Feltron Reflection

Link to official Feltron Project pages

For one month, students collected data about themselves. As a group, they collected data on the number of hours slept each night and the amount of pages read during a certain time period. In addition, students had one to three choice items to collect data on. These choice items were fully open to whatever a student was interested in learning about. Some examples of choice items include amount of video gaming, minutes of violin practiced, physical activity, body weight and more. This mini-project was part of our first unit of the year, called Project Big Data.

A student comment during reflection:

“… my average number of pages read per minute was 2.42 when I am supposed to read only 0.75 pages per minute. This shows that the book I was reading was at a lower level than me.” ~EW

Inspiration for this project came from Dan Meyer in his posts on dy/dan: The Feltron Project and The Feltron Project: Post Mortem. Dan Meyer also had an interview with Nicholas Felton about data collection.

Project Big Data driving question: How do we use data to describe and improve ourselves, our community and our world?

As part of the Big Data project, the “Feltron Project” focused on ourselves. The general project flow was as follows and is captured in this slide deck:

  1. Introduce Michael Felton and his work in describing himself.
  2. Launch the idea of collecting data on sleep, reading and a choice(s) for the following month.
  3. Collect data with completion check-ins
  4. Summarize Data
    1. Use the https://technology.cpm.org/general/stats/ site to create box plots and histograms of the data.
    2. Analyze data
    3. Construct explanations based upon questions for each category (sleep, reading…)

What went well?

  • Looking back on analysis from students, it seemed like many gained insight on some of their habits.
    • I was curious to see that the sleep data was a lot better than I had been expecting. Sure, there are some averaging 7 hours or less but the majority were at 8.5 hours or more.
    • Reading rates provided interesting topics of discussion as some were surprised to find that they are zooming through books. Too easy?
  • Students began developing a better appreciation about data with a project that relates them.
    • “I am proud of finishing the feltron data collection because i don’t like recording stuff and i stopped reading in 4th grade because we were required to record it (and i just didn’t record).”
    • “I am proud of trying to learn more about myself, such as how many hours I sleep and how much I exercise each day, because I usually don’t keep track and don’t really care about my own well-being so I think it was nice that I tried to keep track of my hours of sleep and exercise etc.”
    • “I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m proud of this but because of the Feltron data collection I learned that I don’t read that often and now knowing that I would like to change and fix this.”
    • hmmm….”I don’t really like tracking my life for 4 weeks. I don’t want to track my daily life because I find it very scary.”

What could use a good dose of revision?

  • A stats meltdown – In mathematics, I restructured the order of units to begin with statistics. Unfortunately, this seemed to be more than the students were ready for and after a few weeks, my co-teacher and I decided to switch content focus to rational numbers. As such the project lost some of its grounding.
  • The work flow was not well scaffolded. I had hoped that the synthesis at the end would not take students a lot of time, but it did. Students data collection should make sure that they are processing information as they collect it. For example, we wound up turning time into decimal representations. This could have been done while data was being collected. Reading rates (pages / min) could also have been precalculated.
  • Time ran out in the end and there was not a solid work session of modeling the process from strong data analysis to explanation. This is essential!
  • Data analysis was quite strong and centered on supporting a claim for some students. Many others had superficial connections. Is this OK if it was one of the first times students worked with data or is it important to push for stronger work this early in the year?
  • More check-ins. I really enjoyed the time to talk individually with students about their work on this project. The conversations often explored a bit of their personal lives so I learned more about my students. The check-ins also helped to motivate students in sticking with the project. Unfortunately, a few students slipped through the cracks and did not have data at the end.

Future Possibilities

  • Rework focus and ground in operations with rational numbers. The data collection about self was a nice start.
  • Time for discussions along the way that examine evidence and how data can be discussed is important.

Big Data: Student Reflections

The first project of the year – Project Big Data – is just winding down. I need to write about my own experiences but loved reading what the students wrote about the project. So many good reflections on what the students learned and now feel as they reacted to the driving question of How do we use data to describe and improve ourselves, our community, and our world?

