Dan Meyer was kind enough to invite me to the beta testing of 101qs.com after seeing my Fake Money - Act 1.
Look, I've read many blogs and comments that challenge Dan's objective with 101qs, the perplexity rating, the lack of comments/feedback, the initial question versus the discussion, and on and on. My objective here is not to rehash any of that. Hands down! It's a solid site and beneficial to us teachers! Embrace its ingenuity! My goal is to offer some observations and advice that might contribute to making the viewing experience even better for you and your students. Here's how:
- Have measurable acts.
- Be the 'student' during both the staging and viewing portions.
- Have fun!
I've thrown some pics up on 101qs.com, but they were flops because it's not measurable or epic. I can discuss it with my class, but that's it. If we can't measure it, we're done. Maybe we can create a small scale project, but that could detract from the amazement of the initial media. John Golden's Largest Land Vehicle in the World pic is epic. But how do you measure it? I don't have a giant earth mutating blade in my backyard. Do you? However, one of my all-time favs is Nathan Kraft's Tuba Echo. There are definitely some measurable parts here. Plus, it's really simple!
Before pressing record or taking a plethora of pictures. Before sitting down to create, to plan, or to stage your first act, stop and think as a 'student'. Be every student you have! Be the die-hard learner. Be the mediocre student who goes with the majority. Be the smart-aleck kid who loves any opening for a joke or wise comment. Get some candles, some incense, channel them all... okay you get the point! Let the 'student' critique, trash, beat up, and make fun of your mere idea! Take the rose-colored glasses off.
This doesn't count for off-the-cusp pictures you can take with a digital camera while experiencing some majestical moment on vacation. However, be the 'student' before uploading said pictures. Would this really be something a student would be interested in, be perplexed by, have a question about, wonder about? Be honest. Your student doesn't necessarily think like you. Amazement and perplexity are two different things.
*My goal is to allow my classes to experience 101qs.com next week and see what they think. Seeing other teachers do this inspired me.
Face it, we have a demographic. When staging your videos or pictures, keep students in mind; your students, my students, someone else's students. Sit in their desk, put their glasses on, be your demographic. Sorry John Hanks, is your Dirt really going to interest your students? Maybe yours. It wouldn't perplex mine. What might be perplexing for you or the general majority of the users of 101qs.com is not necessarily perplexing for your student. So how do you effectively stage an act? I'm going to use Chris Hunter's Big Box o' Krispies. It's my new favorite.
I think the intended question was 'how many?' Hence all the skips. Longtime users are for the most part...done with 'how many?' But c'mon, they're Rice Krispies! SNAP! CRACKLE! POP! Think outside the box here (I can't pass up a good pun!) I'm going for another audio clip here, "How loud would the Snap Crackle Pop be if they were poured into a barrel of milk?" Can you imagine that? If I had a box that big, here's how I'd stage it:
Use a tripod, put a small bowl on a table, pour some Krispies in, and then pour in some milk. Record the audio up close. Cut to a picture of a barrel, a few or many gallons of milk, and the huge box of Rice Krispies. Cut. Act 1!
Think about the sequel? If it's not loud enough, how much cereal should we add? How quickly? What type of milk will yield the loudest response? How much longer will the barrel snap crackle pop compared to the bowl? What's the perfect ratio of milk to cereal for the highest decibel? Maybe invest in a decibel meter? You can still cover your volume question and more... I love it! So what about the 101qs.com viewing experience?
When viewing the uploads on 101qs.com, think like a 'student'. Sometimes the expected questions are staring you in the face. I've commented to Dan that some users are abusing their power with the 'Skip' button, but I respect their autonomy. I can't force or coerce a student into what I think is perplexing so I'm not going to bash a 101qs.com user. However, I would encourage that user or student to still offer some feedback. Why is this boring? Why did you press 'skip'? I don't care if I'm on the top ten (no, that's not loser talk). I don't. I care that I hit my intended mark. I care that I get constructive feedback from a flop and improve upon it. I care that my students are perplexed. Lastly, I believe I can offer feedback to those on 101qs.com if I pretend to be that smart-aleck kid in your class. Perplexity in math is a natural component of classroom management. If you can't engage me, the smart-aleck, I'm cracking jokes and off-task. Here's how I'd make Abbie's Oatmeal slightly more student friendly. There's too much text. Students don't want to read much or dig through text after they've become accustomed to you showing them epic pictures. Crop this picture. Zoom in on what you want the student to question. I almost skipped this, but offered Abbie some feedback because this picture has great potential.
If you're not having fun, your students aren't having fun. It was fun to put Post-Its on a huge File Cabinet. The students had fun making estimates. They had fun writing the numbers on the Post-Its. They had fun doing the math to figure out the actual number. They wanted to know how many Post-Its to write numbers on. I said, "You tell me." They didn't blink. They took ownership of both the writing of numbers and the math. Keep these fun moments in mind when you are channeling the student. If it's fun for them, it'll be fun for you while you plan, stage, record, and edit your media.