So we had our workshop today… not bad, six teachers, so that’s half the department. Two others were working at school and couldn’t make it. A good four hour session with a pro-user who’s also a teacher. While he didn’t cover a lot of the fundamental stuff or get into all the changes in the user interface that Maple 12 has, he did keep up with most of our teachers (we’re an agressive bunch when it comes to learner… doctors making the worst patients and all). There was a nice bit of work done with programming and question construction. Hopefully things will come of it… we discussed a lot of classroom issues while we were learning Maple. Now I have to have some serious stuff ready for next week!
One of the reasons we’ve decided to jump into this CAS process at this point in time is that the new interface is far more student-friendly. We were loath to start with a CAS when the learning curve would be so great. While I know that some would say that the TI is a possibility, it’s short-sighted; no one uses the TI software/handhelds beyond highschool. And the hand-helds are a button-intensive, small screen mess. It’s a toss-up between Maple and Mathematica – and we have an existing relationship with Maple (it’s HQ is down the road an hour).
The interface is now far more point & click with no (okay, few) arcane (to students) commands and it describes the step that has been performs.
Graphing is a lot easier (you can drag an expression onto a grid and it graphs!) and parameters can be automated with a click.
That, of course, is the easy part done. Now, the hard part:
- what questions do we ask to develop understanding, concepts, algorithms?
- how do we encourage exploration over presentation?
- how do we avoid an emphasis on calculation/algorithm/button pushing? This can’t be just “better worksheets through CAS”
- how do we make the link between paper-pencil and CAS techniques?
- how do we strength understanding of equivalence (since CAS’ representations differ)?
- how do we deal with the time factor? (student-centred takes more time)?
- are our teachers ready to deal with the mathematical conversation that will/should occur?
Just doing some preliminary setup for storing and sharing information on our project… the Drexel courses I’ve been taking on (Action) Research have been helpful in doing a lot of the preliminary readings (see sidebar for some good references). I’m also trying to work on the Sharepoint site… it may already be time to throw in the towel on that and just use a wiki. I’d much prefer the wiki anyways just because of the ease of use (for me and other users), accessibility (are our Sharepoint sites available to outside users?) and my own personal philosophy.