Sunday, October 24, 2010

Crisis and Opportunity Better Mean the Same Thing, or I'm in Trouble!

Yesterday, I was backing up my teaching files to a flash drive so I can copy them to the new laptop that I am supposed to get soon.  For some reason, which escapes me at the moment, I did a "cut and paste" instead of a "copy and paste".  Not all of the files copied onto the flash drive and I don't have a backup on my laptop.  I managed to lose a large chunk of data.

The sorest part of all of this is that the PowerPoint, LaTeX, and SMART Notebook documents that I use in class are gone.  All of them!  I don't have a single worksheet or lecture that I've produced in the last three years.  This is going to be a real problem on Monday.  (To add insult to injury, I do have all of the slides I produced for teaching at UW-Milwaukee.  Those slides are for overhead projectors.)

Now that the lectures are gone, I can take this opportunity to get them right.  The structure of most of my classes was to summarize the section of the text in a PowerPoint, read the PowerPoint to the students while they copied it into their notebooks, and work a couple of examples.  As you would expect, this turned into a race for the students to copy the notes before I grew bored of watching them write.  Even my assurances that they could get the notes on-line didn't keep them from writing every word.  I did have some activities that broke this mold, but it was hard to produce enough of them to replace every traditional lecture.

I've known for a while that class time lacked interaction with the students.  I would only get students engaged in small ways.  I realize now that I am going to have to replace "The definition of a linear function is..." with "Read the definition of a linear function on page 143 of your text.  Write an example of a function that is not linear and convince your neighbor that it is linear."  I am also planning on writing worksheets to go with each lecture.  I have used worksheets in the past to lead students, in small groups, step-by-step through some topics.  The students prefer the worksheets over lectures.

With due respect to Edward Van Halen,  I've fallen down the stairs and I might have landed on my feet.