Friday, January 29, 2010


The "pirate" section of Topology is on. Beginning on Tuesday, February 2nd, I'm going to try holding an intermittent "unofficial" (or "pirate," named for the manner in which we'll have to hijack a vacant classroom somewhere on campus) section of Topology, splitting the class in two in order to attempt to provide a more cozy and intimate learning environment to the students in the class. It looks like I'm going to have roughly 8 or 9 in the unofficial section and the remaining 15 or 16 in the section meeting at the official time.

We'll see how it goes.

In other Topology-related news, we've had two installments of homework presentations (operating in lieu of homework committees this semester), and the second flowed much more smoothly than the first. Students took turns explicating four of the five homework problems which were due today, and they all did a fine job. I was particularly impressed by the way in which the proofs they offered were for the most part merely sketches. It's best that the student presenters leave lacunae to be filled by their fellow scholars in their individual write-ups: to provide a complete and error-free proof would be counterproductive.

What I'd like to know at this point, from the students in Topology with whom I've worked in earlier classes (280, Abstract Algebra, etc.), is: which system do you prefer so far, homework committees or homework presentations? Obviously they both serve different purposes (one offers substantial opportunity to peer-review while the other is an instance collaborative learning in the extreme), but it might very well be asked which serves its purpose more effectively.

Which one is the most useful to you? Which one helps you learn better?

We'll see.

I'll leave by noting my frustration at Mother Nature for dumping several inches of snow all over what should have been the writing workshop I've been co-organizing, scheduled to take place in Black Mountain this afternoon. Snowpocalypse II caused my writing colleague Betty Lou and me to push the workshop back to next Friday.

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