ICTCM 2008 Day One

Here’s a rundown of the roughly 10 events of my day before the Meeting of the Blogs:

1. Got up REALLY early to finish building the part of the Online Calculus map about WebAssign. I usually give this presentation without any “backup” notes, but I thought I’d better try to prepare something that looked like I spent a lot of time preparing. I actually ordered room service for breakfast because I just didn’t have time to go out and I really needed coffee and food.

2. Stopped by the exhibition hall. I thought it was quite fortuitous that WebAssign and Techsmith have booths that are side-by-side. That makes it really easy to stop by and say hi. This is the first time that TechSmith (they make Camtasia, Jing, and SnagIt) have been to any math conference – so everyone make sure to stop by and welcome them to the math community!

3. I gave my presentation this morning called “WebAssign for Web-Enhanced, Hybrid, or Online Math Classes.” The audience was standing-room only by the end and there was a lot of energy in the room. It was very difficult to stay on-topic on WebAssign because everyone kept asking questions about all the other aspects of my online course (all of which can be found either here in the presentation map or on this blog). I think that everyone was very excited to see all the great technologies and pedagogies that you can plug in to WebAssign. Also, an incredible technology first – I ran everything directly from the Internet on the conference computer! I’m really liking this Mindomo presentation model.

    4. Attended several sessions. One of the sessions that I had looked forward to attending (a software program that I really wanted to learn) was extremely disappointing. The speaker had not bothered to stay current with the software and was two versions behind (consequently, this individual did not know how to use the version of the software that had been installed on the conference computers). After 30 minutes of a 2-hour session, I had not even learned how to simplify an algebraic expression, and so, I left. Consequently, I just made it to Robert Talbert’s talk about Wikis (he did a nice job – check out his Enigma class wiki here). During one of the morning sessions I made this discovery about Windows Journal:

    5. By lunchtime I had discovered the “notoriety of the blog” when I discovered that it was featured in a morning session on Camtasia, where the speaker had been unable to make it at the last minute. I guess the guys from TechSmith volunteered to do the session on-the-fly and, needing some “mathy stuff,” decided to use my blog as part of their presentation.

    6. An amusing moment during the dedicated exhibit hall hours was when I caught the WebAssign booth downloading Jing to their computers – hmmm…. maybe we can get these two companies to work together to build some incredible functionality for math! (I chuckled when someone at the Techsmith booth snapped a cell-phone picture of the WebAssign booth downloading Jing.)

    7. I made another attempt to understand the TI-Inspire … (it has a zillion buttons, it is clunkier than the TI-92, and the interface is difficult to use), … I am still baffled by the design of this product. If Ti would like to send me an Inspire, I will happily take a more careful look. In the meantime, I have no plans to change the calculator my students use. At the TI booth they also told me they will no longer be building new versions of Derive as they consider the Inspire software (which does not run on a Mac) to incorporate all the aspects of Derive.

    8. I spent a good hour talking (um… evangilizing technology) in the lobby to a couple of ladies from Maine, and consequently missed the 3pm session (sorry faithful readers). However, I remember being the eager listener at the 2006 AMATYC when Dan Petrak took the time to talk to me and a colleague about everything he knew – so I didn’t mind that at all.

    9. Another dud session that turned out to just be a “why I like this homework system” stump speech (but they didn’t mention the system in the title of the talk – hey, at least I was up front with what I was evangilizing). This was followed by a good session on Geometer’s Sketchpad with some excellent examples. I can’t decide if that’s worth the investment to learn Geometer’s Sketchpad when I’ve got a perfectly good copy of Mathematica to play with (I think I probably need to learn that – anyone know of a good tutorial for Mathematica 6?).

    10. The last session of the day (and certainly the best I attended) was called “The History of Mathematics: Making it Work with Web 2.0 Games” (Richard Glass and Marsha Spiegelman). This was an interesting collaboration between a librarian and a mathematics instructor that sought to integrate information literacy and mathematics topics. They had some great examples – like using library search engines to demonstrate Boolean algebra. Information about their collaboration and links to the class blogs can be found on their wiki called Paperwiki. It was a nice way to end the day.

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    1. Steve says:

      A comment on your reaction to the TI NSpire … I was at the T^3 conference in Dallas last weekend where it was the focus of probably 90% of the presentations. I came away with a sense that its use is in a whole different direction from how we use the -92′s, the -89′s and -200′s. They don’t even call it a calculator, the presenters refered to it as the “TI handheld.”

      It seemed to me that the whole idea is to use it as a presentation device — not like PowerPoint, but rather an interactive presentation device with screens (pages) alternating from text to graph to calculator to spreadsheet — communicating the mathematical concept via all these methods. The students are to respond on the calculator or on a worksheet and discover or verify for themselves the topic being taught.

      I teach at the university level and all our students are required to have one of the three models mentioned above. For us to change would require a major paradigm shift in the way we teach. As long as TI continues to support those calculators, I don’t see us changing. However, I can see some students coming to college next year with these in hand. We’ll probably have to be able to be somewhat conversant on how to use them.

      The computer version of the “handheld” is quite nice, but is so different from the emulator of the TI-92 or -89 that we cannot just shift over to the new computer version and expect students with the earlier calculators to follow what we are doing.

      I got the sense talking to various folk that TI will be supporting the -89 family in the “near future,” whatever that means. Someone was guessing TI would do this in case the NSpire didn’t catch on. If that is so and it does catch on big time, I’m guessing they will probably drop the -89 family sooner than later.

      In any case, I bought one and I’m trying to adapt to the new paradigm, writing up some applications for different lessons.

      By the way, because the documents are interactive, I can see this as a viable way to teach a math class online. The student downloads the document, works through it, responding in the appropriate places (entering answers, graphing functions as speicfied, creating geometric diagrams and constructions, etc.), then uploading it for evaluation.

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