Thursday, November 11, 2010

AMATYC Boston Day 1

I've had a busy day in Boston today.  It's the first day of the AMATYC Conference.  This is my third year attending the conference.  I'm starting to recognize people from one year to the next.

Morning Sessions

Here is a summary of the sessions I attended.
  1. Collaboration is the Key! - Vicki Gearhart and Honey Kirk
    I thought this was going to be a talk about student collaboration.  I was wrong, but I'm glad I went to the talk anyway.  It was about curriculum alignment in Texas.  The collaboration is between the high schools, community colleges, and four-year colleges.  The point is that the alignment is supposed to be a bottom-up approach, which I like.  Kentucky is going through a similar thing right now, but they are taking a top-down approach.
  2. On the Use of Social Media - Mike Martin, Maria Anderson, Fred Feldon, and Mary Beth Orrange
    You can tell I have an interest in social media because you are reading my blog.  You also can tell that a talk is good if it almost convinces me to sign up for Twitter.  I did say almost. 

    The biggest thing I took away from this talk is that employers are looking to social media in the hiring process.  It would be a good idea to encourage students to leverage their on-line presence to reflect their strengths.

    Maria Andersen showed us Imagination Cubed, a website for sharing drawing.  It can be used for displaying writing on a tablet PC to online students.  It caused a buzz of excitement in the audience.
  3. The Power of Google Docs for Effective Online Course Management - George M. Alexander and Calvin Williamson
    I was hoping to learn more about the mechanics of Google Documents.  I've been using Google Documents as a file server for this blog.  They had good ideas on how to use Google Documents to replace a course management system like Blackboard.  It looks like a good alternative.

    The problem I have with intirely online classes is that you can never know who is really doing the work.  If there is one class that would make an otherwise honest student cheat, it's math.
  4. I Can't Teach Calculus and It's Not My Fault! - Philip Cheifetz
    This talk did a good job highlighting the difficulty with falling standards.  The main point was that students are passing Precalculus and Calculus I with such weak skills that they can't do the work for Calculus II.  Dr. Cheifetez made a good case for mastery learning.
  5. Second Life in Higher Education - Fred Felton
    Fred Felton really enjoys Second Life.  I don't see the point.  I think that Second Life is one delivery method for distance learning courses, but not the best.  My concern with Second Life is that it can be so addicting for some people that it would negate any educational benefit.  I joked in the talk that I wish I could make MyMathLab so addicting.

    During the talk, Fred talked about Booland, where you can do virtual bungee jumping and hang gliding.  It seems a little odd to me that you would want to do those things virtually.  I thought the whole point was the adrenaline rush from risking your life.  How would you get that from your basement?
Opening General Session

The Opening General Session had the presentation of the Mathematics Excellence Award.  The two winners were Sadie Bragg and Ed Laughbaum.  Both winners have impressive experience in teaching mathematics and are worthy winners.  The keynote address was The Treasure of Polynomials  by Javier Gomez-Calderon.

AMATYC Exhibits

There are many companies that make their money off of students, and they are all selling their wares here.  The exhibits are popular because of the freebies.  I did grab a few things for the kids, but I don't go Christmas shopping.  The exhibits that I especially noticed were
  1. The MAA - They were giving out pi temporary tattoos.  I grabbed two for the kids.
  2. Easy Worksheet - They have worksheets for free download.  I'll be checking it out soon.
  3. AMSER - The Applied Math and Science Education Repository.  They have free materials for teachers.  Free is my favorite word.
  4. Minitab - I grabbed a t-shirt from them.  I didn't pack enough.
  5. Pearson Publishing - I grabbed a couple of foam puzzles for the kids.
After visiting the exhibition hall, I was wiped out.  I left my coworkers and headed out for dinner by myself.  I got pizza at the food court at the mall across the street.  I bought an abacus at Barnes and Noble,and two pairs of socks.  Now, I am watching Big Bang Theory.  I love it when Wil Wheaton is on.

It's going to be an early night for me.  I'll be meeting my coworkers for breakfast at 7:30 for breakfast in the lobby.