Tag Archives: ictcm

ICTCM day 2

Euclid, Greek mathematician, 3rd century BC, a...

Image via Wikipedia

[Ed. note: This post was originally written on March 13 while at the ICTCM, but I ran out of time on my $12.95 per day internet access before being able to post it and only now have had the chance to get back online. So it’s about 36 hours out of sync.]

Slower day at the ICTCM than yesterday. For one thing, I took some time out in the morning to get the MATLAB course prepped for Monday; and I needed time to finish some grading in the afternoon. But I manage to have a pretty productive day nonetheless.

The main event — one of the primary reasons I came here — was a Geogebra 3.2 minicourse this morning. I’ve been a diehard Geometers Sketchpad user for a long time, but after becoming aware of Geogebra lately, I began to wonder if it might be time for a switch. I have no problem with the usability and features of Sketchpad, but if there’s free software out there that is pretty close to the same quality, the possibility of simply installing it everywhere (like we’ve done on campus with Winplot) is pretty enticing. The question was whether Geogebra’s features and usability matches up well with Sketchpad’s.

After the minicourse, I’d say the answer to that question is definitely “yes”. Particularly impressive is Geogebra’s ability to export entire constructions to HTML as an interactive web page. I have some definitely plans for this kind of thing for the class now. There’s more to learn — unfortunately we didn’t go very deep with the software in the minicourse — but definitely Geogebra will be the software platform for the geometry course this fall. Now I have to decide on a textbook — or to go without. Hope to blog on that later.

Also today I attended a session on using clickers in mathematics courses. I’ve been following Derek Bruff on Twitter for some time (he’s an assistant director at the Vanderbilt Center for Teaching, where I used to be a Master Teaching Fellow) and have gotten interested in using clickers through his work with them. This was a general survey talk, but very well done and it definitely increased my interested in folding clickers into my teaching mix at some point.

Overall the ICTCM is one of the better conferences out there for people who are interested in math, education, technology and the intersections between these. Look for the announcement for ICTCM 2011 coming soon!

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]


Filed under Computer algebra systems, Education, Educational technology, Geometers Sketchpad, ictcm, Math, MATLAB, Teaching, Technology

What I learned at the ICTCM, day 1

Created by me MysteriousMystery for use on Wik...

Image via Wikipedia

Busy day here at the ICTCM. I need both an extended time for brain-dumping and a full night’s sleep, and I think the latter is going to win. So here’s a brief listing, in no particular order, of some of the standout items I’ve learned today.

  • I learned first thing this morning that rigorous, scientific scholarship of teaching and learning does actually exist, and it’s being done by Dave Pritchard of MIT. Prof. Pritchard was our keynote speaker this morning. In his words, he has basically forsaken a successful career in atomic physics (in which role he mentored or taught three Nobel laureates) to devote his energies to physics education. His keynote this morning gave me enough reading material for a semester and a whole new outlook on what educational research could look like.
  • I learned (through Pritchard’s keynote) that there is a school of thought that says partial credit in math and science courses should not be given, because — and I quote — “Partial credit rewards partial understanding”. More to think about here.
  • I learned that, thanks to the research of Pritchard and his cohorts, there is a growing field of educational data mining, or one might say educational informatics, out there, designed to take data from online assessment tools and making observations about student learning. There’s even a journal.
  • I learned that the difference between novice and expert behaviors in learning pretty much describes all the issues I’ve encountered with the MATLAB course and other courses I’ve taught.
  • I learned, through Scott Franklin’s prezi on this subject this morning, that online lectures can be done that aren’t just lectures.
  • I learned that Geogebra is pretty cool, and I’ll learn more tomorrow as I take a minicourse on that software.
  • I learned there’s a whole website out there — and probably more than this one — for project-based learning ideas.
  • I learned that MATLAB has an interactive GUI…. for creating interactive GUI’s. Definitely something to play with later.
  • I learned that Gino’s East Pizza is among the best stuff I’ve ever ate, and the copious amounts of it in my stomach right now are a strong argument for sleeping over brain-dumping.

Tomorrow will be a Geogebra minicourse, as I mentioned, and more sessions which I haven’t mapped out yet. We’re getting sporadic wireless access, so I’m able to tweet a lot. More to come!

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]


Filed under Education, Educational technology, ictcm, Math, MATLAB, Technology, Twitter

ICTCM underway

It’s a beautiful day here on the shores of Lake Michigan as the ICTCM gets underway. It’s a busy day and — to my never-ending annoyance — there is no wireless internet in the hotel. So I won’t be blogging/tweeting as much as I’d like. But here’s my schedule for the day.

