The Connected Classroom: Introduction to Desmos Activities
- Articles, Blog

The Connected Classroom: Introduction to Desmos Activities

– Hello everyone. It is five o’clock here in Portland, Oregon. So we’re going to go ahead and get started. Thank you for joining me this evening, evening my time, possibly daytime your time, for The Connected Classroom: an Introduction to Desmos Activities. If we have not met before, my name is Stephanie Blair. I am a former middle school and high school math teacher, math coach, administrator. And currently I’m the Director of Professional Development here at Desmos where I have the privilege to work with an amazing team of engineers, designers, and former classroom teachers to help students learn math and love learning math. This webinar today is designed for people who are mostly new to Desmos activities. And we’re going to be focusing on grades six through 12. If that doesn’t sound something interesting to you, if that doesn’t sound like the grade level that you teach, no hard feelings if you choose to disappear. Thank you for all of you who introduced yourself in the chat and told us about one way you use technology in your classroom today. Some of you, I see much love for Desmos in different ways that you’ve used Desmos, everywhere from scatter plots to trig and calculus and more. I also saw some new types of technology that I haven’t had the privilege of using in the classroom yet. So you are interested in some different types of technology besides Desmos and different ways teachers are using technology in the classroom, take a second and scroll through the chat window and see what might be of interest to you. I also invite you, if you haven’t already, to go ahead and open up the agenda that is linked there on the screen so that we can go ahead and track our time together. Today over this next hour, we are going to experience a Desmos activity together as a student, and then I will show you the teacher side of the activity as well. I’ll make sure to leave some time for you to get your questions answered and then we’ll talk about some next steps. I invite for you to join me at and type in this class code. Go ahead and continue all the way through until you see the screen that says activity paused. Awesome, it’s so exciting to see friends joining and if you’re already there, we’re going to pause for a little bit longer as some of our friends join us. If you are not there, no hurries. I have a little bit of a preamble before we dive into our activity together today. Today the purpose behind this activity is for me to demonstrate as a teacher how you could use this in your classroom to create an engaging social map experience. In order to do that, I need to ask something of you. Try to be your students today. This is me giving you permission to act like your students and you all know exactly which student I’m talking about. Maybe it’s the student who gave you a really hard time today. Or maybe it’s that student who always makes you smile. Maybe it’s that student that you had eight years ago that still pulls on your heartstrings today. In my case that student is Nolan. Whoever that student is, when you engage in today’s activity, please respond as if you were that student. And I understand what I’m asking of you is hard. You may need to first respond with your teacher hat on and then delete that response and then respond again as that student. And that is totally fine. But please as we go through today, please try to act like your students so that I can model what it is like as a teacher for you all. So enough of me talking about the purpose behind the activity. Let’s go ahead and dive in. In today’s activity, we are going to be looking at turtles, and we’re going to be looking at graphs and sort of modeling the turtles experience with some graphs. I’m gonna go ahead and unpause you and give you an opportunity here in screen one, to tell us what you see. Pause coming at you in thee, two, one. You guys were having so much fun. So we have a variety of different things going on with our turtles. Our friend Johann here has got multiple turtles going across her screen up and down, forward and backward, smiley faces in all. We also have some more traditional-looking graphs going on with Kate’s here where on those we have one turtle. He’s walking, pausing, and then jumping and slowly heading backwards. I’ll go ahead and give you all a few more moments on the screen and then we’ll continue. Pause coming at you in three, two, one. I am sure that we all could continue to play with turtles throughout the day and lucky for you, we get to check out what Luca did with the turtles in these next few screens here. So I’m going to go ahead and paste you guys to screens two through four. And in this we are going to look at Luca’s graph and try to figure out what he thought was going on with the turtles. Once you’re done writing your story at the top of screen two, you’ll see some arrows to go forward and back. Go ahead and check out screen three and see if what you wrote in your story is what really happened to Luca’s turtle. Pause coming at you and three, two, one. Back here on screen two, we were looking at the turtle and we were telling some stories of the turtle’s journey, and I got a variety of stories. Thank you all so much for channeling your inner student. It makes this so much more fun. Someone start off by saying Luca’s a boring turtle. It’s true, if he doesn’t clone himself, he doesn’t go forward and backwards. He doesn’t do some of the crazy, interesting, fascinating things that we saw there on screen one. Someone else noticed that it stopped and then went faster, or that the turtle starts in the water and moves towards the grass two feet in two seconds and stops for two seconds and goes towards the grass for eight feet per inch. This is so fascinating watching students language developing when looking at the end for most. The turtle’s boring. It stops and goes faster which is more, than far more precise that moving two feet in two seconds. On screen three we have the opportunity to see the reveal and watch what actually happens to the turtle as he moves. We notice here that he stops and then moves again. And then in screen four, you had an opportunity to find out the distance of the turtle. That’s one of the turtles that were looking at today, but there’s another turtle. So we’re going to go ahead and I’m going to paste you all to screens five and six as you were going to