Student Reflections on the driving question of Project Big Data:

“Looking back on Big Data, I learned how people find, analyze, and store Big Data. What Big Data was like in the 1900s. Also, what good things and bad things can be done with your data. For example, when we were planning for our essay researching about Big Data, that was when I started to understand more about the subject Big Data. By collecting data about the Wenyu River, we can find out many a lot of things about the river. For example, if you collect data about the amount of dissolved oxygen in parts of the river, we can find out about if the water is safe for fish to live in. When we were doing the Feltron Project, I realized that according to the information, the books I was reading were way too easy for me because I was reading way too fast. From now on, I will try to challenge myself by finding more challenging books to read.

Before this project I used to think that our data was always safe and that no one could take it from us unless they were some kind of professional hacker. But now, I know that there are different ways that people can find our data. For example, a company could just take your data by having you give them your email. Sometimes, they do include it in the Terms and Conditions agreement, but they do know that people never really read those.

Looking back on Project Big Data, I realize that I have learned many new things, in the many subjects of FA. In music, math, science, and humanities, they all have something connected to Big Data. For example, in music, we were learning about how we can collect data by going outside and recording what we hear, then with that, we can create music by changing things like pitch, rhythm, and speed. In math, we were collecting data by finding more about ourselves, like how long we sleep, and how much we read. In humanities, we wrote an argumentative essay about Big Data, seeing if it is good or bad for us. In science, we went to the Wenyu River to collect data and answer the driving question we made. I think the most important thing about this project for me was to learn more about Big Data and how it can change through time. I think the core of this unit was to learn more about Big Data and what it is.” ~SC

Looking back on Big Data, I learned that we can use data to improve our daily habits. For example, I found out that I sleep less than I thought I did, so I stated sleeping more. Before this project, I used to think that our data is only collected if we agree to it, but now I think that many websites or companies collect our data without us even knowing it. For example, I used to think that companies mainly collected data on us by surveys or reviews, but companies can collect data from us without knowing, including google maps and more. Looking back on project big data, I realize that big data can improve our lives but we still need to look at how big data is being used. For example, our privacy can be at risk and so can our jobs.” ~AC

Looking back on the Big Data project, I have learned many things about how our society, life, and the world is being tracked, and that you don’t really have as much privacy than you think. For example, when you click on links, the websites can track you. Before this project, I thought that our privacy was really… Well, private. But now, I realize that many websites and many apps keep track of what you browse, like, or see on a daily basis. Looking back at project Big Data, I realize that data is really useful, and without it, we would not have the lives that we have now. One example of this is that we can use data to find out what we can improve on. For example, the feltron project. We used the data that we collected to see if we could improve the way we live, and become a healthier individual.” ~AN

Looking back on Big Data, I learned that data collection can or cannot benefit us in ways. For example, sometimes it can be good in ways that it can help people who are missing or find offenders. It might not be good in the way that people could use it for bad ways! Or sometimes, data collection can tell you about your habits, like in the Feltron Project. I realized that I slept around 9 hours each night and that if I wanted to be healthier, I could sleep more! I also learned that I eat a lot of different food every day.

Before this project, I thought I knew how much companies could know about me and my family. Now I know that companies use my data in more ways than I thought they did. They can use my data to track me and target me. For example, they can use someone’s facial ID to look at their interests and all about them using that data. Looking back on Project Big Data, I realize that in the science factor, I have improved on a lot of things and also in essay writing! For example, I learned how to write procedures and make data tables. I also learned how to model and make explanations. In the essay writing, I learned how to give credit and make claims as well as support them with evidence and reasoning. This unit certainly was amazing!” ~KW


Growth: 2018-19

This year, I am in a pilot program for Professional Growth that focuses on Tripod’s 7Cs. My “C” for this year is below as it falls into my larger goal of “Survive”. It’s a new position – make the absolute best of it in the first year!

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Teaching in ways that make the curriculum engaging, accessible, and coherent


Spark and maintain student interest in learning

  • Design stimulating lessons
  • Facilitate active participation

New year, new role, new excitement

And we’re off! My yearlong “ground hog day” is starting as another batch of new 7th graders begin forming a community of learners and (hopefully) growing in awesome and amazing new ways. This year is a shift for me as I move into ISB’s Futures Academy, which is focused on integrated, project-based learning. So far, the work is beginning to activate memories of the excitement and great learning that I began my career with at the Sunnyside Environmental School.

