Sunday, March 20, 2011

ICTCM 2011

There were about 750 participants at the International Conference on Technology in Collegiate Mathematics this year in Denver (March 17-20).  The keynoter Theo Gray gave an exciting talk about his vision of what textbooks should be.  He gave snippets of his Elements ebook, which was enough to make me want an iPad.

Lila Roberts gave a great start to the Emerging Technologies strand of presentations.  She proposes widely utilizing browser-independent applets, that is, applets based on HTML5 and javascript rather than using Flash or Java.   A few free resources  mentioned in her talk that I want to explore: for creating and storing slideshows online, for screen capture videos via browser,  MathJax for displaying math notation online, and JSXgraph for dynamic  graphs.

Lila also mentioned WolframAlpha widgets.   You can easily create and embed a Wolfram|Alpha applet in your webpage or Learning Management System (Blackboard, Moodle , WebCT, Angel, etc.) , or simply embed one of the existing widgets from their gallery (as above).

Susan McCourt mentioned embedding videos during her talk about engaging students in discussion boards.  Her YouTube video shows how to  embed a Jing video in a discussion board so that the actual video is on the discussion board, not merely a link to a video.

I was not encouraged by the course redesign sessions I attended.  The strategy appears to limit the curriculum to exercises that computers can grade.  I was in agreement with the speaker when she said that we should automate what is best done by automation, but she lost me when her next statement was that we should never grade homework again.

At another redesign session, the school's goal was to improve the college algebra success rate of their students who pass intermediate algebra.  That goal was reached admirably, but at an expense of lowering the pass rate in intermediate to the level that there did not appear to be any more students able to progress through both classes than before the redesign.

And in the a third redesign session I attended, the speaker confirmed that in Tennessee, intermediate algebra is no longer a developmental course, so that elementary algebra (with systems of equations removed) was now the prerequisite for some college math courses.

I had agreed to man the keyboard for Fred Feldon's Friday morning talk on Wolfram|Alpha.  I arrived early to make sure I could work ok with the provided laptop.  Then Sharon Sledge walked in with an unusual request:  would Fred and I be willing to take over the Wolfram|Alpha workshop that was starting an hour after Fred's talk?  The scheduled speaker cancelled that morning, but the workshop was completely booked.

I think our improvised workshop went reasonably well, but I did need to spend the hour between those sessions editing and uploading some materials I was working on for an AMATYC webinar in May.