The ICTCM is coming up fast, and I’ll be there, mostly to give a talk on using wikis in upper-level math courses (like this one from my topics course in Cryptology) and take a minicourse on Camtasia. But I’ll also be checking out the latest and greatest (?) ideas and products in educational technology. One general category I am quite interested in is making all this technology that we use — especially computer algebra systems — portable and accessible from all different locations, in particular so that commuter students aren’t left out of the loop.

The fact that commuter students are left out is a growing concern for me, at least. We have Derive and Maple installed on my campus, but it’s a network install — and you have to be on campus to use it. Some campuses have a network installation that works from off campus, but we (and other places like us) also have a network that cannot be accessed unless you are physically on campus. (I suppose that theoretically, if you’re in wi-fi range of campus you could get on.) So, we give all this training and emphasis on computer software, and then what happens if you live in Indianapolis and have to drive an hour to get here?

Having all this fancy technology doesn’t do any good if a growing population of students (commuters, especially those who are older students with kids who can’t just drop everything and drive to the campus library at any moment) can’t even get to the software when they have the time to work. (Which if they have kids, is usually after the kids are in bed.)

There are some promising and free web-based applications, like xFunctions and the Integrator, that do the sorts of things that previously were restricted to locally-installed CAS’s and high-end graphing calculators. But I’d like to see more. Sage looks good too, but it’s a little too raw for the average student at this point.

If you’ve got thoughts or examples of commuter-friendly technology like this, leave them in the comments.

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Hey Robert! I’ll see you at ICTCM (I’m going to give a talk about WebAssign, participate in an online panel on Evaluation of Online Classes, and participate in a session on online courses, my 15 minutes is on “Tweaking Online Calculus”).

A few of my students have discovered some online resources … I’ve asked one of them to comment here.

I suggest an edu-blogospheric meetup.

It’s not web-based, but I really like the freeware graphing program (appropriately called “Graph”) available here — http://padowan.dk/graph/

I am a freshman in College studying Calc II and Linear Algebra this semester. Mrs. Andersen (above) is my instructor for the former (as well as Calc I last semester).

I’ve used wxMaxima (which is a front-end GUI to the Maxima CAS) as I’ve needed it this year, and for a free (relatively light-weight) CAS, I am fairly content with it. It is not an online application, but it is a great desktop application. I usually use it when I’m absolutely stuck, and then try to use the answer to help with the problem I’m trying to solve (which is sometimes difficult because it only gives the answer, not the steps taken to get to that answer). I recommend it to most other students who ask because it has a menu-driven GUI organized into topics, with dialogs for common tasks (such as solving systems of equations, etc.), so there is less to do with scripting and memorizing function names. Graphs can be plotted within the worksheet or in separate windows, where they can be interacted with.

Overall I would recommend it highly as a free alternative, although I need to experiment with it more as I move deeper into mathematics. I’ll keep my eyes peeled for an online solution, also…

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I’ve enjoyed reading your blog for some time now. I’ve decided to make my first trip to ICTCM this year and I look forward to meeting you in person. I’ll be sure to make it around to your talk!