  • 8:30 – Keynote address.
  • 9:30 – Exhibits and final preparations for my 11:30 talk.
  • 10:30 – “Developing Online Video Lectures for Online and Hybrid Algebra Courses”, talk by Scott Franklin of Natural Blogarithms.
  • 11:10 – “Conjecturing with GeoGebra Animations”, talk by Garry Johns and Tom Zerger.
  • 11:30 – My talk on using spreadsheets, Winplot, and Wolfram|Alpha|Alpha in a liberal arts calculus class, with my colleague Justin Gash.
  • 12:30 – My “solo” talk on teaching MATLAB to a general audience.
  • 12:50 – “Programming for Understanding: A Case Study in Linear Algebra”, talk by Daniel Jordan.
  • 1:30 – “Over a Decade of of WeBWorK Use in Calculus and Precalculus in a Mathematics Department”, session by Mako Haruta.
  • 2:30 – Exhibit time.
  • 3:00 – “Student Projects that Assess Mathematical Critical-Thinking Skills”, session by David Graser.
  • 5:00 – “Visualizing Mathematics Concepts with User Interfaces in Maple and MATLAB”, session by David Szurley and William Richardson.

But first, breakfast and (especially) coffee.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Comments Off on ICTCM underway

Filed under ictcm, Maple, MATLAB, Scholarship, Screencasts, Social software, Software, Web 2.0, Wolfram|Alpha

And now for something completely different:

This was from the blogger meetup/dinner from the ICTCM. If you look closely, Scott Franklin is in there giving, as he called it, his “into it face”. And Maria Andersen is taking some photos there on my left.

I didn’t get home till 11:00 PM last night and didn’t fall asleep until 3:00 AM, so this is pretty much all the blogging I am capable of today.

1 Comment

Filed under Humor, ictcm, Music

Heading home

246654784_d8b9e4fabd_m.jpgThe ICTCM is all wrapped up, and I’ll be heading downstairs to check out of the hotel and head back home. It’s been a very good conference — one of the best I’ve attended and much better than most of the mathematics-only conferences I’ve been to. I feel in many ways like Scott Franklin does — whereas at math conferences I’ve always struggled to fit in, find a niche, and enjoy what I am doing, here at the ICTCM I feel like I’ve found some of “my own people”.

And I am coming away with almost too many ideas and provoked thoughts. You can tell from the output of this blog over the last few days that I am actually struggling to brain-dump fast enough to process the next idea coming in, like a basement sump pump in the middle of monsoon season. And I consider that a good thing. Certainly at most conferences I attend, I tend to come away at the end wondering if it was worth the expense of attending. When I set out a year or so ago to find conferences other than MAA or AMS conferences that were smaller and more targeted towards specific interests of mine, the ICTCM was the first one to come up, and it’s been everything I’d hoped it would be.

I believe I still owe everyone a couple of blog posts. That’s the danger of putting “…but I’ll write more about that later” in the middle of a post. But since there’s no free wifi in either the hotel (grrr…) or the San Antonio airport (grrrrr….) or the Memphis airport (gggrrrRRRRRrr….), I’ll most likely be resuming blogging tomorrow after work is over. However, thanks to the magic of Twitter I may occasionally be micro-blogging from my cell phone in between flights, so do check in there.

[photo by ChaosInJune via Flickr.]

Comments Off on Heading home

Filed under Educational technology, ictcm

Calculator blasts from the past

One of the real treats of the ICTCM was the Saturday 8:00 AM session titled “Three Decades of Handheld Devices: How Mathematics Teaching Changed Along with Them” given by John Kenelly. Prof. Kenelly has a long history of involvement in the development of calculator technology, and he gave a fascinating talk full of good thoughts on the direction of handheld technologies today, war stories from the past, and good jokes. (Example of the latter: “Getting a spreadsheet to work on a calculator is like getting a dog to walk on its hind legs — it can be done, but it ain’t pretty!”)

I will try to say more about Prof. Kenelly’s ideas about the future of handheld technologies in a later post, but for now I wanted to share one of the really cool parts of his talk — the calculators themselves, some of which are now antiques. He had a bag full of these old-school devices (some of which are less than 10 years old but still old-school) which he generously let us paw over.

Here is a Hewlett-Packard HP 35, the world’s first handheld scientific calculator, from 1972. Check out that red LED display and, in contrast with the NSpire, the sheer paucity of keys on the keyboard:


Here’s a rare example of a Casio fx7000, from 1985 — the world’s first handheld graphing calculator.


I was downright startled to learn that sitting right across the aisle from me at this talk was Hideshi Fukaya, the lead engineering on the development team for the Casio fx7000 and the person rightfully considered to be the inventor of the graphing calculator.

Moving ahead up the timeline, here is a Casio Cassiopeia. More of a palmtop computer than a calculator, and it ran Windows CE. Anybody remember good old WinCE and why that abbreviation was particularly apt?


I guess I am just a sucker for old-fashioned calculators.

