Thursday, January 27, 2011

Problems, Problems, Everywhere....

Fall Semester 2010 is finally over at good old Baldwin High!  Its time for a little introspection and tweaking, shall we?

Computer Math
We tried a new curriculum here based on Gary and Maria Litvin's text "Mathematics for the Digital Age" which is really an introduction to Discrete Mathematics using python. I think my students did well with this new approach.

PROBLEM 1: We went a little slowly and only covered 5 chapters including MCQ tests and Labs. Well, actually, I'm starting with Lab 5 in Advanced Computer Math next week.
SOLUTION 1: Next year I think we can go a bit faster as we are more familiar with the curriculum now.

PROBLEM 2: We used which is based on python to do our classwork and labs. This worked well for a while, but recently we've been experiencing a lot of lag.
SOLUTION 2: This is Midterm Week. As such, I have a little time to experiment in my PC Classroom. I am looking into installing SAGE on every PC in class so everyone has their own private server and we have no lag! Ideally, I should set up a single private SAGE server for my students to login to, but I'm waiting on some new server hardware, so we'll revisit this issue then.

AP Computer Science
We are doing pretty well here. We covered 6 chapters of Cay Horstmann's Computing Concepts with Java 5th edition and 2 units of the Gridworld Case study.

PROBLEM 3: Our ftp/ssh server finally crashed. It ran literally 24x7 for 13 or more years if memory servers. It had Slackware Linux 3.0 installed for Pete's sake!
SOLUTION 3: I have to look into setting up a temporary server. I have a new Xeon 32bit dual-core but it has no internet access as of yet. So, I can install Linux using an Ubuntu Desktop Edition CD, but its hard to download server apps like openssh and vsftp.

PROBLEM 4: Whenever I want to show a youtube, I have to switch over to Windows since my 64bit Ubuntu installation cannot run flash.
SOLUTION 4: Since I'm installing SAGE on all my Linux boxes, I thought a fresh install of Ubuntu 10.10 Desktop edition would be in order. So, while I'm at it, I think I'll downgrade to 32bit. Flash and Wine, just to mention a few utilities, are easier to install and maintain in 32bit. I've been running 64bit OSs for about a year now and found little benefit in everyday usage. I have a 64bit OS for the cluster, that's all we really need on our 64bit Athlon dual-cores. My Teacher Station should then be able to run flash in Linux. I wonder if my Airliner Slate will work better in 32bit. It is way to sensitive in 64bit!

We have no problems here as we are on track to have a month and a half or so at the end of the year to do some real Calculus. That was the plan all along in 4R-11. This is a custom course for Juniors who want to take AP Calculus AB next year. So, we cover a traditional preCalculus class a little bit on the fast side. I am looking to replace my Airliner Slate, however, with a full-fledged TouchScreen Laptop to integrate the slate and the mic into one device. I will also be able to control the Teacher Station via RDP rather than BlueTooth as the Slate does or via several wires (audio, video, Ethernet) as my current Laptop does.

AP Calculus BC
We are good to go here as well. I'm just wondering what I'm going to do with a new SmartBoard! You heard what I said, I will still use my Airliner Slate, but I'm scheduled for a SmartBoard installation soon to replace my current PC Projector/Screen and speakers. I'm pushing for the extra wide xi model (74 inches wide, 46 inches tall) as a standard SmartBoard has only about 61 inches of writing space. My students are used to a much wider screen when I do my fake SmartBoarding and Screen-casting.

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