tl;dr – It’s the camera. And using it thoughtfully can change your teaching in substantial ways.
I spent most of the fall in eighth grade classrooms, watching lots of teachers enact the same set of Desmos lessons in different ways and in different contexts and with different results.
Some classes were high energy, some were low energy.
Some classes seemed to learn a lot, others learned less.
There are lots of important explanations for those differences, of course, many of which have nothing to do with the teachers or students themselves. But it was also interesting to sit in some high energy, high learning classes and palpably feel that these teachers are really, really curious about their students. Curious about them personally, sure, but curious about their thinking in particular.
Students feel that curiosity — “My teacher wants to know what I’m thinking about.” — and I find it easy to attribute some significant amount of those classes’ high energy and high learning to that feeling.
Teachers expressed that curiosity using the snapshotting tool when students recorded their thinking in Desmos. When students recorded their thinking on paper, teachers expressed their curiosity with their cameraphones, taking photos of student work and projecting them up on the board.
You see this on Twitter all the time! Curious teachers share diverse student thinking with other curious teachers.
— Teri Beth Shearer (@tbethshearer) January 11, 2019
And that practice creates no fewer than twelve virtuous cycles, a few of which I can quickly describe:
- When teachers express curiosity about diverse student thinking, students feel that and feel license to express even more diverse kinds of thinking.
- The more perspectives on an idea a teacher can help students connect, the more students learn about that idea.
- That all feels great so the teacher becomes more curious about student thinking and consequently re-evaluates her curriculum and instruction to emphasize tasks and pedagogy that are more likely to elicit diverse thinking.
- The teacher becomes interested in learning more mathematics because the more math you know, the more you’re able to identify and connect diverse student thinking when you see it.
Run that cycle for a few months and you have a different class.
Run that cycle for a few years and you have a different teacher.
Run that cycle across a department and you have a different school.
It starts with your cameraphone.
BTW. If your students’ diverse thinking currently fills you with more anxiety than curiosity, I encourage you “act your way into belief” instead of the reverse. Take two minutes at the end of class to share “My Favorite Whoa,” a photo of student thinking during the day you thought was so interesting and why you thought it was interesting. That’s low commitment with a lot of upside.
BTW. If you already use your cameraphone to express curiosity about student thinking, head to the comments and let us know how you do that. Your colleagues want to know your workflow.
Daniel Peter uses whiteboards:
Need to be able to put up multiple solutions at the same time so the teacher can use questions to help students create explicit connects between the solutions: similarities/differences, aha (unique, elegant, just plain interesting) and help students make connects to the underlying properties, principles of mathematics. The advantage of paper/vertical whiteboards (or old school individual slates) is I can create the congress or bansho to make those connections explicit through the organization.
Several people use Reflector. Here’s Gretchen Muller:
It turns my phone into a portable document camera. Multiple devices can be shown at a time so I can do compare and contrast between different pieces of work at the same time. I now use it in my work with educators. The first question I always get is “How did you do that?”. I use it both as a live camera so that students can explain from their desk or still pictures from my phone and iPad when I want to compare.
Allison Krasnow describes students using their cameraphones to take pictures of student work:
I received three texts (I use remind.com) this evening with students sending photos of their homework showing where they got confused and asking for help. Them texting me photos of their homework when they are stuck and at home with no one to help them is incredibly powerful.