Posts Tagged ‘community’

The Many Ways of IBL Conference

June 26, 2013

I attended the University of Chicago’s “Many Ways of IBL” conference last week. Here is a brief list of my thoughts for the week, in no particular order.

  1. It was utterly great to see a couple old friends. I have been blessed to have had good colleagues everywhere I have been, and I wish that I could have taken many of them with me to my current position.
  2. It was great to meet a bunch of new friends. I hope to stay in touch with many of them.
  3. Part of the conference was to watch John Boller teach an IBL class on real analysis to a bunch of super-motivated high school students. Both John and the students did a fantastic job. I told John that it was so enjoyable that he could charge admission.
  4. One big thing I was failing at with IBL last year: I did not discuss the statements and meanings of the theorems before students presented. Boller did this, and it must help students understand everything about the course better.
  5. Paul Sally continues to be amazing. He is also hilarious.
  6. In many classes, I have students read the textbook rather than lecture. I have no idea how to mesh this with IBL, but it is something I value. I realized from the conference that the reason why I value this is that it helps students learn how to learn on their own.
  7. Even though I have been calling my recent hybrid classes “a mix of Peer Instruction (PI) and IBL,” I no longer think that I have been doing IBL. At best, it is IBL-Lite, although it is probably just “students presenting problems.”
  8. This will lead me to alter a paper that I recently wrote on a PI/”IBL” calculus class; I will now qualify that my IBL is pretty weak.
  9. I am now fairly certain that my courses for pre-service elementary education majors are IBL.
  10. I might do IBL in my abstract algebra course this spring. If so, I might interweave IBL and PI differently: I might mainly do IBL, but then have some PI days to make sure students understand the ideas that have already been presented.
  11. In abstract algebra, I might also create a class journal, where students can submit homework problems to an editorial board (of students) for peer review.
  12. In IBL classes, have students take pictures of the board work. They can then upload the pictures to the course website as a record of what happened.
  13. Matthew Leingang gave me a nice way of communicating course rules. He has “The Vegas Rule” for his class: “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” where “Vegas” is defined as “the world outside of this classroom.” This is a nice concise way of reminding students to not use previous knowledge and outside sources.
  14. Leingang also got me excited about paperless grading. Now I just need to find $1200 for an iPad and scanner.
  15. Ken Gross uses an “adjective-noun” metaphor for fractions, where the adjective is the number and the noun is the whole. That is, you can explain common denominators by doing something like: 2/3 “units” + 1/2 “units” equals 4/6 “units” + 3/6 “units,” which is equivalent to 4 “sixths of a unit” + 3 “sixths of a units” = 7 “sixths of a unit” = 7/6 “units.” Most of the work then is just changing the “noun” and finding the appropriate “adjective” for each of the new nouns.

Using Google Calendar to Schedule Student Meetings

August 26, 2011

One thing that I have been neglecting to do in recent years is meet with all of my students at the beginning of the semester. These were short meetings—roughly 10 minutes each—but were a nice way of getting to know the students quickly.

I am reviving the practice this semester, and I have a great online tool to help with scheduling these appointments. I found out from Matt Leingang’s tweet that Google Calendar now has an Appointments feature. Since I already use Google Calendar, this seems like a ridiculously easy way to schedule these. I used to pass around a sheet of paper, but now I simply create the slots on Google Calendar, post the URL to the course Moodle site, and do nothing else.

I hope this ends up being as easy as it seems.

The Importance of Meeting with Students

October 12, 2007

One bit of wisdom that I have learned during my time here is the importance of meeting with students at the beginning of the semester. I meet with each of my students one-on-one for ten minutes sometime outside of my normal class and office hour times. These are intended to be social meetings, rather than meetings where we talk about math. This allows me at least one experience interacting with the student with him/her being “the math student” and me being “the math teacher.”

A large portion of my job is to help graduate students have a successful teaching experience, and I have been recommending that they meet individually with their students ever since I got here. I have heard several success stories of graduate students “turning the class around” after meeting with the students, and salvaging the semester for everyone after a rocky start. Still, I guess it didn’t sink in how effective these meetings are.

The primary reason why I was surprised at how well the meetings work is because I normally teach freshmen. I have seven years of teaching experience, but probably 90% of the students whom I have taught have been freshmen. I have always felt that I could get away without meeting my students (although it is better if I do) because I have developed ways of getting to know students while teaching them.

This semester, I am teaching an upper-level math course: discrete mathematics. I felt that this class got off to a bit of a slow start – things weren’t awful, but there was not the normal “atmosphere” in my classroom. In my second week of class, after the semester had settled in, I had my meetings with the students in the discrete math course. I met with them between the Monday lecture and the Wednesday lecture, and Wednesday’s lecture was ridiculously better than Monday’s – it was like night and day.

I think that there are two reasons for this. First, I felt more comfortable with my students. I had never taught an upper-level course before, and I was not completely comfortable teaching students that I didn’t “know.” I wasn’t sure what their experience was, what their confidence level was, and what their goals were. I learned much of this from my 10 minute meetings, and I am sure that my comfortable was evident during Wednesday’s lecture.

The second reason is that I think that the students were more comfortable, too. They found out that I was not a jerk, and at the very least I was willing to give up five hours of my time to meet with the entire class. The students were immediately friendlier toward me, and now everyone enjoys the class more.