Category Archives: Technology

August 12, 2014, 12:22 pm

Is lecture really the thing that needs fixing?

d510c2df-22fc-47b9-8511-e1e69a9d560bOne of my Twitter people asked me to share my thoughts on yesterday’s Chronicle article, “Can Universities Use Data to Fix What Ails the Lecture?” At the time, I skimmed the article and replied that LectureTools, the technological tool developed by Perry Samson to gather real-time data from students during a lecture, reminded me of the contraption you see in the photo to your left. That’s an automated chalkboard eraser. As technology goes, it’s quite effective in what it does. Just look at how clean that board is! Which is great but… that’s a chalkboard for goodness’ sake. A piece of communications technology that is not significantly different than prehistoric cave drawing, and which has been improved upon countless times. (Purists who still cling to chalkboards: You guys are Luddites. Sorry.)  Strapping an awesome piece of technology to a chalkboard doesn’t make the …

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June 28, 2014, 9:57 am

Grand challenges for mathematics education

1054180042_90c9dace1c_mOn Twitter this week, someone sent out a link to this survey from the NCTM asking users to submit their ideas for “grand challenges” for mathematics education in the coming years. I forget the precise definition and parameters for a “grand challenge” and I can’t go back to the beginning of the survey now that I’ve completed it, but the gist is that a grand challenge should be “extremely difficult but doable”, should make a positive impact on a large group of mathematics students, and should be grounded in sound pedagogical research.

To that list of parameters, I added that the result of any grand challenge should include a set of free, open-source materials or freely-available research studies that anyone can obtain and use without having to subscribe to a journal, belong to a particular institution, or use a particular brand of published curricula. In other words, one…

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June 23, 2014, 9:41 am

Guest post: Blending and flipping modern architecture

There’s a lot on this blog about the flipped or inverted classroom, and it’s primarily from the mathematics and STEM perspective. I am often asked how the inverted classroom might look in the humanities or social sciences. I’d like to welcome Jeff Schramm, an associate professor of History and Political Science at Missouri University of Science and Technology, whose guest post today details his use of the flipped classroom in a history of architecture course. Enjoy! –rt

IMG_4765How many of you reading this have a formal dining room in your home? A separate room, not just a dining area in a kitchen or great room. How often does this dining room get used for its intended purpose? Daily? Weekly? A couple times a year on major holidays?

This is how I begin my Architecture, Technology and Society, 1750-present class. It’s my first attempt at helping my students to think about the built…

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June 16, 2014, 5:18 pm

Three updates on Mathematica and The Wolfram Language

wolfram-language-and-mathematica-icons1Greetings from Indianapolis, my old stomping grounds, where I’m attending the 2014 American Society for Engineering Education Conference. I’m speaking tomorrow morning on the flipped classroom in calculus and its implications for engineering education, and I’m also the Mathematics Division chair this year and so I have some plate-spinning functions to perform.

But what I wanted to just briefly note right now are some news items that I picked up from some folks at the Wolfram Research booth about upcoming developments with Mathematica and the still-sort-of-new Wolfram Language.

First: Mathematica is not being rebranded as the Wolfram Language. Two weeks ago, this post was put up at the Wolfram Blog that said

Back in 2012, Jon McLoone wrote a program that analyzed the coding examples of over 500 programming languages that were compiled on the wiki site Rosetta Code. He…

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June 13, 2014, 2:40 pm

Three issues with the case for banning laptops

2984626120_6f756e2da7_mThis article, “The Case for Banning Laptops in the Classroom”, written by Dan Rockmore for The New Yorker, has been getting considerable airtime on social media this week. As a classroom instructor I can certainly attest to the power of technology to distract and interfere with student learning. But I had three issues with the “case” being made.

