Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Inception of a Blog (ED504)

I originally set out to read Mr. Meyer's Blog "dy/dan". However, while reading through his blog I came across a link to a blog he had read (A Function of Time). So, this is a blog post about a blog post about a blog post (I think this is some how related to the movie "Inception", but I never saw the movie, only Southpark/Hoarding episode).

Strangely enough, both Dan's blog and the "f(t)" blog were talking about 1:1 initiatives and the inclusion of technology into the math classroom. I was struct by Dan's observation that most digital technology does not lend itself to communicating mathematical language. As a grad student I have noticed how often we submit papers and assignment via e-mail, DropBox or CTools. I thought that this was novel, but I never thought about how I would do this for a math class. As an undergrad, I typed up my math homework for a couple of my classes (I think I was the only one in the class who did that). However, because of my rudimentary knowledge of Microsoft Equation Editor, typing the math homework wasn't easy. Furthermore, it was not something that I could have turned in exactly as it came out of the printer. I always had to draw a sketch or add in an integral sign, an epsilon or some other symbol to complete the work.

Consider the following:

f(x) = (x^2 - 1)/(x - 2)

The image is how one would write the function on a piece of paper. The text is how you have to type out the same expression on a computer. Which one is easier to read? At a glance of the image, a student can recognize the equation as a rational function, that there is a discontinuity at x=2 and that the degree of the numerator is higher than the degree of the denominator. Even as an experience mathematician, those same facts don't jump out at me when looking at the computer-text. In the image, the little two floating in the air is clearly an exponent and the full size two in the denominator is clearly another term. Those distinctions are harder to pick out in the text. Keyboards are designed for writing blogs, not for writing math.

Transitioning to "f(t)", the blogger bemoans the transition from one 1:1 initiative to another. I can't imagine a school where they changed the textbooks every year three or four years. On the other hand, I can't imagine a school using the same software/hardware for a 1:1 program for three or four years. How do you help teachers transition plans from one resource to a completely different resource? In ED 511, in our discussion about backwards design, we've mentioned that we should avoid planning around a beloved activity or strictly following a textbook's layout. Still, as a teacher it is important to understand the resources that are available to you. We always want to be looking to improve our instruction, but learning how to run a program in a different operating system if hardly the sort of learning that will improve our practice.

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