I’m trying to learn to use SageMath as a computational tool my students can use in Calculus I and in Differential Geometry. The University does not appear to have computational resources that allow me to run a local SageMath Server, so I’ve used this page:
<p>The other day, I wrote about how I used Google Docs and Applescript to lubricate the peer review workflow in a class I’m teaching. My set-up is certainly imperfect, and here I want to comment on a couple improvements that I could make, when I can find the time.</p>
At present, a student submits peer review comments to a Google Form that gets written to a Google spreadsheet that I need to download by hand to a Numbers spreadsheet and process with an Applescript. The script produces a PDF that I need to email to students by hand. Continue reading →
<p>So, I’ve just had a chance to bend Google tools and Applescript to the service of teaching. In the event that someone else might find this interesting, I thought I’d share the story. Details are available to those who request them in the comments.</p>
This semester, I get to teach an interdisciplinary seminar for juniors that’s writing enhanced. This means that the students need to write a lot and I need to read and comment on their writing. When I began teaching this course, I took advantage of peer reviewing. This is where each student has two other students read their writing and share comments. It gets the students to think about ‘good writing’ more (theirs and that of others). To keep them focused on the issues of interest to us in the course, I made a two-page ‘Writing Checklist’ for each peer reader to fill out as they read another’s writing.
<p>Quick thoughts. Caught this article, <a href="http://bit.ly/hiOEP0">“Universities not preparing students for 21st century”</a> by Mark C. Taylor. The title resonated with my current professional interests include preparing students to contribute to the 21st century STEM workforce.<!--more--></p>
The author launches the article with concerns about costs and financing: the decrease in public funding of education, the increasing proportion of costs that are passed on to students.
These problems are compounded by the fact that in far too many cases, college is not preparing students for life and work in the 21st century. A growing emphasis on research rather than teaching has led to over-specialized courses that often represent the interests of faculty rather than the needs of students. The curriculum needs to be thoroughly restructured in ways that break down barriers now separating departments, disciplines, and programs.
Universities are structured in ways that deter educators from making interdisciplinary connections with colleagues in other areas. Faculty are organized by department, departments are organized by schools, and budgets (which are the ultimate statement about institutional powers) are organized likewise. It’s a deeply entrenched siloing paradigm.
In addition, all courses — even those in the liberal arts and humanities — should engage real-world problems. Knowledge for knowledge’s sake is a luxury we can no longer afford. To insist that the curriculum should have a practical orientation is not, however, to claim that education should become narrowly vocational: Liberal-arts education has never been more important than in today’s globalized world.
Coming from a ‘purist’ liberal arts background, I understand the importance of decoupling learning from vocation. Knowledge that stands the test of time relates to deep principles, not cutting-edge trends and technology. However, an ‘ivory tower’ approach to learning (where students ‘go away’ for a monastic college experience for four years) appeals to too few students. And the real world is changing so quickly that educators are finding it very difficult to keep up with society’s workforce needs and opportunities that are available to students. If college and Universities work more closely with society to connect learning with ‘real world questions’ and ‘capacious social issues’, more people will pursue more education, and the higher education section will better serve the needs of the American and world economy.
It <a href="http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2010/12/22/qt#246572">looks like</a> Congress has renewed the America COMPETES Act. The House passed (228 to 130) the <a href="http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d111:SN03605:">Senate's version</a> that was passed last week.
<p>At Saturday's commencement, our speaker, Dr. David Russell, the new commissioner for higher education in Missouri, gave an address that included lots of goodies. He also lifted a story that we quite similar to a poem by Taylor Mali, so I thought I'd put this out there for people to enjoy:</p>
Remember, teaching is the profession that makes all professions possible.
This weekend, while I was playing hookey from Church, I stumbled upon this program on Fareed Zakaria's GPS, on CNN. It was a program titled "Restoring the American Dream" and it talks about what America needs to do get back on track to be the world's greatest economic powerhouse. <p /> <a href="http://rss.cnn.com/~r/services/podcasting/fareedzakaria/rss/~3/-EpSlZG9tW8/gps.podcast.10.31.cnn.m4v">http://rss.cnn.com/~r/services/podcasting/fareedzakaria/rss/~3/-EpSlZG9tW8/gp...</a> <br />I liked this program so much I made the students in my Senior Seminar (for mathematics majors) sit through it. I hope it gave them a sense for the ideas in Zakaria's <i>The Post-American World</i> and Thomas Friedman's <i>The World is Flat</i>. it also suggested that Seth Godin's <i>Linchpin</i> could be useful for those who are about to graduate from college.