Aside: I’d love to do a spreadsheet in which one column has the year in which a calculator was made and another column has the number of buttons on the calculator, and run a regression analysis on it.


Filed under Calculators, Educational technology, Geekhood, Technology

Encountering the NSpire; or, My calculator can beat up your calculator

One of the biggest conversation pieces here at the ICTCM is the Texas Instruments NSpire, their most recent entry in a long line of calculators. Here’s a firsthand look at it; click to enlarge, and then just take your time to look at the thing and think about it:


On the right there is a normal-sized TI-30-something scientific calculator. That should give you an idea of the scale. Here’s another shot with me holding it, which should also give an idea of the size of this thing; and another shot which gives a better view of the screen.


But let’s go back to that first photo. First of all, yes, the NSpire does actually have not one but two keyboards. They snap in and out; the one that’s un-snapped is just a duplicate of the TI-84’s keyboard. The one that’s snapped in is, well, let’s just say “busy”.  The first thing you notice is that there are buttons between the buttons. The little rounded buttons are a kind of alphanumeric keyboard. Well, really the first thing you notice is that this thing is big. Really big. It’s hard to get past the big-ness of the thing. How can the massive size not be a factor in getting kids to use the thing? Would you want to whip this out on the bus to do your homework, knowing that doing so clearly identifies you as the kid that needs to get beaten up?

From what I can tell, the NSpire is supposed to be a full-featured computer algebra system in a handheld device. If that’s so, then it certainly wouldn’t be the first time TI has tried to market such a thing. That honor would go to the TI-92 graphing calculator, which I owned about 10 years ago and, honestly, I really liked it, even though apparently I was the only person who did, because it was a marketing disaster and got banned by the AP Calculus exam to boot. (It was banned from the AP not because people didn’t like it but because it had a QWERTY keyboard.)

I am not sure what the NSpire brings to the table in terms of CAS functionality that isn’t already available in industry-standard CAS computer software like Maple or Mathematica. I overheard one person giving a rave review because it treats functions as geometric objects, whatever that might mean. I don’t think that a function is a geometric object — the graph of one certainly is — so I’m a little in the dark here.  I believe it means that you can enter in a function and view it dynamically in multiple representations, so if you have a graph of a function with the tangent line drawn at a point, for instance, you can go to a split-screen view and set up a spreadsheet that shows all this data, and then if you move the point of tangency the stuff in the spreadsheet changes as well. More here (complete with annoying music).

There is also a computer software-only version of the NSpire, so you can use the CAS without owning the calculator. That sounds more likely to be useful. The downside is that, according to the TI rep with whom I spoke at the vendor booth this morning, TI is ditching Derive — its simple and very serviceable CAS that has been around since forever — to focus solely on the NSpire line of products. They have already quit producing Derive and will cease tech support for it in 2010. I think this is a huge mistake, and TI will end up paying for it in the end. But that’s the subject of another post.

Isn’t the NSpire just really, really over the top here? I think so. After a certain point, you simply cannot cram more and more stuff onto a proprietary device. You will either make the device too expensive, too bulky, too confusing to use, or too proprietary in the sense that the device is trying to reinvent software applications that already exist in a simple, affordable, and ubiquitous way. (Think MS Excel, versus the proprietary spreadsheet on the NSpire.) I think TI crossed all four of those boundaries years ago, and the NSpire is just a step further — several steps further — in a direction that is really just a dead end.

The thing doesn’t even have a touch screen, for goodness sake, which is so easy and cheap to implement that it’s unfathomable why you wouldn’t build one into the calculator instead of having hot-swappable keyboards. Swapping keyboards, for gosh’s sake. What kind of user interface is that? Are students — who are used to iPhones and, at worst, the 12-15-button interface of a cell phone — supposed to see the NSpire as a device they will actually adopt and use?

The session I attended this morning went into this issue, regarding just how far can you possibly push the technology of the graphing calculator before you simply must abandon the format and move through a paradigm shift. More on that later, though.


Filed under Calculators, Computer algebra systems, Education, Educational technology, ictcm, Technology

Saturday agenda for the ICTCM

It was a full day yesterday here at the ICTCM, and the day was capped off with a very enjoyable dinner with Maria Andersen and Scott Franklin, along with two of Maria’s friends who (if I understood Maria right) are soon-to-be math bloggers. I have photos and a video forthcoming.

