A couple of year ago, after having a Smartboard for a couple of years, I went on a hunt for an online graphing calculator to use in my math classes. I knew that TI would have something I could get a free trial of for 60 days, but I was looking for something better. After several weeks of searching I narrowed it down to 2 sites, DESMOS and some other site I can’t remember at this time. To be honest my first choice was the other site, but as I began to use the 2 sites more an more, it just seemed like Desmos was more intuitive. Do I began my journey with Desmos.
When I first began using Desmos, I was really excited about the amount of time it saved my from graphing all those lines and parabolas that an Algebra I teacher needs to graph. As time passed on and the site evolved, along with my skills of all tools Desmos has to offer, I started using Desmos in different ways. One of the first tools I researched and learned how to use was SLIDERS. To me, this is what sets Desmos appart from all the other online graphing calulators. Sliders are what allow for movement in Desmos, which I thought was really cool at first because could make PICTURES THAT MOVED. Although this is a pretty cool way to use sliders, it took me a while to really understand how to use sliders to teach. Last year I was struggling with teaching graphing the absolute value function. I had spent a lot of time on the topic and the students still weren’t getting it, then I had a great idea to use sliders. He is what I showed them using Desmos about THE ABSOLUTE VALUE FUNCTION. It worked, and worked quickly!
Along the way I found that Desmos had also created a separate site from the calculator for math activities, teacher.desmos.com. This site start off with only a handful of really cool math activities, activities that I would make sure I booked the computer lab weeks ahead of time to make sure I used. Eventually the created more activities and also gave you the ability to make your own, which I tried with some success. Over time there were more features added, and they continue to add more features and activities today. I had become a Desmos junky!
Last spring I noticed on twitter that Desmos was offering a Fellowship, I got really excited. I look at the application, I was slightly intimidated, and optimistically filled it out. I had little to no expectations of getting the Fellowship, but gave it a chance. Then one day I got that e-mail from Shelley, I was chosen. Excited was an understatement, I was given the opportunity to join the staff of Desmos and a select of chosen people to visit Desmos HQ in San Francisco and learn more about the company. This Fellowship affected me in so many positive ways. I now how a great support teach to help with Desmos and any other mathematical questions and explorations I need help with, and it has change my educational philosophy.
Not only has Desmos had a positive influence on me, it also has had a positive influence on my students. Yesterday I had a student tell me that she was going to be going to Florida and miss class today, and wanted to know what we are doing. I mentioned that we would be doing a couple of Desmos activities, and she seemed bummed to be missing that. I told her we could do a Google Hangout during class time if she wanted to, and she took me up on it. I set a tablet up at her normal classroom sheet, and she got to do the activities along with the class. Not only did she do the activities, but she had some really insightful responses that added to the class. If I said we were doing worksheets, would she have wanted to do a Google Hangout???