Dazzling Desmos!

During this ‘final’ lockdown, where we have all been retraining as ‘remote learning tutors’, we have all been experimenting with different methods of supporting students learning. I am sure we have all tried both synchronous and asynchronous lessons and finding many benefits and negatives for both. One tool I tried was the Desmos Activity Platform (not to be confused with the Desmos graphing tool) and I have found it fits both styles of lesson really well, but the MOST AMAZING thing I found out, was that it can be used for subjects other than mathematics.

I introduced the platform to the talented primary teacher, I call Mrs H, and she has taken it and run both English and science lessons on it with great success with her classes. Here is a screen shot of one of here activities (kindly agreed by Mrs H when I brought her a cup of tea!!)

Example of a card sort in science
example of a text answer in science

So I thought I would write a blog about how the platform works and why it is so useful for remote learning.

Firstly, it is a very easy platform to work with, everything is very obvious as to the activity and the drag and drop method of creating screens make it simple to use. There is a large range of different responses available for students, including text, card sorts, sketchpads, graphing tool and numeric answers to go along with the standard multiple choice of most other platforms. This means that teachers can set a range of different answer formats for students, which will give a better understanding of the learning taking place, (Assessment for Learning!). For most of the options, there is the availability (for those more advanced in basic programming), to set the correct answer for a question.

This is also enhanced by the use of the teacher screen, where you can click on any question by any student and look at their response for accuracy, especially as if there is a ‘correct’ answer available the teacher screen will ‘auto-mark’ the response.

During ‘live’ lessons this screen becomes even more useful, as there is a ‘pause’ button. This option enables the teacher to stop the students from progressing onto any other screen, so that any whole class misconceptions can be immediately reviewed, (AfL at its best!). The teacher can also use the ‘teacher pacing’ button, which enables them to decide the pace at which the screens are moved forward.

There are also options to add pictures and videos to screens, so that the ‘live’ lesson doesn’t need to be recorded, the teacher can just add a video for those students not able to attend into the appropriate screen.

Finally, all the student responses are recorded and can be accessed at any time in the future, so reviewing work done, or even reviewing what needs to be revised can be found very easily.

Many of my mathematics colleagues have already found this amazing platform and use it for ‘live’ graphing’ as well as the activities. For my Key Stage 3 colleagues, who may use White Rose Maths, Charlotte Hawthorne (@mrshawthorne7), has created some incredibly skilful activities for the end of topic assessments on her website (sketchcpd.com) or on the desmos site here.

The end of ‘lockdown’ and a return to some sort of normality should not put anyone off using Desmos in the classroom or even for homework. If you haven’t tried to make an activity, then try doing one, even if it is for your next department meeting. I am sure you will find it as simple to use as I did and be a worthwhile addition to your expertise.


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