Showing posts from May, 2017

Beginnings: OpenStax Algebra and Trigonometry and Schoology

Many instructors are content to teach the same material in the same way year-after-year. Lecture notes only need occasional updating, tests can be pulled out of a filing cabinet. A few questions are changed and the test is given yet again. Sure, occasionally a new edition of the textbook adds a section or changes a homework set. Ruffles the feathers a bit, and then the routine returns.

I tend to shift and jump to new technologies and approaches that cause me to have to rework and reinvent my whole work flow. Rebuild homework and tests. This summer I am pilot testing OpenStax Algebra and Trigonometry.

Right off the bat there was a complication with using the online version. While the PDF is gorgeously laid out replete with homework set problem numbers, the online edition still lacks polish. Including numbering the problem sets. Since I use Schoology Basic as my learning management system, I needed a way to tell the students which problems to do in a text without numbers.

So I copied an…

Lack of retention of basic mathematical knowledge shown in pre-assessment

A pre-assessment of basic mathematical skills was given to eleven students on the first day of summer session 2017 in physical science. On the pre-assessment there were eleven questions that focused on plotting points, slope and intercept of a direct variation, and calculations using a slope and intercept. These are skills that are first developed in eighth grade algebra and in high school algebra I. In the following chart of student performance the math courses listed are:

MS 096 Elementary Algebra
MS 100 College Algebra
MS 101 Algebra and Trigonometry
MS 106 Technical Math II
MS 150 Statistics

The average success rate across all items was 35.5%. From the chart one can see that even with courses such as MS 101 Algebra and Trigonometry and MS 150 Statistics (both with MS 100 College Algebra pre-requisites), the success rate for individual students was poor.

When the success rate is looked at by course, the sample sizes become far too small for significance. Given that caveat, there do…

Survey of student preference hard copy versus online textbook in algebra and trigonometry

A survey was administered to 21 students on the first day of class in a six-week summer session algebra and trigonometry course here on Pohnpei in the Federated States of Micronesia. The survey sought to determine whether the students had some of the technology and access necessary to using an online open access textbook.

To orient the students to the nature of the questions being asked in the survey, the students were shown the hard copy eighth edition of the Larson Algebra & Trigonometry text.

The students were also show the OpenStax Algebra and Trigonometry text.

The survey asked the following three questions:

MS 101 Algebra and Trigonometry may explore a pilot test of an online textbook. In order to determine the feasibility (possibility) of using an online textbook, please answer the following questions:

1. I have the following technologies (check all that apply):
▢ Smartphone
▢ Tablet
▢ Laptop computer
▢ Desktop computer at home
▢ Internet at home

2. Which would you prefer u…

Assessing Learning in Ethnobotany

SC/SS 115 Ethnobotany proposes* to serve four program learning outcomes through three course level outcomes. The course serves learning outcomes in general education, the Micronesian studies program, and the Agriculture and Natural Resources program.

PLO SC/SS 115 CLO GE 3.4 Define and explain scientific concepts, principles, and theories of a field of science. 1. Identify local plants, their reproductive strategies, and morphology. GE 4.2 Demonstrate knowledge of the cultural issues of a person’s own culture and other cultures.

MSP 2 Demonstrate proficiency in the geographical, historical, and cultural literacy of the Micronesian region. 2. Communicate and describe the cultural use of local plants for healing, as food, as raw materials, and in traditional social contexts. ANR 2 Demonstrate basic competencies in the management of land resources and food production. 3. Demonstrate basic field work competencies related to management of culturally useful plant resources and foods.

Insights into learning and course reactions in ethnobotany

In SC/SS 115 Ethnobotany an open answer survey sought to elicit insights into student student and reactions to the course. The students were to respond to a a prompt. One of the most common themes cited by the students was the learning value of outdoor learning. Walking among the plants and learning their names and uses was reported as being beneficial to learning the plants and their uses. At the core of ethnobotany are the plants people use and how those plants are used.

My learning of the content was most helped when…
...I participated in the field learning names of the plants because it has been a great impact on my knowledge during my time in the field.
...we walked around the campus and see the trees that we are learning because I experienced and touched what I am learning.
...we went outdoors because I learned the things that needed to be learned when I see them.

The activity that contributed the most to my learning was…
...going to the coconut factory, seeing stuff and sampling …

Assessing Learning in Physical Science

SC 130 Physical Science proposes to serve two institutional learning outcomes (ILO) through four general education program learning outcomes (GE PLO) addressed by four course level student learning outcomes (CLO). Not listed are proposed specific student learning outcomes that in turn serve the course level learning outcomes.  This report assesses learning under the proposed course level learning outcomes which in turn supports program and institutional learning outcomes.

ILO 8. Quantitative Reasoning: ability to reason and solve quantitative problems from a wide array of authentic contexts and everyday life situations; comprehends and can create sophisticated arguments supported by quantitative evidence and can clearly communicate those arguments in a variety of formats.

GE PLO SC 130 CLO 3.5 Perform experiments that use scientific methods as part of the inquiry process. 1. Explore physical science systems through experimentally based laboratories using scientific methodologies 3…

Statistics text and course reactions

During the fall term of 2016 the MS 150 Statistics course shifted towards increasing use of Google Sheets. Developments in Sheets meant that Google Sheets had become far more capable than Microsoft Excel, especially when coupled with the Statistics add-on from Google. With the add-on Sheets now produced box plots, graphical confidence intervals for linear regressions, and automatic generation of histograms.

Over the winter break 2016-2017 the statistics text supporting the course was rewritten to support the use of Google Sheets and to be mobile friendly. The text was also designed to be usable in an off line environment. The text is a single web page that will remain available in a tab of a modern browser as long as the tab is kept open, whether or not the device is on line. Students can load the page at school and then take their device off campus while retaining the text on their device.

With the textbook on line and available, the hard copy text book was no longer required in the …

Improvement in graphical math skills via physical science and technology

Mɛ pɛ sɛ kwadu.
Wo bɛ ware mɛ?
Wo ho yɛ mɛ fɛ.

There are rules for where the mɛ lands in the above expressions and one could be taught where the mɛ should be placed based on the terms to either side of mɛ. With enough practice, one could pass a test on where to place the mɛ. Assessments could be done showing that one had indeed mastered the student learning outcome, "Students will be able to place the mɛ correctly in an expression." A student might logically ask why they are learning to place the mɛ in the expression. They might be told that they will need this knowledge should they proceed on to courses with more complex forms of expressions such as:

Woama metiri mu yɛ mɛ dɛ.

The reality is that few students in the class ever go on to more complex expressions, and none of this leads to actual understanding of the expressions nor how these expressions are actually used in the field in which the expressions are used.  The phrases would be meaningless, devoid of context, and a…

Assessing Learning in Introductory Statistics

MS 150 Statistics is an introductory statistics course with a focus on statistical operations and methods. The course is guided by the 2007 Guidelines for Assessment and Instruction in Statistics Education (GAISE), the spring 2016 draft GAISE update, and the ongoing effort at the college to incorporate authentic assessment in courses.

In the fall of 2012 the statistics curriculum was adjusted to include a couple of weeks of open data exploration exercises at the end of the term. These exercises were submitted as assignments and marked by the instructor. Spring 2015 the last open data exploration in a set of three was assigned as a presentation to the class. This changed the stakes from an assignment seen only by the instructor to a presentation seen by all of the students in the class. That shift would ramp up the level of effort students put into their open data exploration exercises. The arrival of improved presentation technology fall 2015 in the form of a brighter flat pane…