look at our Arvar’s turtle and see how that turtle compares to Luca’s turtle. Once you’ve wrapped up writing your story in Screen five, make sure that you have a chance to go look at screen six and see if what you wrote is really what came true. Some of you have brought some really awesome amazing stories. Pause coming at you all in three, two, one. I would love to share with you some of the stories that we got to see in screen five about Arvar’s adventure. Someone said he got confused and went in a circle for a bit and finally found his way again at the end. Someone else said the new turtle found a round about which in my mind goes perfectly with confused because I sometimes have to drive in those roundabouts more than once. And then this last response here. Wait, what tomfoolery I said. We all want to know what’s gonna happen. Well, someone else had a different story and it said that one turtle carried another turtle on its back and moved away from the water for three seconds. And they separated and moved back away from the water. The other moves back and they realize they missed each other. And the story continues on past that with different time marks throughout. I don’t fully capture the whole story, but I thought it was rather cute ’cause I had never thought about a turtle on top of another turtle and then splitting. Someone else said that the turtle learned a new trick and that he learned how to do the splits. So many cool things that we got to see. We have the circle here that made us think, well what happened? Hopefully you all had a chance to see what happened here when we had the circle going on. If not, let’s go ahead and take a look together. What? Two turtles, one going forward, one going backwards. How can this be, and now one turtle again. So cool. Well, I have a third turtle for us to look at together today. This turtle’s journey gets a little more treacherous. We now have a little turtle friend walking across from the ocean to the grass. But hey, there’s some snakes in the way and the turtle does not want to walk on a snake. Over the next few screens you are going to have an opportunity to support our little turtle friend making his way from the beach to the grass. If you’ve wrapped up screen nine. I have opened up screen 10 for you to complete as well. And I know some of you are still working on getting your turtle from the beach to the grass and I go ahead and encourage you to try to get him back from the grass to the beach. Go ahead and wrap up what screen you are on when it pauses in about five seconds. Pause coming at you in three, two, one. Awesome job saving our little turtle friend helping him go from the water to the grass and then back again. And I also want to point out here on screen 10 I know not all of you made it to screen 10. But those of you who did, we had an opportunity to look at the graph and make some interpretations. And here it asks, what is the turtles distance from the water after three seconds? And I want to point out this screen in particular because I noticed that they use the sketch component here to sort of mark on the graph where they saw that happening at, as well as, so the distance from the water after three seconds would be about here. And then the distance after four feet would be about here. So we notice those pieces on the graph as well as being typed into the input. Now I know some of you still want to play with your turtle. You want to help him actually reach the water. Somebody said I really need negative numbers, I need to help and reach the water. I promise I will unpause this activity today at the end of the webinar for you to continue your turtle fun. But if I leave it, if I unpause it now, you all will be playing with the… …turtles and not listening to me. And that would be kind of sad. So, I’d like to draw your attention back to the screens here. I want you to take off your student hat. You are relieved of being your student right now. What I’d like for you to do is think about what teacher moves did you experience over the last 20 minutes or so? Go ahead, take a minute of quiet think time and then we’ll share our responses. Awesome, and you probably can already see it on your screens, but just in case you’re on the phone and you can’t see, some of our top three that we had was to lock the answers to share that weren’t just the model answers and letting students learn from what others wrote. I really wanna take that and show that one to my husband ’cause my husband responded earlier today some crazy response that I do not understand that has to do with Marvel movies and I don’t know multiverses and Doctor Who and I got really confused. And it wasn’t the model solution and he was like, you have to show my answer. And I was like no, I’m not showing your answer. I don’t understand it. But I did. I showed other answers that want the model answers and those were just as great as the answers that were the perfect answers. Someone else called out pacing to keep students from moving ahead and others from being stuck too long that were playing with the turtle. Someone else called out sharing mathematical and non-mathematical answers. So our goal here is to focus on some sense making. And I realize that our early students’ thinking is not always the most formal mathematics. So showing that early student thinking as well as the formal mathematics. Lots of great stuff here. Time to play quick feedback, pacing, pausing, think time, sharing answers, so many wonderful things that we saw. I also want to call it some things that you probably didn’t see and part of that was because is a webinar. Part of that is because we’re all in different places. So one of the things that we would typically do in a classroom that you may not have seen, is that I would ask you to pair up two… …students to one computer. And that’s purposeful. I want students to be talking about math. I want them to be engaging about math. And I know that we’re smarter together. And I know that when I’m struggling on a math problem and I don’t know the right words or the next step, my colleague might be able to help me out. And so I’d ask students to pair up to two to one when doing this with a classroom of students. Some other things you might not have seen is I spent quality time… …planning. What questions would I ask? Where would I pace? Why would I pace there? And what things I would make sure to show students. So where you said I made sure not to show model answers, I had actually