1. Because the headline focuses on banning laptops from the classroom, it’s easy to miss this very important point made in the article:

These examples [of how learning is negatively affected by the presence of technology] can be seen as the progeny of an ill-conceived union of twenty-first-century tools (computers, tablets, smartphones) with nineteenth-century modalities (lectures). I’m not discussing the “flipped classroom,” wherein lectures are accessed outside of class on digital devices and the classroom is used as a…

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May 19, 2014, 12:25 pm

Technology, learning, and institutional mission statements

13164220234_91e79f4575_mRight now I’m preparing for a talk I’m giving next month, in which I’ll be speaking on using technology to connect students, faculty and institutions to the fundamentally human activities of learning and growth. Of those three groups – students, faculty, and institutions – I’m finding it to be a lot easier to talk about students and faculty and their relationship to technology than it is to talk about institutions. I’m wondering: Why is that?

After all, people are messy – we are a combination of social backgrounds, economic statuses, geography, past learning experiences, attitudes, preconceptions and more. When we advocate for the “use of technology” in learning, this phrase has to take all of these aspects of each person involved into account. That’s what makes the “use of technology” hard – and it explains why simplistic applications of technology in…

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May 16, 2014, 9:46 am

Flipped learning skepticism: What about technology?

90720334_b9af55cc90_mTo continue the blog post series  I’ve been doing (installments one, two, and three) that addresses skepticisms about flipped learning, I wanted to dip into something other than my own comment sections, and go to a general class of skepticisms I’ve heard when I do workshops. Those skepticisms involve technology. Specifically, although I’ve never heard a single formulation of this skepticism, there are two ways it can occur:

  • I’m skeptical about the flipped classroom because implementing it requires technology, and not all students have access to the technology they need.
  • I’m skeptical about the flipped classroom because implementing it requires technology, and I (the instructor) don’t have the time/inclination/skill to learn what I need.

As I’ll explain, I think it’s possible these are legitimate concerns[1], but they’re easily dealt with in a number of ways.

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March 18, 2014, 4:34 pm

What should mathematics majors know about computing, and when should they know it?

5064804_8d77e0d256_mYesterday I got an email from a reader who had read this post called What should math majors know about computing? from 2007. In the original article, I gave a list of what computing skills mathematics majors should learn and when they should learn them. The person emailing me was wondering if I had any updates on that list or any new ideas, seven years on from writing the article.

If anything, over the past seven years, my feelings about the centrality of computing in the mathematics major have gotten even more entrenched. Mostly this is because of two things.

First, I know more computer science and computer programming now than I did in 1997. I’ve learned Python over the last three years along with some of its related systems like NumPy and SciPy, and I’ve successfully used Python as a tool in my research. I’ve taken a MOOC on algorithms and read, in whole or in part, books…

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February 11, 2014, 2:46 pm

4+1 Interview: Eric Mazur

speaker-eric-mazurI am very excited to present this next installment in the 4+1 Interview series, this time featuring Prof. Eric Mazur of Harvard University. Prof. Mazur has been an innovator and driving force for positive change in STEM education for over 25 years, most notably as the inventor of peer instruction, which I’ve written about extensively here on the blog. His talk “Confessions of a Converted Lecturer” singlehandedly and radically changed my ideas about teaching when I first saw it six years ago. So it was great to sit down with Eric on Skype last week and talk about some questions I had for him about teaching and technology.

You can stream the audio from the interview below. Don’t miss:

  • A quick side trip to see if peer instruction is used in K-6 classrooms.
  • Thoughts about how Eric’s background as a kid in Montessori schools affected his thoughts about teaching later.
  • What’s going…

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January 24, 2014, 8:03 am

Weekend reading

Here are some items from around the web for your weekend enjoyment.

Math

  • Here’s a great post on Medium by Nik Custodio in which he explains Bitcoin like I’m five. I think the audience level here is rather older than five, but it’s still probably the best explanation of the problems that Bitcoin attempts to solve, and how it solves them, that I’ve seen. (I wasn’t sure whether to file this under “Math” or “Technology” because it’s a lot of both.)

Education

  • If you’ve ever been interested in standards-based grading, you won’t want to miss Kate Owens’ post An Adventure in Standards-Based Calculus where she lays out why, and bits about “how”, she intends to use SBG in her Calculus 2 course this semester. Don’t miss the link to George McNulty’s calc 2 syllabus at the end, which is a great example of how to use SBG in actual practice.
  • Good report…

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