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.

- 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.
- It was great to meet a bunch of new friends. I hope to stay in touch with many of them.
- 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.
- 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.
- Paul Sally continues to be amazing. He is also hilarious.
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.
- I am now fairly certain that my courses for pre-service elementary education majors
*are*IBL. - 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Leingang also got me excited about paperless grading. Now I just need to find $1200 for an iPad and scanner.
- 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: “units” “units” equals “units” “units,” which is equivalent to “sixths of a unit” “sixths of a units” “sixths of a unit” “units.” Most of the work then is just changing the “noun” and finding the appropriate “adjective” for each of the new nouns.