Saturday, January 9, 2010

SAGE: Breaking up is hard to do! (No Calculus Research Lab this year...)

I'm trying to drum up some interest for my new Calculus Research Lab (CRL), aka Scientific Computing Lab with SAGE to enhance the understanding and retention of AP Calculus.  We tried to get a section, starting in September, to meet every other day complementing the Calculus classes (AB & BC) that meet every day but we had an epic fail re scheduling.  The course was approved way too late last year for guidance to schedule the students properly. 
So, I thought I'd ask the current Calculus students to add CRL (meeting everyday) to their schedule now, for the Spring semester only, after Midterms Week.  There seems to be plenty of interest, but these students' schedules are already jammed!  The PC Classroom is only available periods 2, 3 and 5.  Luckily, I'm "off" those periods too, but too few students are (I'm never off as I do research and linux tech support when I'm "off").  I need a section of at least 10 students or the powers-that-be will not reschedule it.  I looked at the schedules of all my Calculus BC students (I don't teach the AB section) and found a lot had Lunch or Gym 5th period.  I thought there would be some flexibility there.  I suppose these students don't want to give up lunch.  

Well, neither do I....

Maybe I should be more like one of my heroes who said:  "do first, ask later!" Of course, that was Grace Murray Hopper.  In other words, I could start teaching these topics in other classes and sneak it in that way?  This is exactly how I got Linux in my school. I just decided to install it one day (1995?) and acted all apologetic when they told me I wasn't supposed to do it. By then it had been so entrenched in my AP CompSci curriculum  that they couldn't get rid of it! Of course, the powers-that-be had all kinds of arguments against Linux:
(1) "isn't it copyrighted?" no it's copylefted,
(2) "isn't it expensive?" no it's FLOSS,
(3) "what about tech support?" you're looking a him..... 

I have a "Computing Independent Study" class that meets once a week after school where we are playing with Clusters. We also do research on using various scientific computing environments (SAGE, Octave, R) in a PC Classroom setting.  Hence the approval to run a "Calculus Research Lab".  Maybe we could start these topics there?

I still have to use a GC in AP Calculus, but I can't say I'm happy about it.  However, I was in at the beginning of the Calculus Reform movement and the Rule of Four (GNAW every problem: solving Graphically, Numerically, Analytically and Wordily) in the early 90s. GCs were the only game in town back then.  BTW, I'm convinced that the low res LCDs in these GCs without color or back lighting that I used a lot for many years contributed to my needing reading glasses now....

Its really hard to pitch this sort of course when everyone else is using GCs, especially if the school has a large investment in class sets of GCs as my school has. Its even harder if you have TI-89s with CAS already.  I say, TI-83s and some Scientific Programming is great in math class, even a TI-89 and some CAS in Calculus is fine. However, take a look what we can do with SAGE in the PC Classroom.  Its like night and day, the GCs look like toys!

I made this exact arguement at our last Superintendant's Day (Election Day in November) where I volunteered to give a presentation entitled: "Look Ma, No Calculator!"  My supervisor loved it!  That's partly why I have a new course approval for a "Calculus Research Lab."  Now I just have to get some enrollment....

BTW, I'm giving a similar talk at LIMACON at SUNY Old Westbury (4/16/2010) if anyone's interested.  I also will be showing how I record all my lessons for YouTube using a wireles mic and PC Tablet (a lot like a SmartBoard).

Also, I think I'll give this presentation at the next T^3 (Teachers Teaching with Tecnology) at Molloy College in Rockville Centre (11/2010).  Do you think TI will be upset?  You see, TI is the main sponsor of T^3, so I don't know if they will appreciate a talk entitled "Look Ma, No Calculator!"  To be fair, the speaker invitation I received from Molloy just yesterday said I could talk about SmartBoards. Also, I do use a TI emulator (VTI) on my PC desktop. 

Teaching with Technology, 

No comments:

Post a Comment