Category: Classroom Life

Transforming Math for Elementary Ed

After several months alone to think about why education has become so transactional, I decided that I’d have to “walk the walk” and not just “talk the talk” and so I set about revamping my own classes.  For several weeks, my brain processors whirled while I tried to figure out how to make courses that have a highly structured and full curricula into courses that are transformational and revolve around learning.  Eventually, I hit upon the solution: Learning Projects.  Each student in Math for Elementary Teachers (MathET, as I like to call it) has to do five learning projects during the semester: Writing a Learning Blog Building a Mindmap Giving an Inquiry-Based Learning Presentation in class Creating a Video for the Internet Creating a Digital Portfolio to house their projects (this will be done by everyone last) We cover four “units” in MathET, and each student completes the first four learning projects in a random pre-assigned order (I made a chart of all project assignments at the beginning of the semester).  This means that at any time, 25% of the students are blogging, 25% are building mindmaps, 25% are working on a 10-minute presentation for class, and 25% are building a video on a specific topic.  Projects are due two days before the unit exam so that everyone can learn from reading and clicking through each others’ projects. No...

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Notesharing in the Digital Age

What do you see when you look out at your students?  Do you see them writing down everything you write and everything you say?  How does it make you feel?  Honored, proud, powerful? What if those same students then put those notes online and share them with the rest of the class, or the world?  What if they sold those notes to a note-selling business like Einstein’s Notes, for profit?  Would you be okay with that? Michael Moulton, a University of Florida professor felt violated when it happened to him.  So much so, that he filed a lawsuit in 2008.  An article in The Chronicle of Higher Ed shows Moulton’s frustration with students who participate in these activities. A more recent altercation took place at San Jose State University.  Here, it was determined that the student does have the right to display homework results online. Many professors invite the use of shared notes amongst classmates.  They see it as an opportunity for collaborative study.  A research paper by DeZure, Kaplan & Deerman indicates that  students (in general) fail to record 40% of the important points in a typical lecture.  First-year students, on average, do considerably worse. Whatever your take on this, there are several note taking and sharing sites available today. Here are some links to other blog posts / articles on this topic in case you are, like...

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Crowdsource Your Syllabus Presentation

You know what I hate about the first day of class?  Going over the syllabus.  You know that the students do nothing but listen to instructors read them the syllabii the first two days of class as they meet all their instructors for the first time.  Not only is this tedious for them (and I wonder if they even remotely pay attention), but it’s tedious for me too. This year I vowed to turn all my classes into student-oriented learning as much as possible, starting with DAY ONE! The syllabus was five pages long.  I had students count off by 5 and put them in groups.  Each group received copies of one (and only one) page of the syllabus.  They had about 5-8 minutes to read that page and then decide what to present and how to present it. During this time, I circulated to answer questions that the groups might had (clarifying points mostly). The five groups then presented the five pages of the syllabus, highlighting what was important to THEM and phrasing the main points in their own words.  The class was very attentive (especially since they had not seen any page but the one they had). Then I passed out the syllabus to everyone. Completely painless.  I wish I had thought of this one years ago. Possibly Related Posts: ESIL: A Learning Lens for the Digital...

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Impact of Wolfram Alpha on Math Ed

I’ve had almost two weeks to think about the impact of Wolfram|Alpha (abbreviated as W|A, and now pronounced by me as “Walpha”), and I’m ready to share some of my thoughts with you. After spending hundreds of hours reading more than 200 papers on innovation in math instructional practices, change in higher education, and diffusion of innovation theory, it is strange to suddenly find myself observing the possibility of a sudden shift in math education caused by a new innovation. I liken it to being a vulcanologist who has, up until this point, been observing a dormant volcano and then quite unexpectedly, it begins rumbling. Please keep in mind that these are my own predictions and thoughts, for better or for worse. 1. The adoption rate of W|A amongst students in higher education will be extremely fast. I’ve examined the attributes and variables that affect the diffusion of innovations, and found that every single one points to a fast adoption amongst students.  Because W|A is free and similar to other technologies they know how to use (designed like a search engine), it has relative advantage over other CAS technologies.  With prior CAS technologies, you had to know exactly what series of steps or commands to write in order to extract the outcome you desired, but with W|A, the less you ask for, the more you get out.  W|A just...

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Wii Have Liftoff!

I’ve been working on this Wii Smartboard hack project for about two weeks and today I’m pleased to report that I finally have liftoff ! What is it? Johnny Lee (who presented at TED 2007) has been doing some fascinating work with simple Wii remotes. One of his projects, shown below, has been to make a “hack” version of a SmartBoard using a wii remote, an infrared light, and a bluetooth capable computer. It’s been blogged about all over the Internet, and several of you have urged me to write about it, but I wanted to try it myself before passing it along. So … here are the gory details (more lucid details, without all the embellishment, can be found on Johnny Lee’s website. It is the project called Low-Cost Multi-point Interactive Whiteboards Using the Wiimote. STEP 1: Build an infrared light pen and borrow someone’s wii remote. I did purchase the parts from Radio Shack for under $10: an infrared light, a switch, some wire, and a AA battery. For the pen construction (which was going to possibly require some sautering), I enlisted the Industrial Technology Wing of our campus for some help. One of their students did a fabulous job disassembling a standard whiteboard marker to create our working infrared pen. When you press and hold the switch, the infrared light is on. In our model, the...

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