Saturday, March 29, 2014

Never, ever, ever give up #hashtag

For the first time, I gave students an exam on a unit that I planned and implemented. While the results are still too be tabulated, I was a bit disappointed by one aspect. Even though the students had two days to work on the exam, there were students who quit on the first day. Students could think about problems and study on the night between the two days of exams. It got thinking about the nature of mathematics. With the CCSS, we have eight practices that were are supposed to develop in students. . . 
MP1. Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.
MP2. Reason abstractly and quantitatively.
MP3. Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.
MP4. Model with mathematics.
MP5. Use appropriate tools strategically.
MP6. Attend to precision.
MP7 Look for and make use of structure.

MP8 Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.

How do you scaffold grit and perseverance?

One more closing thought of pessimism related to the attached image. The first panel left me with an interesting thought. Sixty years of three-month-long attempts could almost mean 239 failures before success. I am not sure if that would be exhilarating or exhausting.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Break time #hashtag

I came across a funny quip from Ben Franklin. He wrote:
"Tim was so learned, that he could name a horse in nine languages. So ignorant, that he bought a cow to ride on."
As a teacher, it made me think about the nature of education. I have to go write some papers though, so maybe someday I'll get back to this.

The word of the day is mantissa. It's the part of a number that is after the decimal point. So, for 3.18, the "point one eight" is the mantissa. It is a math word that I should have known, but was only introduced to recently.

Back to work.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

MACUL n'more (ED504)

Traveling to MACUL gave me the first time to travel with my iPad. When Apple announced that they were going to discontinue the the iPad 2, the price dropped by $100 at Best Buy and most other retailers. The barrier to entry was low enough that I purchased one and have begun using Doceri in my classroom. So, while I was moving from session to session, I was able to take notes, store them in iCloud and easily look at them while typing up the blog-post on the good old PC.

The iPad is a great tool for consuming and creating media. You can record and edit photographs, videos and music. Reading and writing text is something that can be done on the iPad easily. The iPad is touted as an educational tool. However, as a computer, you still can't really programs on the iPad. Making apps for the iPad is hard (both because of the programming complexity and closed App Store ecosystem). The reduction in the cost of computer power means that people have more and more computer power available to them. However, fewer and fewer people know how to create computers. Most of the devices we have are polished, but locked down. People rarely tinker with their laptop or smartphone.

On to the stage comes the Raspberry Pi. The Pi is among the world's cheapest computers. It is about the size of a smartphone, features all the connections to hook up to a keyboard, mouse, monitor and network cable and it only costs $35 (there is an older cheaper one for $25). It runs on free, open-source software recorded on an SD card. It is cheap enough so that students can "afford failure." Most of the computers in a school are locked down; not even the teachers are allowed to install software. The Pi gives students a sandbox to play in. It gives the students the opportunity to create software, not just be consumers of software.

Bill Van Loo has begun using the Raspberry Pi in his school with elementary and middle school students. Students in a week-long summer camp program set up their Pi's and started programming code for Minecraft. This sort of creative activity engages students in higher order thinking and problem solving, but it also gives the students a purpose for learning. In his presentation, Bill Van Loo described the process of building a circular tower in Minecraft. Writing the code to do so required revisiting how to convert polar coordinates (in which it is easy to give the equation for a circle) into the rectangular coordinates (which describes the world of Minecraft).

I was thinking this summer that I might take a vacation somewhere as a reward for graduating. Vacations are expensive, so maybe I will do that next summer. However, I can probably afford to pick up a Raspberry Pi and tinker with it. I'll never teach a programming class, but the Raspberry Pi offers the potential for a club or extra-curricular activity. It also gives me the power to create something more than just an awesome blog, but to create something that actually does something (Like run Doom!).

Returning to my iPad, in another session I came across Explain Everything. It is a video capturing/screen-casting/whiteboard application for the iPad. It allows users to import Documents, PowerPoints, PDFs and a host of other file formats. Then, the users can annotated or mark-up the file before exporting the as images or as an MP4 video. Users can get a similar product for PC's called Jing for free. However, the file format that Jing saves in is difficult to upload and edit. Explain Everything videos can either be immediately uploadable to YouTube or can be loaded into (the free) Microsoft Movie Maker and further edited. Best of all, unlike other videos editing software, Explain Everything only costs $2.99.

For the cost of parking and the gas to drive out to MACUL, I could buy a computer and start learning how to code. For the cost of a muffin at MACUL, I could download Explain Everything and start flipping my classroom.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Happy Pi-Day! #hashtag

Happy Pi-day.
I scheduled this to post at 1:59 in the morning, so the date and time should read 3/14 1:59AM.
Next year, I could schedule something to post at 3/14/15 9:26AM

Let's look at some pi. . .

The World Record for memorizing digits of pi is held by Lu Chao who memorized the first 67,890 digits of pi. So far, I have the first 8 digits. I am working on more. As soon as I get beyond the first 11 digits, I should beat out most scientific calculators. So, after that I can start making up digits to impress people.

Both P and pi are the sixteenth letter of their respective alphabets (English and Greek).

Albert Einstein, Billy CrystalMichael Caine, and Taylor Hanson were all born on Pi Day. That is probably the only sentence you will ever read in which Albert Einstein and Taylor Hanson appear in the same sentence.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Tech Joke #hashtag

Teaching and being a grad student leaves little time for blogging, but I did have the opportunity to take this picture the other day.

This is the screen of my iPad. I am using the remote desktop program Doceri on my Windows PC to read an article about Linux using Chrome as a browser. Let's summarize: Apple device, connected to a Microsoft PC, using a Google Browser to read about Linux. It sort of reminds me of Captain Planet. Apple-Microsoft-Google-Linux-Heart with those powers combined, I have the INTERNET!