Today will be no less busy:

  • 8:00-8:45: Session on handheld calculating devices over the last 30 years and how they have changed teaching. Very interested in this talk; I’ll have more to say about some of the handheld technology I’m seeing here.
  • 9:00-9:45: Session on using Maple 11 in the advanced calculus and modern algebra classroom.
  • 9:45–10:30: Exhibit hall surfing.
  • 11:30-12:05: Session on labs in mathematics classes.
  • 12:30-1:15: Session on using Geometers Sketchpad alongside computer algebra systems.
  • 1:30-2:15: Session on Winplot.
  • 2:30-3:15: Take a break!
  • 3:30-4:15: Session on blogging with concept maps. Two of my favorite things put together, so this ought to be fun.
  • 4:30-5:15: Haven’t made up my mind yet — either a session on CaluMath or a session on using Geometers Sketchpad in calculus courses.

Unfortunately the internet access I am paying $10 a day for isn’t wireless — or at least, there is wireless but yesterday it didn’t play nice with me. So I won’t be blogging continuously. Which is probably a good thing because I need to pay attention at these sessions. Speaking of which, it’s time to head down to the first one.

Comments Off on Saturday agenda for the ICTCM

Filed under Calculators, Computer algebra systems, Education, Educational technology, Geometers Sketchpad, ictcm, Software

Quick report from ICTCM afternoon

I only have about 15 minutes before I head for dinner with Scott Franklin and Maria Andersen — both of whom are also conference-blogging — so all I can whip up for now is a quick bullet list. I’ll elaborate later.

  • My talk went fine. I think I clocked in at 12 minutes, a little over but not disastrously so. All the technology worked fine, although the room was quite cramped and the projector was in the center of the room — meaning that my Macbook had to be in the center of the room and there was not much room left over to move around. But that’s minor stuff.
  • Attended a session on a freshman-level course at Ithaca College called Mathematical Experimentation. Very intriguing. I’d like to do something like this at our place.
  • Instead of bumming around the exhibit hall, I ended up simply taking a half-hour walk along the Riverwalk, since I’d been cooped up in the hotel all day and it was gorgeous outside.
  • Attended a session on Octave. Matlab has been in the discussion mix in my department, so Octave was a product of interest.
  • Went to another session which was supposed to be on how to choose an online homework system — we’re thinking about moving to online homework too — but left after 15 minutes because there had been no mention of how to choose an online homework system yet, nor was there any coming up in the Powerpoint slides. So I went to the exhibit hall to talk to the online homework vendors firsthand. Had a nice discussion with the head honcho at WebAssign. Pretty impressive product, there.
  • Finally, a session on symbolic geometry software. This was simply amazing. I’ll have to describe this in more detail later, but Geometry Expressions is the name of the software being demoed, and it rocked my world. Think dynamic geometry front-end for a computer algebra system. All I can say is that this so far has been the only technology product I’ve seen here and come away thinking I MUST HAVE THAT.
  • Scott Franklin and Maria Andersen are just as attractive and intelligent in person as they are on their blogs. And I mean that in a good way!

Comments Off on Quick report from ICTCM afternoon

Filed under Educational technology, ictcm

Camtasia, etc.

I just returned from the Camtasia workshop. The originally-scheduled speaker, it turns out, got stranded in Dallas after that city got six inches of snow last night. (This is Texas, right?) So the conference organizers were scrambling to find somebody with Camtasia experience. I suggested that they go pull somebody from the TechSmith booth in the exhibitor area, and a few minutes later they returned with Dave McCollom and Mike [sorry, can’t remember the last name]. Those two proceeded to put on a fun, engaging, and hugely informative workshop on the fly with zero preparation time. They even ended right on time.  I think that says a lot about the company and the product it makes.

Very, very impressed with Camtasia. It has a simple user interface (very similar to iMovie) and lots of options. My partner and I in the workshop put together a 3-minute Flash video on xFunctions, complete with callouts and transitions and the whole nine yards, and honestly we never really felt like we were working that hard. (For the Flash-haters out there, you can also save in something like eight other video formats, including Quicktime.) I didn’t realize that TechSmith also operates Screencast.com, and you can upload Camtasia-produced movies directly to that hosting service. They also have a connection with Jing somehow, although I’m not completely sure what exactly that connection is. (I don’t see it listed as a TechSmith product, but they had Jing stuff all over the TechSmith booth in the exhibition hall.) (Update: On the Jing website, there’s a blurb that says “A project by TechSmith”.)

Anyhow, Camtasia blows Snapz Pro X (which I currently use) out of the water when it comes to screencasting. The only problem is that there’s no OS X version right now. I can run Camtasia under Windows XP on Parallels; I asked David if I could capture stuff outside the Windows XP window if I were running Camtasia under Parallels, and he wasn’t sure. That’s an experiment for later. But he did say that they hope to release a native OS X version, rebuilt from the ground up, some time this year, and he got my contact info to be on the beta-testing “team”.

Now it’s time to get ready for my contributed paper session talk, which is in about 20 minutes. I’ll report on that later in the afternoon since I have a full slate of stuff until dinnertime.


Filed under Educational technology, ictcm, Screencasts, Software, Technology