The big shift for me though is that I’m not a self-contained teacher this time. I am actively working with several others to plan and teach. In mathematics, myself and another will work with 48 teachers. How? We’re not sure though flexibility is the key. Sometimes we will have all 48 for the two of us. Other times we will split them up. The possibilities seem endless. Then, I will drive the science curriculum as it is integrated with Humanities. This is another split that provides all sorts of possibilities. Those same 48 students will work with us on projects that will hopefully span all content areas and bring in specialists from art, music, drama and design tech at various times.

So, I’m excited about turn around. I also have a few concerns mostly to do with space. Up to this point, I’ve always been in my room, teaching my lesson on my schedule. Now, that is all thrown on its head. The “room” is one that can change daily and the spaces are shared with an 8th grade group. It is also unlikely that I will spend much time as the only adult in the room.  There are a few shifts to get used to but the bonus of being able to constantly bounce ideas off others and to build learning experiences with lots of positive energy makes me pretty excited for this school year!

Tiny Apartment Project – final display

At the beginning of April, my students and I launched into a new project. Some of the common questions at the end of the first week were along the lines of:

  • How do you use a 3D printer?
  • I’ve never done any 3D modeling. Will I be able to do it?

The project has now finished and I plenty to think about and reflect on. Students amazed me at their ability to learn and then work within the Tinkercad software. The purpose of this post is celebration. An amazing person in my building took student work and made a display. I wanted to share out the work and appreciate that the display was created. It is featured along a main corridor in our building.


Students also created a short screencast of their design. A video running together these short screencasts is below.

Teaching & Twitter (it’s worth it)

Five to ten minutes. I get in the habit of being involved with Twitter but time passes and it I get “too busy”. This post is that reminder to take the little bit of time in a day and check in. It is so worth it.

On Wednesday, I saw this post:

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What a cool idea. Get students quickly working with area and perimeter in an interesting problem solving idea.

IMG_1705On Thursday, a few students were finishing up early on their area/volume project so I pitched this idea and a stack of old newspaper at them. It was fun watching their process. They decided to start with getting the amount of paper to make a square meter.

A few moments later, they realized that their perimeter was going to be quite on the short side. At that point, a student said what could be the quote that makes my year worth it:



Should we just model it first? 

They sketched out a model of a few different ideas and included a scale.


Once their model was done, they quickly put the newspaper together.


Oops, it can’t be a rectangle so they made a quick adjustment:


A big thanks to @S_ODwyer for sharing her idea and to Twitter for a platform that makes sharing ideas easy. Take a few moments each day to touch base. Hidden gems are everywhere!

Let the students show the way (spreadsheets to Desmos)

Recently, I posted about the CER structure that I was starting to use more with my 7th graders in science. There, time was spent on representing evidence from multiple trials as well as different measures of center. I wondered about the use of Desmos in creating graphs. The goal is for students to be able to quickly create graphical displays so that the bulk of their time is spent discussing patterns within their evidence. Honestly, I hadn’t poked around in Desmos enough recently to know if it would be challenging or not. Graphing in Excel/gSheets often opens up the destructive side of me as it is quite cumbersome to make and modify graphs (at least at my skill level).

Today, students were finishing up assessments and and I tasked them with getting into Desmos and graphing the data they had recently done by hand. The goal was to explore, learn skills, reproduce the graph and then share out if it is possible.


Students got to cracking! I had them work individually to both allow for quiet in order for others to finish up assessments and to also allow for each student’s creativity in finding a solution. They were quite resourceful. Some began by putting in individual points. Others typed in entire tables. I nudged to find a way to copy and paste from the data in the spreadsheet. (I’m fully onboard in the power of spreadsheets to analyze data – I just can’t get the displays I want without frustration.) They reported back that they had. Entire tables can be copied from a spreadsheet and pasted into Desmos! Yeah! That’s quick! However, we had to do some restructuring of tables to make better meaning.

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gSpreadsheet Link

The trials and averages went into two different Desmos tables so that the formatting could be differentiated.

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Desmos Graph

Desmos Tip from students: Holding down on the color in the table provides extra options such as adding in a line between points if that is desired.

By the end of class, students were telling me that they were quite comfortable bringing tables into Desmos and then creating a graphical display. Desmos Tip: The wrench in the top right corner allows labels to be put on each axis as well as adjusting the scale.

So, I’m pretty excited both in having a potential system to make graphical displays and with the reward of putting my trust in the students. They could and did dive into the Desmos and finished by increasing the understanding of our community.