Google Docs

So I’ve been playing a bit with Google docs in a few classes…
1) Grade 8s. A communal document for review… I distributed review questions to each student and they wrote out the solutions in OneNote and clipped them into our Google Doc for everyone to see. I used the comment tool to mark it up.
I could have used a wiki, but havent finished the setup yet. Small steps with my kids. But our IT director has made a public statement that we can start using other resources and we’re not tied to the (lamentable) Sharepoint.
2) The aforementioned Sharepoint will not allow us to synchronize OneNote notebooks (for reasons no one can figure out) so in order to look at their homework electronically, I had my AP Calculus students clip their hw into a Google Doc. One concerns… it’s not a click-click exercise since Google Docs don’t allow access to the clipboard. The Grade 8s mentioned this as well. *I should try this with Zoho to see if that’ll work!

I’ve also set up Google Latitude… waiting to see if I have a stalker! 🙂

Putting MapleTA into Wikispaces

Having looked through the posts on Maple Primes, I found a suggestion to insert MapleTA assignments into webpages. So, I flipped over to Wikispaces and tried it out. A little bit of detective work on the page locations, I got it to work.

Since you can set MapleTA assignments to be anonymous, MapleTA will merely produced the questions and not record anything in the gradebook. Using the EMBED tool and the code below students can practice at whim:
Remember of course, to change the square brackets to the corresponding angle brackets!

[IFRAME SRC=”http://server/mapleta/modules/test.Test?className=classname&testName=testname” TITLE=”MapleTA” WIDTH=’100%’ HEIGHT=600][/IFRAME]

This follows closely on the heels of embedding GeoGebra into Wikispaces:

[applet name=”ggbApplet” code=”geogebra.GeoGebraApplet” archive=”geogebra.jar” codebase=”http://www.geogebra.org/webstart/3.2/” width=”884″ height=”612″ id=”ggbApplet”]
[param name=”filename” value=”http://wikiname.wikispaces.com/file/view/yourfile.ggb”]
[/applet]

You first have to upload the yourfile.ggb to your Wikispaces, then embed the code using their widget button. You can change the width and height values and you have to change the YOURFILE name but that’s about it.

This opens up a lot of interesting possibilities and I’m hoping it will encourage a lot more sharing.
I’m switching everything in my courses to Wikispaces this weekend and we’ll see how much I can stuff in!

Opening up things a bit

Having come back from Educon 2.1 I realize that I have to be (far) more collaborative. Not my nature being an introvert but, having tried to blog every year for the past 10 years, I’ll try again. Since I can’t always talk about CAS, I’ve opened this up a bit and we’ll just look at anything (mathematics U education U technology) that crosses my desk. It’ll also help me avoid filling up my colleagues’ mailboxes.

A little off topic

MathML Strengthens Digital Math Texts
Digital texts are moving beyond simply putting pages on a computer screen.
In Kentucky, a small pilot study is demonstrating the benefits of this textbook technology for students with different learning styles. Instead of re-creating a complex math problem as a static image file, digital texts that use math markup language, or MathML, are able to speak words and equations while highlighting corresponding elements on a computer screen.
MathML-enabled digital texts helped the study’s very small cohort of students struggling with printed text outperform peers who used traditional print texts. Many students said that before MathML, they’d see a problem but not know how to say it. Hearing the formula and how to say it was a big help to these students.

From ASCD http://ascd.typepad.com/blog/2008/10/mathml-strengthens-digital-math-texts.html

So a little further

Well, we’re into quadratics now. The one section is doing really well incorporating Maple into their learning process — they fluidly jump back and forth between Maple & OneNote. The other class more stubbornly holds on to doing everything by hand/calculator. I keep struggling to move this section to a more exploratory model but they will have none of it.

Maple still perplexes us from time-to-time… the switching between independent & dependent variables based upon alphabetical order is one of the more irritating ones. It will graph it in the desired order but as soon as you change the window (axes, zoom, etc) it switches the order! I’ve gotten around it by choosing my variables appropriately but when they experiment the students don’t always think to (nor should they have to).

Variables

Well, we’ve used the Curve Fitting Tool for the past couple of classes. Lesson learned: it’s best to be descriptive in your variables because using x and y is not conducive to the CFT (it wants to use x as the regression variable).
We’re on to quadratics now; I wish the spreadsheet tool was a little more flexible than it is and followed Excel notation … having to add the tilde before the cell reference is clumsy. I also wonder if there’s a way to have the column filled by a list variable?
Oh… and results on the survey coming up.

The test

Things that immediately pops up….
Having them able to use the TEXT to describe their variables and present their solutions neatly. We focused so much on the math work that I didn’t do enough on using the text component to explain the setup and solution. Sigh…. only so many hours in a class is one excuse, but it is an excuse, I should have done it. Goal for the next unit.
And another thing… having them use the HELP function in case they got stuck during a test.
They are also spending a long time (relatively speaking) per question on the Maple as opposed to the written portion. They finished up the written part (3 algebraic solutions, 1 graphical, 2 analysis questions) in about a half hour, then took another half hour to finish up 1 graphical & 1 algebraic question in Maple. Something is up there… going to survey them to see what they thought.

Leading by the nose? Or breaking a path?

Well, we did a bit of direct instruction (not Direct Instruction, which is completely different… kinda like variables in poorly designed programming languages) where, in order to lead them through using Maple to get a least squares line for a set of data, I had to go through with them step-by-step. For one, I didn’t plan enough time to write out instructions & film them … 2nd, I wanted to be able to discuss WHY we were doing each step with the students.

It went VERY well… in fact, I had a number of students say “I really like using Maple” and most were actively engaged. I did have one student get frustrated and say “I hate Maple” but a caveat: he’s not the most focused student and tends to make sloppy errors. His adjacent seatmate helped him make corrections.

They also wanted to experiment a bit… one student didn’t want to write all the years 1989-1992 so wanted to write that Year:=1989..1992. I said there was a way to do that so I’ll have to work that idea in later.

I’m really hoping that they are open to experimentation… they seem okay with the “button pushing” process but, of course, I really want them to focus on mathematics problem solving.

And they find another one…

Well, we’ve been graphing now pretty successfully…. when we get to this simple little example:
d = 230t
d = 200t+170.
Plot the first, drag the second on to the grid, no problem. Then, we try to zoom/translate to approximate the intersection’s location.
Well, Maple decides that we aren’t going to get it. When you don’t use x/y as your independent/dependent variables, then even when you specify an implicit plot of t/d, as soon as you do any manipulation Maple reverts the graph to d/t. In fact, regardless of your initial setting of independent/dependent variables as soon as you use the zoom or translate tool Maple resets the variables in alphabetical order.
So… I was warned through research that using a CAS system would require better understanding of mathematical expressions and their equality. I just didn’t expect to have to deal with Maple’s idiosyncracies (or is it errors?). In the future, I guess my variables will be in the correct order… I wonder if the students will notice?

2nd foray

Having done graphing with Maple the other day, we worked a little bit with solving systems of equations by substitution. One of the students mentioned that instead of assigning names by typing “L1:=y=3x+2” you could avoid the first equal sign and just use a colon.
Well, that was okay for graphing, since you just right-clicked and chose plot. However, it doesn’t work because the assignment to L1 isn’t made, so when you tried to do a substitution into L1, it didn’t exist.
Some of the students in the 2nd section had a challenge with the 2nd line they dropped on to the graph only had domain -10 to 10… wasn’t sure why that was happening.
The second section does algebra on Friday … and we’ll do more algebra with it next week!