June 12, 2012, 7:00 am

By Robert Talbert

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 …

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February 27, 2012, 8:00 am

By Robert Talbert

I had the great pleasure this weekend of leading a session at Math In Action, which is Grand Valley’s annual K-12 educators’ conference. My session was called “Classroom Response Systems in Mathematics: Learning math better through voting” and was all about the kinds of learning that can take place in a class where active student choice is central and clickers are mediating the voting. (Here are the slides.)

It always seems like a bait-and-switch when I do a “clicker” workshop, because although people come to learn about clickers, I don’t really have much to say about the technology itself. As devices go, clickers are about as complex as a garage door opener, and in fact they work on the same principle. There’s not a lot to discuss. So instead, we spend our time focusing on the kinds of pedagogy that clickers enable — which tends to excite teachers more than technology does.

The a…

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January 4, 2012, 8:00 am

By Robert Talbert

I have been using clickers in my classes for three years now, and for me, there’s no going back. The “agile teaching” model that clickers enable suits my teaching style very well and helps my students learn. But I have to say that until reading this Educause article on the flight out to Boston on Sunday, I hadn’t given much thought to how the clicker implementation model chosen by the institution might affect how my students learn.

Different institutions implement clickers differently, of course. The article studies three different implementation models: the *students-pay-without-incentive* (SPWOI) approach, where students buy the clickers for class but the class has no graded component for clicker use; the the *students-pay-with-incentive* (SPWI) approach, where students purchase clickers and there’s some grade incentive in class for using them (usually participation credit, but this can…

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October 25, 2011, 7:30 am

By Robert Talbert

I just gave midterm evaluations in my classes, and for the item about “What could we be doing differently to make the class better?”, many students put down: *Do more examples at the board*. I think I’ve seen that request more often than any other in my classes at midterm. This is a legitimate request (it’s not like they’re asking for free points or an extra day in the weekend), but honestly, I’m hesitant to give in to it. Why? Two reasons.

First, doing more examples at the board means more lecturing, therefore less active learning, and therefore more passivity and dependence by students on authority. That’s bad. Second, we can’t add more time to the meetings, so doing more examples means either going through them in less detail or else using examples that are overly simple. In the first case, we have less time for questions and deep thought, and therefore more passivity and dependence….

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September 15, 2011, 8:52 pm

By Robert Talbert

http://www.flickr.com/photos/unav/

Right now I’m teaching a course called Communicating in Mathematics, which serves two purposes. First, it’s a transitional course for students heading from the freshman calculus sequence into more theoretical upper-level math courses. We learn about logic, how to formulate and test mathematical conjectures, and we spend a lot of time learning how to write correct mathematical proofs. And therein is the second purpose: The course is also labelled as a “Supplemental Writing Skills” course at Grand Valley, which means that a large portion of the class, and of the course grade, is based on writing. (

Here are the specifics.) It’s a sort of second-semester, discipline-specific composition class. (Students at GVSU have to have two of these SWS courses, each in different…

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November 15, 2010, 9:17 pm

By Robert Talbert

This morning as I was driving in to work, I got to thinking: Could I teach my courses without all the technology I use? As in, just me, my students, and a chalk/whiteboard with chalk/markers? As I pulled in to the college, I thought: *Sure I could. It just wouldn’t be as good or fun without the tech*.

Little did I know, today would be centered around living that theory out:

- I planned a Keynote presentation with clicker questions to teach the section on antiderivatives in Calculus. As soon as I tried to get the clickers going, I realized the little USB receiver wasn’t working. Turns out, updating Mac OS X to v10.6.5 breaks the software that runs the receiver. Clicker questions for this morning: Out the window. Hopefully I’ll find a useable laptop for tomorrow, when I’m using even more clicker questions.
- Also in calculus, the laptop inexplicably went into presenter mode when I tried to…

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