thought through which answers I want to show and why. I want to show when we were playing that you have multiple turtles on a screen because I knew that would come up later. So a variety of different things that you both saw as teacher moves and variety of things you might not have been able to see as teacher moves as well happened in this activity. As we were going through, a lot of you had some questions, you said I really want to know how did you do this? In this case it was snapshots. And I want to give you an opportunity to explore the teacher side of Desmos. And I’m going to give you a quick overview of what that looks like, and then I’m going to give you an opportunity to level up your skills. So if you join me at, if you’re not already signed in you’ll see a little blue box up here where my name currently is. It says sign in. You click on that, you can sign in. You can sign in with your Google account if you have one. You can also create an account as well. Some teachers use their personal account. Some use their work account, totally up to you. Here in this account, this account will look just like yours. Once you’re logged in, you have some choices. You can search for an activity by name. So maybe a couple weeks from now you’re like, we did that really fun activity. It had a turtle in it. I don’t know its name. I could just type in turtle and see all of the different activities with… …turtles. Maybe I know tomorrow I’m teaching something about conic sections, but I don’t know an activity that has, about conic sections. I can also type in a math topic, such as conic, and see all the different options there as well. Maybe you’re like it’s getting close to winter break. A lot of kids are gone, kids are sick, activities, concerts, all sorts of things and you just want an activity with the handful students you have that day. You can click on most popular and see some of our most popular activities here and see if those will fit your needs. Maybe you want to look at a collection. Here on the left hand side you’ll see our featured collections and if you click all, you will see all the different collections we have from elementary school through high school and everything in between. Here you can dive into the different collections and you can see some of the different activities we have and how we combine them. So here in the intro to the coordinate plane we can see it’s by plotting points and finding distance. Maybe I decided that I want to teach Collect the Coconuts. It makes me dream of being in Hawaii when it’s pouring rain here in Portland Oregon today. And so to make this activity for my students, I click create class code And maybe I am fortunate to have three sections of classes that will be doing this activity. And so I create three different class codes. That way I can keep track of which students are in which activity and so that none of the activities get too overwhelmed. I’ve seen teachers before do activities that have all 250 of their students in one activity, and that’s totally fine. Me, the way I like to it, is to break it up by each class period. Once you’re there in the activity, you can click on the class code and you will see the screen that I shared with you all earlier. Here you can go ahead and have students dive into the activity. You will have the ability to anonymize pace and pause the activity. When we anonymize the names, we change all the names into famous mathematicians. When we paste, that’s how I controlled you to go from different screens. So maybe I only want students to do screens one to three to start off… …with. And once they got so far, maybe I wanted to open up screen four, and I can do that by simply pushing the plus button. One of my favorite things that we can do as teachers is we can pause. How often in class have you been trying to get the whole class’s attention and you were unable to do so for a variety of reasons? You might have noticed that when I paused you all on today’s activity, I got most of your attention back fairly quickly because you wanted to continue playing with your turtles. I was asked not only how do I pause, how do I pace, and how do I anonymize, but somebody said how did you get those snapshots? And snapshotting is pretty amazing. Here, on this screen here I can see all the different responses that I have. And in those responses I can see a little camera next to it. And if I click the camera icon, it will say, snapshot captured. And I can capture as many snapshots as I want of student work. Then I push snapshot at the top right and I can see all the different things that I snapshot. There I can click and drag to create what we call a collection. You can have up to four snapshots on a collection and you can give it a title. And then click present. And then your students can see the different options. Maybe I want to make this a little larger. Granted, Luca is boring turtle that probably isn’t largest thing I need. But I can make it even larger by pushing that button there and we can go look and actually see at the students graph and their screen there to see what all they have entered. One thing that I forgot to mention about anonymizing, that we can see better in this activity that we all just completed. I would like for you to take a look at the names here on the side. You’ll notice that these names are not just male names. They’re not just female names. These are names from all over the world spanning time and they’re all famous mathematicians. One of the things that we sometimes see in classrooms is that students will get really interested and they’ll want to know who is Katie? My name is Katie and now I’m Katie and I want to know who is Katie? And so they’ll spend their class time trying to figure out who is Katie and why she’s a famous mathematician. As a former classroom teacher, I’d have students get really excited about topics of math that had nothing to do with algebra one necessarily, but they really wanted to learn typography because they’re famous mathematician was a famous person for typography. It’s a great thing for students to explore mathematicians that look like them, who come from all over the world. But enough about me talking. I’m sure if you are like me, you’re now itching to get your hands on being able to do the same thing. I invite you all to join me at the agenda if you haven’t already. We’ll go ahead and drop this into the chat window. Here at the agenda if you want to go down to level up your Desmos dashboard