Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Day Two is in the can

We've wrapped up two days of the 2010 REU, and things are running smoothly so far.

The students are gelling tremendously quickly into a friendly and supportive learning community. As early as the welcome barbecue a few nights back it was obvious these folks were going to get along really well, and the last couple of days have borne that observation out. "I was a little worried before coming here," one of the students told me at the barbecue, "but everyone's so nice that I know I'm not going to have trouble working with them. It's going to be easy to ask them for help if I need it."

Although I can't yet claim to know them all incredibly well as individuals, each is beginning to make known her or his particular strengths and weaknesses. Three of them are particularly eager to demonstrate their skills and hesitate not at all in traipsing to the board to show off their solutions. A couple of the others are more retiring, willing to whisper the answers (almost always correct) from where they sit but less enthusiastic about taking to the board. The remaining three are quieter still and it often takes a little prodding to get them to share their ideas. Notably, to an extent not seen since the first year of the program, one of the students is clearly emerging as the "social director." She's the most outgoing of the group, though a couple of her peers aren't far behind when it comes to eagerness and enthusiasm.

I should note that the students needed little convincing to complete the first day's freewriting exercise, which was designed to tease out of the students their personal goals for the overall program. I've posted the resulting list of student goals here; happily, most of the learning goals coincide very well with my own.

The students are making quick progress through the long list of graph theoretical definitions I bludgeoned them with yesterday afternoon, and we're already over halfway through the graph theory notes I hope to complete before calling it quits. We've also hit on several topics from dynamical systems and geometry, and tomorrow brings more graph theory, dynamics, LaTeX, and Mathematica. It's going to be a full day, but I think we'll get through it.

Further bulletins as events warrant. For now, bed calls. My bedtime reading? The basis for the Learning Circle in which I'm taking part this summer, Helping college students find purpose: the campus guide to meaning-making, by Robert J. Nash and Michele C. Murray (2010, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass). We'll see what comes of it.

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