June 29, 2012, 2:23 pm
So, the six-week Calculus 2 class is over with — that didn’t take long — and there’s beginning to be enough distance between me and the course that I can begin to evaluate how it all went. Summer classes for me are a time when I like to experiment with things, and I wanted to comment on the outcomes of one experiment I tried this time, which is using a bring-your-own-device setup for clicker questions.
I’ve been using TurningPoint clickers ever since I started doing peer instruction, and I recommend these devices highly. They have a lot going for them in terms of classroom technology: They are small and unobtrusive, relatively cheap ($35), exceedingly simple to use, rely on no pre-existing infrastructure (for example, whether or not you have decent wifi in the room), and are nearly indestructible. They are about as simple, dependable, and inexpensive as a radio-operated garage door…
June 27, 2012, 11:52 am
Slate magazine has been running several articles on education this week, including two today that are of interest. This one by Konstantin Kakaes is worth looking at more closely, if only because it somehow manages to gather almost every wrong idea about technology in education in existence into a single, compact article.
The piece proposes that the effort to increase the use of technology in education “is beginning to do to our educational system what the transformation to industrial agriculture has done to our food system over the past half century: efficiently produce a deluge of cheap, empty calories.” I’m not sure which “effort” Kakaes is referring to, since there is no single push being coordinated from a secret underground bunker that I know of, and some efforts are better-conceived than others. But nevermind.
There are two overriding conceptual errors that drive this article…
June 12, 2012, 7:00 am
The first speaker in the Model-Eliciting Activities (MEA’s) session Monday morning said something that I’m still chewing on:
Misunderstanding is easier to correct than misconception.
She was referring to the results of her project, which took the usual framework for MEA’s and added a confidence level response item to student work. So students would work on their project, build their model, and when they were done, give a self-ranking of the confidence they had in their solution. When you found high confidence levels on wrong answers, the speaker noted, you’ve uncovered a deep-seated misconception.
I didn’t have time, but I wanted to ask what she felt the difference was between a misunderstanding and a misconception. My own answer to that question, which seemed to fit what she was saying in the talk, is that a misunderstanding is something like an incorrect interpretation of an idea …
June 2, 2012, 10:27 am
Online educational startup Udacity, with whom I had a very positive experience while taking their CS 101 course, is taking things a bit further by partnering with Pearson. They’ll be using Pearson VUE testing centers worldwide to provide proctored final exams for some of their courses (presumably all of their courses will be included eventually), leading to an official credential and participation in a job placement service.
Before, students watched the videos and did homework assignments online and then took a final exam at the end of the semester. In the first offering of CS 101, the “grade” for the course (the kind of certificate you got from Udacity) depended on either an average of homework scores and the final exam or on the final exam alone. Most Udacity courses these days just use the final exam. But the exam is untimed and unproctored, and there’s absolutely nothing…
May 8, 2012, 12:52 pm
I blog a lot about peer instruction, but I think this screenshot from this morning’s Calculus 2 class is worth 1000 of my blog posts about just how effective a teaching technique PI can be. It’s from a question about average value of a function. Just before this question was a short lecture about average value in which I derived the formula and did an example with a graph of data (not as geometrically regular as the one you see below). I used Learning Catalytics to set up the question as Numerical, which means that student see the text and the picture on their devices along with a text box in which to enter what they think is the right answer. (I.e. it’s not multiple choice.) Here are the results of two rounds of voting (click to enlarge):
After the first round of voting, there were 12 different numerical answers for 23 students! (Some of these would be the same answer if students …
May 7, 2012, 8:58 pm
Today we started the spring term, 6-week Calculus 2 class that I’ve been writing about for the last few days. We had a good time today, getting comfortable with each other and doing some review of the basics of the definite integral. Before we get too far into the term, I wanted to outline the technology infrastructure of the course.
For a long time, I’d used the learning management system (LMS) of my institution as the basic technology for the course, and everything else kind of fit around the LMS. At GVSU the default LMS is Blackboard. But I decided after used Blackboard this past year that we have irreconcilable differences. I don’t ask much from my LMS; I mainly use it to archive files, provide a link to a central calendar, post grades, and to make announcements. I don’t need all the dozens of other features Blackboard offers, and the profusion of features in Blackboard tends to…
March 21, 2012, 6:38 am
It’s been a couple of weeks since my first post about the Udacity CS101 course, so here’s an update. Before that, let me mention this nice article in Wired about Udacity and its origins. That article sheds a little light on the questions I had earlier about Udacity’s business model.
So, Units 3 and 4 are now done with the CS101 course. The focus of Unit 3 was mostly on the concept of the list in Python, along with FOR loops and an emphasis on computer memory. Unit 4 was a bit of a left turn into a discussion of computer networks, with an emphasis on the basics of the Internet and the concepts of latency and bandwidth. So, just from this description, you can see one of the things I particularly like about CS101: It’s not just about Python. This is a class that is actually about computer science in general with Python as a tool for understanding it. Maybe that’s one of the reasons I…
March 8, 2012, 8:30 am
I found this quote the other day from a book about electricity. Read it and see if you can guess the source and the year in which it was made:
It would be a dry, dull and uninteresting thing to tell a [child] that electricity can be generated by riveting together two pieces of dissimilar metals, and applying heat to the juncture. But put into his hands the metals, and set him to perform the actual work of riveting the metals together, then wiring up the ends of the metals, heating them, and, with a galvanometer, watching for results, it will at once make him see something in the experiment which never occurred when the abstract theory was propounded.
He will inquire first what metals should be used to get the best results, and finally, he will speculate as to the reasons for the phenomena. When he learns that all metals are positive-negative or negative-positive to each…
February 23, 2012, 6:48 am
Someone asked me recently what was the one thing that’s changed the most about my teaching over the last 10 years. My response was that I’m a lot more likely now than I was in 2002 to organize my classes around asking and answering questions rather than covering material. Here’s one reason why.
The weekly Mathematica labs that we have in my Calculus 3 class are set up so that some background material (usually a combination of math concepts and new Mathematica commands) is presented in the lab handout followed by some situations centered around questions, the answers to which are likely to involve Calculus 3 and Mathematica. I said likely, not inevitably. There is no rule that says students must use Calculus 3 to answer the question. The only rules are: (1) the entire solution has to be done in a Mathematica notebook, and (2) the solutions have to be clear, convincing, and…
January 14, 2012, 2:22 pm
Audrey Watters writes in Hack [Higher] Education that maybe it’s time for programming to join critical thinking and effective writing as part of the body of required knowledge for all university students:
But I will posit that all students should learn programming, whether they plan to become programmers or not. Many universities already require students take composition in order to graduate. Perhaps it’s time for programming — “the new literacy” — to become a requirement too?
I don’t mean that every student needs to learn C++ or Python or Perl or Java or Ruby. But I do think everyone needs to know how the Web works — how search engines operate, for example, and what’s “server side” and what’s “client side” and why the difference matters. Everyone needs to know some HTML (a mark-up, not a programming, language I realize). And with the move towards the fifth revision of the HTML…