skills. There you will see a copy of today’s dashboard for you to explore as well as a checklist of items. Maybe you wanna work on pausing and pasting and anonymizing. Maybe you want to work on looking at the summary page, hiding and unhiding a student. Maybe you want to work on doing some snapshots Go ahead and take about five to ten minutes to level up your Desmos dashboard skills. This is one of those moments that I wish I had a real life pause button because I know you’re going through and trying different things on the dashboard, pausing, pacing, anonymizing, snapshotting. But I need to pull you back together, and I’m sorry, but I promise that you can continue doing that long after the webinar this evening. I promised to make sure that I gave you all some time today to have a chance to ask any questions that you had and try to get some answers for those questions. I know Cecilia already started us off by writing a question in the chat window, but I’m actually going to ask that you place your questions back in the So if you have that screen open, feel free to do so. If not here is the information here again. Go ahead, go to that link, type in the event code and in there, go ahead and write questions. Now, if you’re like me, your brain totally froze. You don’t remember what question you had to ask, and that’s okay. For some of you, you’re like my son and you already have 10 questions ready to go and you wish I’d stop talking. And that’s okay too. You have questions, go ahead and put them in there. You don’t have questions, that’s totally fine too. Go ahead and make sure that you have a chance to read through people’s questions and vote for the ones that you’d like me to answer. I think we have time for me to answer about the top three or four questions this evening. So I’m going to go ahead and start answering some of these questions that we have. This is my teacher account that I have from when I was a teacher. So you’ll notice some different things probably here on the side under your activities that you may not have. But one of the questions I got was, how long did dashboards stay up? If you look at your history here, you can actually see all of the sessions you’ve ever ran. And you’ll notice that mine go back to 2005. So I can actually see my students’ work here from 2005 if I want to see that dashboard. So it holds onto them for quite a long time. Another question that was asked was can students finish an activity later? Yes, you all will be able to finish your turtles later. Once I unpause the activity you’ll be able to complete the activity. You’ll also be able to, if you’re from the student side, go to and then you can click, they’ll enter a class code. But if they log in via Google, they can be able to see all of the recent activities that they’ve done. And they can go back to an activity if they don’t remember the class code and be able to continue the activity later. Any advice for using a Desmos activity with students for the first time? That is a great question. I say the biggest advice I have is choose something that you think will be fun and don’t expect to be an expert at everything right away. So if the first time you’re doing an activity and you feel like all you can do is give students the class code and let them go, that is totally okay. If you’re like, I think I can handle pushing the pause button, that is totally great too. If you wanna do everything, you wanna pause, you wanna pace, you wanna anonymize, you wana snapshot, go for it. But make sure to give yourself grace because you’re trying something new. I always like to tell my students when I tried something new because they would give me feedback but they would also give me Grace. They would say, you know, Miss Blair that that wasn’t how you’d normally do class, but we tried something new. Maybe this is how we could do it better next time. Last question, I’ll go ahead and answer is do you recommend using the projection capabilities while working on a Desmos activity? Oftentimes when I am doing this with students, I will project the dashboard so they can see how they’re doing and how they’re progressing along the way. Some teachers do that, some do not. That is totally a personal call and it’s up to you. Thank you everyone for those fabulous questions. I want to talk about some next steps. Maybe you walk away from today and you’re like, I wish I could learn more. Maybe you’re interested in continuing your Desmos learning journey. I invite you to check out where you can find a variety of topics anywhere from how to use our four function and scientific calculator, to how to use our graphing calculator, classroom activities and more. I also invite you to check out our Facebook group. We have a private Facebook group for Desmos educators. There, about a thousand Desmos educators are sharing tips, tricks, favorite activities and asking questions themselves, getting answered by not only fellow educators, but members of Team Desmos as well. Maybe today after doing this you’re like I really wanna build my own activity. That is so great. Next week’s webinar will be by Michael Fenton and he’ll be showing us how to create our own Desmos activity. If that’s something you’re interested in, we will drop that registration link into the chat window. We’ll also be putting it out through social media as well. Maybe you’re like, this was such a great experience. I wish all my classmates were here, all of my colleagues, all of my friends. If you would like to bring this professional development to you, you can always find out more information about how to do so at the learn.desmos site, learn.desmos.comprofessional learning. Well friends, it has been a wonderful evening for me. I hope it was great for you all as well. I would love to get some feedback from everyone about how this professional development went and how we can continue to support you in your learning. You’ll go ahead and complete this link that Jay has dropped into the chat window. That would be fabulous. And that’s all I ask of you this evening. Jay and I will be around for a few more moments. If you have any lingering questions, you can drop them into the chat window or DM them directly to us. But that is it. Thank you so much for spending your time, your precious time as educators with us today.

About James Carlton

Read All Posts By James Carlton

1 thought on “The Connected Classroom: Introduction to Desmos Activities

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *