Thursday, September 20, 2007


I went down to Pittsburgh for a meeting this past weekend on using technology in math teaching. I didn't really find anything that impressed me much, 'though. We did have a demonstration of "clickers" that I was interested in, but it mostly killed my interest in them. (For those not in the know, clickers are small remote control devices that students can use to respond to short in-class questions, usually multiple choice format. The results are collected and tabulated by computer and can be displayed. They've been used a lot in physics classes.) I've thought clickers looked intriguing, but I'm not sure I'd bother for anything other than a large class now, and maybe not then. It seems like a great deal of trouble for not so much gain. We also got to play with fancy calculators, which are kind of cool, but a complete pain to try to enter anything into. I don't see using anything like this until/unless the input is better. I'd just go with notebook computers if you want portability, personally.

On the other hand, I got to meet a few people and we did get to go out to eat Indian food. (I think I may have introduced some of my colleagues to the joys of it; I'm not sure.) Indian is one thing I have a hard time finding around Erie, so I'm glad I got to do that. But it all pretty much ate up my weekend, so I'm glad I've got another one coming up. It will give me a chance to finish grading my latest round of tests. Oh joy.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Starting the semester

Well, here's the short notes from the first two weeks, now almost over:
  • An 8:00 am class four days a week is very hard on me; I'm not a morning person. It's very tough dragging myself out of bed at 7:55 every morning. I'm worried since this is a Calc I class that I may have the continuing 8am Calc II class in the spring, too.
  • Actually, the subjects that I'm teaching this semester are all things I've taught before, and out of the same book, even. It's kind of weird to have a schedule I essentially could have been teaching at my last job. (Well, it's the same book modulo an edition or two. I hate that publishers keep rearranging and changing the problems to force students to buy new copies. It also makes me change my assignments and homework quizzes, which is a pain.)
  • I let a student from one of my spring classes borrow a library book I had out. He subsequently disappeared completely, and did not take the book back to either me or the library. Since he's a major in our department, I figured I could grab him from someone's class in the first week (and perhaps shake him). But he's not enrolled in any classes this semester. His home address on the system lists Pakistan. I'm annoyed.
  • I use scantron forms (bubble sheets) in my calculus classes for daily homework quizzes. I ran the forms today, after going through the stack to try to correct problems with the students' forms, like forgetting to bubble things in, or using pen, or putting in the wrong information. (As it turns out, I missed one that used pen for bubbling in just a single item, which screwed things up.) I'm also noticing that they are calling the bubble sheets "scantron" here, as we did in high school. This after I spent about a decade at my last school getting used to calling them "opscans".
  • I'm an adviser now... apparently. I have a list of students who appear on my "advising" menu on the system. I realize we have a mixed department, but I'm not sure why all of my advisees are computer science majors. We got an e-mail suggesting that we contact all our advisees early in the semester. I'm not sure what I'm supposed to tell them, 'though.