere below the surface of anything. (Which is a liability when the singer/songwriter decides to direct.) Beautiful photography which never gives you a moment’s doubt where it’s going in the end. Which is fine. It is very pretty and it ends before I can complain.

    @Christian, you win.

    @Mike C, just an accident. I forgot to clear my housemate outta the shot. My mom, however, e-mailed to inform me I forgot to take my ring off in a scene. And if that botched the chronology for anyone, I apologize.

  13. Dan-

    No constructive criticism, just another compliment. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed your set of 10. Keep up the great work, and I hope you have meaningful school year.

  14. That was a very impressive video. Watching that video reminds me of what Hillman Curtis has said about greatness coming from working within certain constraints. I always enjoy your videos that do not include audio the most (this one and the summer camp one). It seems as though your pre-production process is so well thought out when you cannot fall back on the use of words. It’s not that I don’t enjoy your voice or think your content isn’t compelling, it’s just that your story telling seems exceptional when you have to tell the story through only visuals. The pacing was spot on in my opinion. You just seem to push your personal bar higher during these times.
    Maybe you could nudge Christian into creating some similar videos himself for the English teaching crowd. I have a feeling he might be able to find some help in the technical realm in his part of the world.
    I guess really what I’m saying in all of this is thanks for the inspiration.

  15. Shot to the heart and you’re to blame, Dan– accusing an English teacher of turbidity in her writing. Ack. :) No more streams of consciousness from me.

    I messed up the presentation, acknowledged, but I think my primary point still stands: restating your posts in video monologue is fine for an established audience who automatically brings investment and background knowledge– hence, meaning– to watching them. But for my faculty, who doesn’t know you from Adam, I’m not so sure. In that scenario, I don’t know if the full additive value of the video medium is being utilized as the clips stand now.

    You could certainly retort that all that is required is some tweaking, and I would certainly agree– your clips are still really good work. What I’m saying, though, is that I feel I have to abstain from judgement on how universally effective they are until I see a product that is intended for teachers in Anywhere Middle School, South Dakota– not one that is intended for us. (I.e., what would happen if the fish jumps out of the fishbowl?)

  16. Yeah, good question. I’d have an easier time pondering the hypothetical if a handful of teachers hadn’t already made contact to tell me they’re showing episode two to their faculties as the school year grinds into gear. The standalone value is apparent to some strangers.

    The more I ponder your video prompt the odder it seems. If you were me, how would you retool episode two (for instance) for a broader audience? Especially given the degree of background knowledge I give in the first handful of frames. This is, essentially, a question of storytelling, I think.

  17. Aw, dude– don’t play like that. :) Both you and I know that ep 2 is the best in the bunch, beyond the finale (my personal favorite).

    Let’s take ep 4 instead, which was way fun– Collateral and Will Hunting = Dan driving to coffee, hysterical– but little more than your posts on amphetamines. I got a bit more out of it than *reading* a post because I am invested and have background knowledge, etc etc etc. But for Kim, my other 7th grade English teacher colleague down the hall, I would argue that seeing ep 4 yields the same net level of thought and reflection that reading a post would– no more or less. So why spend 8+ hours making the video?

    And even the finale, as I mentioned in my first comment, has its bit of lost beauty. *I* know you’re wondering if marriage and family is going to change everything about teaching (sidenote: it does), and so your ending has that heightened tension that makes the slow walk and the soundtrack (and the faceless bride, signifying concept, not individual person) so very lovely– for me. But for Kim, all that’s a bit murky, if it’s even on the radar.

    I hope I’m being a little clearer…

  18. Okay, so the mute, abstract, totally decontextualized finale is as lame a hypothetical as the second video was when I put it out there. I get what you’re saying but, I guess I disagree proportionately. I mean, trust me for a sec that I knew these vodcasts were gonna be a million times the timesuck these blog posts are. I selected each video thesis ’cause it’s one thing for me to write (eg.) “the time demands of teaching have made me better at scheduling my life” and another to illustrate it with movie clips intercut with shots of me putting it in action.

    I mean, I guess I’m just saying, yeah, that single, Twitterable sentence is sufficient, really, but the video made it fun. For the both of us.

  19. Snort. All right, all right. Ep 2 and finale, off the table. Ep 4 is our sacrificial lamb.

    More fun? Oh yes, totally.

    But what I’m saying is that it’s not, in the grand scheme, compared to a post, more *educational*. Which was the whole point. Wasn’t it?

    As far as the timesuck factor goes, I’m not questioning your grip on it. But remember the Dishwasher Effect in my Seven Questions? If you’re an average teacher, pouring hours into a vodcast for your kids (and probably from a point waaaaay farther back in the learning curve than you), shouldn’t you be rock solid sure that the education that occurs from watching the final product it is proportionate to your effort? No matter how much fun it is?

    Unless you are actually stating that video is inherently more educational than print.

    :: smiles sweetly ::

  20. I have no idea why a brick-and-mortar teacher would make a vodcast for her kids. Under face-to-face circumstances, the best use of the medium is to extract those clips from Good Will Hunting and Collateral, walk into your teacher ed class (in the case of this particular video) and have a conversation about the tangible-but-extraneous dividends teaching pays, building a discussion off those two clips only after the students had exhausted their thoughts.

