September 1, 2013, 1:49 pm
Week 1 of the new semester is in the books, and with it the first week of the inverted calculus class. I am teaching two sections of this class, one that meets Monday/Wednesday/Friday and the other Tuesday/Thursday. It makes for tricky scheduling, but as I learned this week it also gives an opportunity for second chances, which is important if you don’t always get the in-class portion of the flipped classroom right.
People always seem to focus on the out-of-class experience when they talk about the inverted classroom. How much time does it take to make the videos? How do I make sure my students do the Guided Practice? But that’s not the hard part, nor is it the part where most of the learning takes place. The in-class experience for students is what makes the inverted classroom more than just a lab or a seminar course, and as the instructor, it’s both hard and crucial to get it …
August 25, 2013, 2:38 pm
In the last post, I said I might be taking a couple of weeks off, and I ended up taking three. Well, the week before classes start is basically a blackout period during which nothing gets done except course preps, so that’s why.
Yes, it all starts back up again here this week. This semester is going to be fuller than usual for a lot of reasons, three primary: First, I’m up for contract renewal in January, meaning that I am approaching the “midterm exam” at the halfway point toward tenure, which requires the usual aggregation of evidence demonstrating that I’m making satisfactory progress. Second, I’m teaching my first upper-level course since arriving at GVSU, one section of our Modern Algebra course, which I have not taught in a few years and I am anxious to get into it. I’m also trying out a new platform for classroom response systems in that course and I will tell you…
June 25, 2013, 12:04 pm
I’m at the American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference right now through Thursday, not presenting this time but keeping the plates spinning as Mathematics Division program chair. This morning’s technical session featured a very interesting talk from Kathy Harper of the Ohio State University. Kathy’s talk, “First Steps in Strengthening the Connections Between Mathematics and Engineering”, was representative of all the talks in this session, but hers focused on a particular set of interesting data: What engineering faculty perceive as the most important mathematics topics for their areas, and the level of competence at which they perceive students to be functioning in those topics.
In Kathy’s study, 77 engineering faculty at OSU responded to a survey that asked them to rate the importance of various mathematical topics on a 5-point scale, with 5 being the…
August 13, 2012, 8:00 am
Allow me to make a shameless plug for a very cool project currently underway by my GVSU colleague Matt Boelkins. He is writing a free, open-source calculus textbook that will be available in PDF form online for anyone to use and for any instructor to modify. He has already written the differential calculus portion of the textbook — his Winter semester sabbatical project — and he’s about to begin work on the integral calculus portion. You can download the differential calculus parts here. This is at his blog, where he is promoting the book and soliciting feedback. Matt’s also on Twitter.
Matt and I have talked about this project a lot in the last several months, and I’m deeply impressed by his vision for what this resource could become. He sums it up in this blog post:
While on sabbatical during the winter semester of 2012, I began drafting a free, open-source calculus text….
June 5, 2012, 8:00 am
I haven’t given many updates lately about, well, anything, but especially about my Calculus 2 class. Freakishly, we are 2/3 of the way through the course now. First of all let me say that there’s something seriously wrong with having a midterm in a class after three weeks, and then a final exam three weeks later. Students should have more time to dread those things.
I kid, but actually the biggest adjustment I’ve made in the class — and teaching a class that’s as compressed as this one is all about paying close attention to everything that happens and being nimble about making adjustments — has been the testing scheme. I know that I posted earlier about my idea of having in-class assessments that were smaller than the usual test, more frequent, and which leveraged student collaboration and the real-life social network of the class. But after a couple of tries with this, I dropped it…
May 14, 2012, 7:30 am
Week 1 of the 6-week Calculus 2 course is over, and of course it felt like 2.5 weeks of class because that’s the exchange rate between this course and a normal 14-week course. It was challenging for the students, but I feel like they are on board with what we’re doing. I was especially pleased with the outcome of one of the distinctives of this class: the in-class assessments which are called, er, Assessments.
I said at the outset that the key thing with this class was to force the issue on assimilation of material, and part of that was to engage in early, small, and frequent assessment. For formative assessment, we do daily online homework and clicker questions. There’s no requirement to get clicker questions right at all, and WeBWorK sets have no limits on number of attempts or the amount of collaboration or technology used. For summative assessment, we have a midterm exam and a…
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…
May 4, 2012, 4:00 pm
Sorry for the boring title and lack of catchy image, but since my first post about the upcoming six-week Calculus 2 course, I’ve expended all my creativity getting the course put together and getting ready for Monday. In the earlier post I laid down some design ground rules for the course. Here, I’m going to say a little more in detail about what we’ll be doing.
It’s especially important on a highly compressed schedule like ours to use the class meetings themselves to jumpstart the assimilation process and then train students on how to carry that process forward as they go to work on the day’s material in the afternoon and evening. This is always an important goal of class meetings in any course — I’d go as far as to say that this is why we have class meetings at all. But when you cram a 14-week course into 6 weeks, it doesn’t take long for one incorrectly-assimilated concept to…
May 1, 2012, 9:18 am
I took a two-week blogging hiatus while final exams week, and the week before, played themselves out. Now that those fun two weeks are over, it’s time to start focusing on what’s next. Some of those things you’ll read about here on the blog, starting with the most immediate item: my spring Calculus 2 class that starts on Monday.
Terminology note: At GVSU and other Michigan schools, the semester that runs from January through April is called “Winter” semester. The period in between Winter and Fall is split into two six-week terms, the first being “Spring” (May-mid June) and the second “Summer” (mid June-July). It’s quite accurate to the climate here.
Anyway, my Calculus 2 class runs in that 6-week Spring term. If you know anything about Calculus 2, and you have a sense of just how long, or short, a 6-week period is, the first thing you’ll realize is that this is a lot of content…