Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Project progress

From third grade on I took part in one of those "accelerated learning" programs with which many of the 365 folks (and other assorted readers) are likely familiar. Ours was called "Project Promise."

Nerd that I am (at least I can admit that), many of my most pleasant memories from elementary school come from activities we took part in during that program. We played "Balderdash," that fun game where the object is to B.S. each other by creating false definitions. We constructed our own archaeological dig sites by burying "sociologically significant artifacts" in a tub of dirt...and then we excavated each other's tubs, trying to figure out what we could learn from the objects we found. (That was cool!) We did a lot of the other standard smart-kid stuff: dropping eggs off of rooftops, building rubber band-powered locomotives, and so on...

I've now met with four of the eight teams (one of the crystal-gazing teams, one of the traffic modelers, the waste-water people, and the Monopoly players), and the other four teams have all scheduled meetings with me before Friday's end. Good, good, good! There's a good deal of work going on, and my impression so far is that people are more on task than they thought they were. I'm beginning to look forward to seeing the fruits of these folks' labor.

I also spent an hour or so last night in the math majors study room with Deidre, dinking around with Mathematica, working on getting it to do some basic image manipulation. I played with it some more this morning while I was proctoring a Calc II exam, and I managed to figure out how to turn a color image into a gray-scale image, which allows us to do some funky linear algebra-type stuff to it. Wicked.

Fiona reminded me that I'd looked into getting Information Literacy Intensive status for this course...sounds like another weekend project...

Here's a questions I've been asking myself: would I teach a course this way again if the class were so large as this one is? I've enjoyed everything I've gotten out of it so far, and I think most of the students appreciate it, too...but it's a heckuva lot of effort, and things would likely run much more smoothly (for all involved parties!) were the class to be smaller.

Any thoughts on this?


Anonymous said...

Your a great teacher so I feel bad saying anything against the class, so please dont take it personal.

The amount of work of just keeping up in the class is more than enough without having a 15 page research project/paper looming in the back of my mind. I know you have put so much work into the class, but turning it down a notch would not be a bad idea. it is only a 3 hour credit, but it is taking more work than my other classes, which are 3 and 4 credit hour classes.

Anonymous said...

Info intensive would be GREATLY APPRECIATED!

I think the class would be easier if it were smaller because there would be more personal attention which I think is needed in this kind of structured class.

DocTurtle said...

To anonymous: no offense taken, and I thank you for your input, and for your kind words. I know that you're all working insanely hard on this class, and you have no idea how much I appreciate that. I'm going to try to "lighten the load" as we enter the next chapter of our course towards the end of this week and the beginning of the next. Determinants take us back to the land of computation (less "conceptually hifalutin" than arbitrary vector spaces), and they'll lead us to eigenstructures, where we can really do some fun computations and applications. The coming weeks should be more fun, and though they might be more computation-heavy, they'll be less concept-heavy, and therefore will seem more familiar and safe.

I can safely say that I've put far more effort into this class than I have my others, too. (I feel bad for my Calc II students...I think I'm doing a bang-up job with their classes, too, but I know that when I'm in their class, I'm more or less on autopilot.)

To Francine: It's now on my "to-do" list for the coming weekend to lay the groundwork for the IL Intensive proposal. Thanks for keeping me on task!

And yes, if we had four or five teams of four instead of eight, I wouldn't be running around like a lunatic from team to team during class. I oughta enlist the help of Dr. Bob...but then I'd have to give him a cut of my paycheck!

Anonymous said...

You'd be home a bit more! The dogs and I are linear algebra widows (and widower)!


Anonymous said...

That quiz today was not good at all. I have no clue what it was about, what I was suppose to do, and how I was suppose to do it. So here is my attempt to complain about the quiz... boo hiss quiz bad

Anonymous said...

i second that about the quiz!!! i was like, "what in the world am i supposed to do! did we just go over that or was it something completely different?"


i think the daily/regular work you require for the class is appropriate.. not sure about the paper, but since you applied for WI and it was approved, i'm not complaining anymore! thanks.

i think, however, that the class activities would be a lot more beneficial if you focus less on group time and more on you-explaining-the-activities time. in other words, allow for a couple of minutes of group discussion for each activity or part of an activity, then show us how to work through it. instead of helping group by group, or calling people to the board, just show all of us how to solve that certain activity on the board. don't worry about getting people used to getting up in front of the class, the shy ones don't get up anyway! we just end up with people from different groups answering different parts of the same activity in different manners; and that is very confusing.

by the way, the individual copies of group worksheets was a brilliant idea! thank you