Monday, April 20, 2015

Twitter, Statistics, and Failure: What I can learn from other's successes.

The Chronicle just posted the article "With Twitter, Statistics 101 Takes Flight" by Mark E. Ferris about his use of Twitter to help students understand how statistics is used in different contexts. Overall he does a great job of offering a structured learning activity that exposes his students to uses of statistics. A short summary:
  • Requires all students to create a Twitter account for the course. 
  • Each week students are to follow 10 new statistics-based organizations, post 7 tweets about statistics (retweets of those organization's posts?), retweet 2 of Ferris' posts to keep up on the topics he is covering on his feed, and post 2-3 tweets of their own by discussing interesting statistics they find. 
  • Each Tuesday they are to do a short write-up of one of their weekly tweets, which is worth 15 percent of their grade. 
This made me think of my own recent failed attempt to use Twitter to teach statistics. This term I am teaching Inferential Statistics and I thought I would offer students an alternative method to communicate about the course. (While I love Moodle, I know Moodle Discussion Forums are not that exciting.) I did not make it part of the grade, but merely suggested it at the start of the term. I think you can get an idea of how it went....
This is the only tweet with the hashtag #CCCStatsII, so I suppose its rare and valuable, I guess? (I wonder how much I could get for it...) After talking to students further it was clear that none of them had a Twitter account, and didn't really see the point in what I was doing. This is the first time I have taught this course and creating a whole new assignment category on the fly during Week 2 did not sound very appealing, so I dropped it. The idea ended in failure, but after Ferris' article I think I'll try it again with additional structure, and make it part of their grade.

Have you used Twitter in any of your classes? Do you have any tips or suggestions? Feel free to share below!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Pre-Calculus, the next topic in need of reform?

Jack Rotman did (or is doing) an interesting presentation at the 2015 Michigan Mathematics Meetings looking at Pre-Calculus reform. He draws an analogy to the current Developmental Mathematics reforms (alternative pathway, career-ready, etc.), shares some data on Michigan's approach to Pre-Calculus, and asks that big question "Are Pre-Calculus classes really preparing students for Calculus?"

I think its pretty safe to say that most states are in a similar situation regarding Pre-Calculus where colleges and universities have different requirements. In academia I know we don't like comparing institutions, but when students are transferring between different institutions (especially with costs going up) a certain level of state-wide consistency is beneficial to everyone. Students learn material that actually prepares them for the next course/future content, dropout rates lower (as a consequence of having to take less classes), completion times lower, etc.