Double Stuffed Oreos & the Role of Digital Media in Classrooms

I’ve been creating Video Story Problems for several years now….more than half a decade! The fervor behind the movement to make math more accessible via video has died down, or maybe I’m just not paying as close attention to Dan Meyer’s work as I once was (nope, I just checked, Dan is as amazing as ever, including teaching live lessons to students in place of a conference keynote). For me at least, the energy required to continually push new ideas and stretch educator’s thinking on the ground level is tiring. Delivering sit and get speeches and conference talks is easy, but staying motivated week in and week out with dwindling resources for both technology and support is exhausting.

Thankfully, the past version of myself injected my future timeline with small energizing oases thanks to social media and the advent of hosted media platforms for the masses. I posted my original “Oreo Permutations” video story problem five years ago, long before my local grocery store posted signs stating “no filming on premises.”

It was a watershed video for me in that it captured a real life curiosity, embodied the perfect example of mathematics application in the real world (I’d really love to know if Nabisco has ever done the math on this), and tied in a bit of the angst from the “hot dog bun rant” in 1991’s remake of “Father of the Bride.” Anyone ever figure out how many packages of buns and hot dogs you’d have to purchase in order to have enough hot dogs to match the number of buns?

What I didn’t realize at the time was that five years in the future Haley, a student in an Advanced Algebra II class, would leave a comment on that video that would give me a boost of energy and a reminder that what we do as educators can often have timeless impact. The ability to create small vignettes of those moments in which our curiosity or lessons touches on the more human side of educating and then post them on Vimeo, Youtube, or any number of website amplifies those moments. Apparently, Haley’s Algebra teacher used my video with her class, and went a step farther, bringing double stuffed Oreos in for the class as a part of their celebration of learning.

I’m not advocating that the teachers who bring in candy, treats, and other incentives are the ones who get it; it’s the ones that understand there’s a strong need for teachers and students to connect on many small human levels that help cement learning. Digital media and social platforms allow those connections to be made far into the future, with other teachers, other learners, and continue to resonate in heart-warming ways the same way a graduating senior coming back to visit their favorite elementary teachers does. I see high school students leaving comments on goofy teacher videos that were made back in 4th grade; I see former students flipping through Instagram and Youtube feeds “liking” posts from experiences that were shared from their formative years.

Leveraging social media and digital media is a means of time travel and reflection that can have many wonderful positive implications, for educators as human beings, but for students as well. It can give us a sense of “what works” over the course of many years that might be otherwise difficult to observe from year to year if you choose to keep what you do hidden behind closed doors.