Why 2:1 Laptops are Gold

Recently, my parents were visiting to celebrate my son’s 7th birthday.  They asked what projects I was involved with at work and instead of explaining, I grabbed a laptop and asked them to try out a 5th grade Desmos Activity I had recently written.

In my role as Teacher on Special Assignment for Instructional Technology I find myself immersed in many types of projects, but the one which our district math coach often calls me ‘relentless’ is my work to get all middle school math teachers using Desmos at various times throughout the year.  In pursuit of this goal, I taught a lesson using Desmos in 5th grade classrooms at ten of our eleven elementary schools this winter when they were on Engage NY’s Module 6 which is coordinate graphing.  The students used Desmos to discuss several topics, however the stickiest and richest conversations occurred when students were trying to write their initials using T-Tables.  They’d call me over in a panic explaining that they were trying to make a C but they computer thought they were making an N:

Screen Shot 2016-05-15 at 9.10.53 PM

“Huh” was my general response.  “I wonder why that happened?”

Some continued to tinker on their own while others would call me over and say that THEIR computer had done the same thing as so-and-so’s computer…thought they were trying to make a different letter than they actually were.

So we’d talk, and eventually kids realized that the computer does just as you instruct it to do, so the order of the points in your T-Table matters.

This led me to write an Activity around this big idea which if you’re interested in trying out, can be found here.  I’d love your feedback if you have a moment to try it as because of SBA testing, I haven’t yet been able to try it out with kids, though I plan to do so in the next week.

But there we were, in my kitchen, with my parents (who I am quite sure are reading this post) asking what’s new at work.  So I gave them each a laptop and had them try out this Activity.  They were lost. Very lost.  Both because they hadn’t thought about x’s and y’s since my brother was born and because the format of a self-guided online task was completely new to them.  I offered minimal help, with just a quick crash course on how to graph coordinate pairs.  However the real help I offered was to tell them to share a single laptop.


The video  below doesn’t capture how rich their conversation was once they were sharing a single device.  Work which was at their frustration level only moments earlier when they each had their own laptop suddenly was not only fascinating to them, but do-able.  Although my dad is the one typing, just moments earlier my mom had figured out a crucial issue that had stumped them.  They are going to kill me for posting this, but it’s worth it.  When is the last time you saw 2 grandparents productively struggling through a Desmos Activity?


3 thoughts on “Why 2:1 Laptops are Gold

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