Scenes from the week before classes start

Busy, busy, busy:

  • I spent most of Monday morning with the Big University representative, ironing out five-year plans and articulation agreements for the proposed dual-degree engineering program. They liked what they saw, and I didn’t make any bone-headed omissions or mistakes in the plans I drew up that killed the whole idea. Next up: Submit a curriculum proposal to create a new track in our Applied Math major for the engineering students to follow; fix mistakes and issues in the five-year plans; and start the marketing process.
  • I spent the majority of Sunday night prior to this meeting either unable to sleep because of insomnia or unable to sleep because of a 2-year old having a combination of nightmares and tooth pain. I tried to confine my yawning to times when the Big University person was out of the room.
  • After a 3-hour meeting going over the fine points of credit transfers, the content of our chemistry courses, and so forth on 3 hours’ sleep, I got to go sit through a training session on Angel, our new course management system that will purportedly replace Blackboard in the near future. You can’t get much worse than Blackboard; but Angel seems suspiciously a lot like Blackboard with a lot more options to configure. The good news is that it’s configurable; that’s also the bad news. And unfortunately, Angel doesn’t address the stupid omission of features from Blackboard that address the simplest and most common tasks of course management: It won’t let you send an email to all the students in all your courses, and it won’t let you post the same file to two sections of the same course simultaneously. Why can’t CMS developers get this right? I still say everything I need a CMS system to do, apart from an online gradebook, I could do on my own for a fraction of the cost with a WordPress blog. As it is, I need to make a decision between which of these two systems I want to use. The devil you know versus the devil you don’t know?
  • Calculus: Two sections this semester with 27 students each. Syllabus is written. Lesson plans need to be tweaked. My attitude about the abilities of incoming freshmen needs to be adjusted. Trying not to adopt the pedagogy of lecturing over topics with no discussion or group work and saying "screw you" to any student who doesn’t get it.
  • MOPS: Very difficult class to plan out because it’s mainly about process skills rather than content mastery; and yet the department expects mastery of content anyway — for example students are supposed to learn about vectors in MOPS, not in Calculus III, even though all the students are also taking Calculus III at the same time. Argh. But… I’ve got the semester basically mapped out, some assessment plans in place, and the syllabus is the only thing remaining front-end-wise.
  • Geometry: Syllabus is done, as is the course calendar and the assessment plans. Need to visit the classroom and make sure that Geometer’s Sketchpad is still on the laptops there, ’cause if not, we’re screwed.
  • Promotion and Tenure Committee meetings will be 3:00-4:30 every Thursday this semester. This is a big change from my previous committee, which met for one hour a month.
  • Met today with a group of new faculty, one of whom I will be a "mentor" to this semester. Nice guy. But he’s only on a one-year appointment, so I don’t know how much mentoring he’s going to want or need.

Classes start a week from today!

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