Microsoft Vision 2019

Thanks to Darcy Moore for sharing

Can we really have so many touch services in just 10 years?

Wolfram|Alpha -the end of traditional Maths Homework?

For those of you who haven’t played with Wolfram|Alpha it is a great new concept in search engines with a very worthy goal

Wolfram|Alpha’s long-term goal is to make all systematic knowledge immediately computable and accessible to everyone.

While much of the information has a decidly US centric vent it is still possible to discover some interesting information – watch the introductory video for ideas. Other people have also been blogging about it’s potential impact in education http://slav.globalteacher.org.au/2009/05/19/wolfram-alpha/

As I delved a bit deeper it became immediately apparent that it will easily function as a free CAS (Computer Algebra System) and give worked solutions to almost all routine Mathematics homework problems and you can bet as soon as the kids have discovered this is the case they will be using it. Just as many teachers in other subjects prefered setting assignments BG (before Google) because at least the students needed to read the information they were plagiarising (as they were copying it word by word from the encyclopedia), I think that Wolfram|Alpha will have the same impact on Mathematics tasks.  I know that CAS have been available for a while now – but they have not been as easily accessible or free.

For example I am currently setting a homework assignment for a NSW 2 Unit Mathematics class studying Linear Functions. Typical question that might be asked are sketch Equation . Normally a student would have to find the x intercept and the y intercept, then sketch – a key skill that the question is assessing. However those less capable students could get this from W|A

Plot

Or if the student was asked to find the point of intersection of 2 lines Equation
they would normally have to solve them simultaneously then sketch both lines labeling key points (once again key concepts the question is designed to assess) . Or from W|A the simultaneous solutions

and then the lines can be plotted as in the first example.

Mind you both of these simple examples can be solved in GeoGebra (free software being included on the Laptops being issued to all students in NSW 9 -12) see below

These are only trivial examples (relevant to what I am covering right now!) and are no different to issues arising from the introduction of graphics calculators in other systems (NSW does not currently allow them in 2 Unit or Extension Mathematics).  However W|A is capable of far more complex interations for example a typical Extension 2 question normally a case for integration by parts which W|A gives as:

Full working and everything!

Of course student understanding of these key concepts will still be able to be assessed using in-class tests, but it is obvious that simple drill and practice homework assignments will most likely be solved by time-poor students using technology – why wouldn’t you?  (Typical student note to conscience – “I understand and I’ll practice it later-  I’ve just got to get to work and earn money right now and the assignment is due tommorow”)

However it is not all bad!  In fact I am very keen to investigate further how Wolfram|Alpha can be used to enhance student learning of Mathematics in the same way that some (rich?) schools have used Mathematica (the big brother of Wolfram|Alpha) See http://library.wolfram.com/infocenter/BySubject/Education/Precollege/ for some examples.

So as Mathematics teachers do we bury our head in the sand for a while and hope that the students don’t discover these powerful tools until later, then attempt to adjust our tasks accordingly?  Not this little black duck 🙂 I’m going on the front foot and showing my students what these tools can do for them (if I can get a room with internet connection tomorrow!) and putting the Wolfram|Alpha search bar on the blog I maintain for my students

As for the Linear Functions assignment for my 2 Unit class – looks like it is back to the drawing board so I had better stop procrastinating. But it is clear – the days of traditional drill and practice homework are over!

Mentor teaching for L4L

I like this idea from Dean Grooms blog

‘Team teaching’ in the classroom (with or without an expert mentor) –  supports and allows peer observation in authentic settings. This strategy provides focus on practice, techniques and student behaviour through observation and reflective notes. It might be a focus on the way students are given instruction; they type of instruction; the time management of activities; the type of questions being asked or reactions to events. Secondly, agree some facets of their teaching that they feel they want to work on with technology. Agree some element of the class that they wish to try-out. 10 minute activities are great for focusing practice and student attention. So in an hour, 15 minutes is given to the newcomer trying out agreed methods and techniques.”

Introducing a mentor system for teachers would be of great benefit and is possibly the easiest way to support teachers that are fearful of a 1:1 laptop programme. I know that at our school we have funds set aside for team building – perhaps they could be utilised as a carrot to encourage this spirit of cooperation. It could even be extended across schools using collegiate groups.

Any volunteers?

Launch of the EGATs Programme (on Moodle) – North Coast – Central Network

On Wednesday  North Coast Region – Central Network lauched its EGATs (Electronic Gifted and Talented) programme using the Coffs Harbour High School Moodle.  Region staff have spent many hours preparing a vast array of activities for students, and have adapted traditionally based activities well to an online format.

Student will mostly use the Moodle Assignment Activities to upload their completed tasks, however participation in weekly guided discusion forums ensures that have the opportunity to network virtually with other students and to seek assistance for teacher/mentors as well.  A traditional “journal” has been replaced by a student blog, that will be checked by assigned mentors each week. For many students participating it will be there first opportunity to engage in a “virtual community” and this offers not only the opportunity for them to complete GAT activities but also to learn the nuances of social networking in a safe online environment.

I Like Martin Dougiamas’s method of analysing the pedagogial value of various Moodle Activites (taken from http://www.slideshare.net/moodler/moodle-development-educause-australia-6th-may-2009) and like the way that a programme such as EGATs uses a wide variety of these different activities. And all this was set up by a DET consultant who has never used Moodle before and spent 2 afternoons being instructed in how it works.  An excellent example of how easy Moodle is to begin using (oh and I did a deal where she will present just how easy it is to use to CHHS staff when we begin using Moodle in earnest later this year).

There was initial fear that some of the GATs students would not cope with the use of unfamiliar technology, however this was certainly not the case. The enthusisam they showed was motivating for parents and teachers alike. All students logged on as soon as they got home, and continued the discussions they had started.