    I mean, why would I play a video of myself when I’m standing right there?

    And yeah, tweaking your last line slightly, and controlling for context (ie. Internet consumption, not face to face): video at its best is more educational than print at its best.

  21. Not sure I agree with you there Dan – I still think I get more from text than I do with video (not that I don’t enjoy a well made video). I like having control over the pace of the information, which I have when reading. I don’t have that with video.

  22. Oh, I can pause, but I can’t skim to preview. Nor can I jump back and forth as easily as I can with text. Video seems more linear to me than text.

    Hmm. Perhaps I need to learn to interact with video – not just passively watch it.

  23. I know there’s pause, rewind, fast forward, double speed, whatever with audio and video. But I’m another reader. And even with whatever technology is coming to help search videos, there’s nothing quite like being able to flip through a book (blog post, whatever) to find that certain tidbit I’m looking for.

    I recognize that not everyone enjoys the printed word as much as I do. That some people won’t find it as useful.

    Dan, the series eventually convinced me that there are some occasions when video is more powerful than text. But I’m not ready for a blanket statement yet.

  24. Sarah – The dry cleaner lost my mask, so I figured it was time. It felt silly sitting here typing with it on anyway.

    Glad to hear I’m not the only one who prefers text.

  25. I actually read some new-teacher-survival-guide-type book advocating showing a video of yourself speaking. Something about how the kids are already trained to pay attention to a screen. (And maybe you can walk around and whack them on the head?) Best evidence that at least some of those books aren’t worth much.

  26. Video has a lower batting average than text, particularly on these dumb internets, where talking straight into a camera ad nauseum sets the bar. I’m quoted all around here trying to dissuade people from taking up video. It’s too difficult to do it right.

    But what I’m also saying is, take the best text and the best video – meaning, you’re never tempted to skim through either one; meaning, the video makes effective use of text, sound, and image – and video wins for education, communication, and entertainment. You can’t beat the bandwidth.

  27. Dan, to clarify, both great video and great text get my attention first time though. The skimming often comes after that first reading/viewing, when I’m going back through the information.

    The bandwidth argument still doesn’t fit me. I don’t exactly visualize content in my head unless there’s a picture–it never mattered to me when characters in books were supposed to be animals–but I’ve found that text with well-chosen illustrations often spurs my imagination more than video itself does. (Though I will confess that while I feel like we had part of this conversation 6 months ago, I can’t find it in the archives. Something along the lines of most of us know what we should be doing, and watching a video of your methods isn’t going to help us anymore?)

    My guess is that you’re arguing here with the people who read for entertainment as much/more than watching video. The hardest part of summer camp was going that long without a library. I could skip seeing movies on weekends off, but I needed to refresh my book supply so I always had something to work on.

    Kate, that video does sound like one we’d all avoid. Yuck!

    Jackie, I never did like the typing exercises where you couldn’t see the keys/the computer screen. :-)

    All said, I’m off to read and enjoy the rest of the three-day weekend.

  28. :: laughter ::

    Why would a teacher create a vodcast for her kids? Um… so we can go get coffee during class? (Aide whispers: “No no no, Dina. Bad answer…”)

    Let’s try again. For one example, because vodcasts make reinforced (not repeated) content available via the Internet at home, on student demand? (Gosh, even sounds like a possible solution to your block scheduling gaps, doesn’t it.)

    And if I am considering vodcasts via webpages or posts in this scenario, then you bet your cute little fade-to-black button that the Dishwasher Effect question still stands: I want a guarantee that the vodcast is going to drive the point home faster and better to the most kids.

    Which brings me to your last point, which is a radical assertion of this guarantee, with absolutely no empirical backup.

    I’m not saying you’re wrong (yet). But speaking for English teachers whose careers rest on precisely the educational power of text, I would like to see you spend a post marshaling your argument, and especially defining your terms. (For example, you’ve already stated that “video” makes better use of *text*, which apparently means you’re not talking about The Wire. Have I got that right?)

    In the meantime, however, I’ve got to get ready for school opening on Wednesday, in another year long stretch of providing kids the opportunity to successfully navigate a medium second rate to Youtube. Sigh… I feel so…irrelevant…

  29. Don’t sweat your job security. You can’t name a great movie (video, motion picture, whatever we’re calling the pictures that move) which wasn’t first a great screenplay, a fact which points inductively to a lot of what I’m angling at here.

    Video is hard. Way harder than text because you have to know how to communicate with text (first) and then with audio (second) and then with images (third). It’s a house of cards that falls more often than it stands. Dishwasher effect aside, I wouldn’t recommend any teacher take up video unless I knew first she had a firm grip on the mechanics of writing.

    All that said, anyone who can manipulate those three pipes – text, audio, image – can access more complicated thought and illustration, higher information throughput, than text.

    But you’re looking for a guarantee and all I have are caveats. If the subject matter demands greater throughput (ie. sentence diagrams don’t have the same use for visuals as, say, a study of North Africa) and if the instructor is a skilled writer, videographer, and editor, and if the audience is literate in motion pictures (ie. text won’t do an illiterate four-year-old any good, just like video has its own literacy demands), then, yes, video has text over a barrel. You can convey more with less.