Friday, May 11, 2012

Be the 'student' at

*Disclaimer: Im not a professional cinematographer! I haven't taken any film lessons! I consider myself a novice with film editing. However, I'm passionate. I want to improve my craft with film almost as much as improving my craft of teaching!

Dan Meyer was kind enough to invite me to the beta testing of after seeing my Fake Money - Act 1.
I was both flattered an honored that he dug my exponential growth video and wanted to include me in the beta testing before his site went live. One of the best pieces of advice Dan gave me was, "Buy yourself a tripod for Christmas, Andrew." His feedback from Sand Vase - Act 1. I totally agreed with him and didn't wait for Santa. A tripod makes the experience much easier on the viewer. Plus, no matter how perplexing you might think your tire rolling down a hill is, you run the risk of losing your audience from a shaky camera or poor camera work. (Hits forehead with palm, D'oh)

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:
  1. Have measurable acts.
  2. Be the 'student' during both the staging and viewing portions.
  3. Have fun!
Make sure it's measurable:
I've thrown some pics up on, 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!
Be the 'student':
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 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 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 viewing experience?

When viewing the uploads on, 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 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 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.

Have fun:
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.

Have fun,


  1. 2:22AM??? Is that eastern time? THAT perplexes me.
    I think you hit the nail on the head. This is how I've felt about the many pictures/videos on 101qs...especially in regards to your first and second points. Can I use it? Will all of my students be engaged by it?
    I mainly use 101qs as a place to find new resources for my classroom. Unfortunately, there are a lot of posts which are not measureable. It's great if something is perplexing, but if it's not mathematically perplexing, then I have no use for it.

    1. Yes, 101qs is an extremely valuable platform for teachers. It helps spawn new ideas, examples, and potential resources. It also has a lot of content on what NOT to do! I find that invaluable!

  2. My, my, your midnight zen eating is keeping you up late, Andrew. I really appreciate your pointing out the essentials of making 101qs work in the classroom. My thoughts exactly about perplexity when I wrote post on how my students saw the videos and images.

    Being measurable, like Mr. Kraft already pointed out, is a must for the classroom, otherwise what's there to DO?

    Okay, okay, I'll get a damn tripod. I know it was my Blair Witch videos of late that inspired you to write this post!

    1. No, it wasn't your Blair Witch treadmill video that inspired me. It was the tire rolling down the hill video that I mentioned in the post. That made me think of videos on 101qs that have great potential, but can't fully deliver the experience because of a shaky camera or a poor angle. I think your treadmill idea is great, especially if you involve an RC car. Thanks again for finding my spelling errors on the post! I can count on you watching my back.

  3. Andrew, you're right, as Mr Kraft and Fawn have said - 101qs media work when there is something to measure. The Tuba Echo video is great - I was surprised at how long the echo took (kinda the point of the video).

    My (preservice student teacher) students next semester are going to have a lot of work to do figuring out all the new opportunities they will have to use sites like 101qs in their own teaching. Thanks for inspiring me.

    1. Thanks Peter. I just saw your post today. Google filtered your post as spam. You're correct, 101qs has great opportunities and ideas for new teachers. With Dan's most recent update, it's even more user friendly.

  4. I just noticed your comments on my Big Box o' Krispies. You're right-- one intended question was 'how many'. Not just "how many rice krispies is that?" but also the extension "how many of Triangleman's giant marshmallows would you need to make a giant rice krispie square using these rice krispies?"

    I was thinking volume too. But as in 'of a rectangular prism' not decibels. I love this idea. Please let me know if you put something together.

    I shared some thoughts on this here: (Sorry, for the shameless plug, but I think it's worth having a look at what I was going for with it.)

    By the way, your 'File Cabinet' is my new favourite.


    1. Man, just thinking of the size of that rice Krispies square makes me hungry. Anyway, I'd need a decibel meter for my idea. I'm sure glad you uploaded it to and it's a great volume discussion. Who knew your fish taco lunch would lead to this fun? I'd love to see it turned into a task. Thanks for favoring the File Cabinet. I'm proud of that, I'll admit.

  5. thanks for the post. I am working with a group excited about three act lesson structure and will share this with them.

    I like your idea of focusing on a "measurable" and love your point on "being the student." Thanks for all the great work and I hope to post some more on 101qs that make the top ten...