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Hybrid Microeconomics Part 2 of 3: Early Reflections

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Five week into my hybrid AP Microeconomics course, we had our first major test. Having only met in person four times, I was anxious to see the results. The test was marginally more difficult than the same one given to my “face-to-face” AP Microeconomics course this fall. The results were better than my students from the fall!

My first major realization is that the students are very much actively engaged with the material; there are readings, workbook activities, videos, and online quizzes. In a traditional class, students may have been able to not thoroughly complete their reading or problems, then coast through a 40-minute class. During our in-person sessions, the students have more thoughtful questions because they have confronted the material on their own; they make connections, ask insightful questions, and anticipate concepts.

I used a LMS (Canvas) in the fall with my face-to-face course, but students rarely used the resources- Canvas tracks student hours logged on and it was minimal in the fall. This spring, the online resources have been more robust and students need to take online quizzes, so inevitably the usage will be more, but its not that I notice increased usage, I notice increased engagement. An example is an discussion board thread that was complete (students were asked to define some vocab words and did), then a week later I noticed that it was highlighted as “unread.” When I looked, a handful of students continued the conversation. They were asking about subtleties from the text and how some definitions seeming contradicted each other. Granted this was a subset of the class, but these five students were going beyondFeatured image
their required engagement with the concepts and really wrestling with ideas that can be difficult and deepening their understanding by explaining examples and different ways of thinking about a problem or idea.

So the quantifiable results are at minimum on par (probably better, but small sample size), but the student engagement with Microeconomics is clearly through the roof. These students are becoming active learners; a skill as useful as the economics they are learning.

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Hybrid Microeconomics Part 1 of 3: About the Course

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I am teaching a hybrid AP Microeconomics course this spring.  This is the first of three posts describing my experience teaching this course.  The first is the basics about the course.  Attached is a FAQ that I sent to students before the class began.

About the Course: AP Microeconomics

  • This is a one-semester course.
  • It is a hybrid course where students meet once every six school days and complete online readings, activities, and assessments.
  • The goal was to add the opportunity for students to fit the course into their schedule and to add the flexibility to students’ workload.
  • Students are expected to complete about an hour’s worth of work each day (equivalent of 40 minute class plus 20 minute homework).

Resources

  • Students use the Learning Management System Canvas.
  • Students read from Mankiw’s Principles of Economics textbook.
  • Students complete workbook activities from Stone’s AP Microeconomics Resource Manual.

Course Meetings

  • Students meet in small groups in occasionally non-traditional locations (ie. library or breakout room)
  • The schedule was challenging to coordinate everyone’s availability, given that we did not have a dedicated meeting time.

Assignments

  • There are five major resources that we use:
    • Videos (short bursts of information)
    • Textbook (longer and more theoretical)
    • Workbook & Handouts (focusing on mechanics)
    • Class (connecting dots and filling in the blanks)
    • Discussion Board (with threaded answers to questions, both conceptual and vocabulary)

Assessments

  • Students take online quizzes to test for basic comprehension and completion
  • Students take in-person quizzes and tests by scheduling a convenient time.

Disruptive Innovation Transforms

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“There is an indirect relationship between the number of times an institution uses the term Innovation and how innovative the institution actually is.”

I came across a New Yorker article from the summer (linked here) that applied concepts from Clayton M. Christensen’s 1997 book “The Innovator’s Dilema” to the current culture of technology, start-ups, and education. Christensen’s premise is that innovation takes two forms: sustaining innovation and disruptive innovation. Sustaining innovation is analogous to R&D- it is based on improving the current product. Disruptive innovation is blowing up the system; it means starting from scratch or reinventing.

The article, written by Jill Lepore, briefly discusses the history of Harvard University and the introduction of Massive Open Online Courses. These courses were thought to open up opportunities for anyone not able to attend Harvard, and to be substitutes for the courses taught there. But are MOOCS, or online learning in general disruptive? Is teaching a hybrid class disruptive? Or are current trends innovating education simply sustaining innovation?

What would a true disruptive innovation to education look like?

The Schedule Makers

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http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=9897968

I always assumed Major League Baseball’s schedule was constructed using some intense algorithm. It seems that for twenty-five years MLB used human intuition to construct their elaborate schedule. It seems like now programming and computer programming sophistication has caught up.

This is a worthwhile twelve minute video by ESPN’s 30 for 30 series (directed by Joseph Garner). Also a worthwhile graph theory application.

New website: withrespecttox.com

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My new website geared primarily towards math education has launched: withrespecttox.com

The title is With Respect to x, which references differential calculus (take a derivative with respect to x).  It also alludes to one of Algebra’s primary concepts: the variable. Respect the variable! 

I will continue to use this site for economic, education, and sports commentary.  Most of my site’s traffic is on math resource sites and it is easier for me to update a site based on my profession.  So, please visit my new site: www.withrespecttox.com.

WRTx

Hashtag Math

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Last year as a test review, I asked my students to categorize problems.  Beyond knowing the mechanics, I want my students to know the when and why. Thus I asked them to tell me what “big theme” each problem represented.  With a set of review problems, I began to #hashtag the problems. Two examples are shown below:

Screen Shot 2013-11-14 at 8.23.38 AM

Screen Shot 2013-11-14 at 8.25.28 AMI have no scientific research showing that this helps my students make connections and categorize concepts, but they certainly remembered and enjoyed hashtagging math problems!  This is a technique I plan on continuing and is worth considering beyond just review.  At minimum, hashtagging in class was unique, so it stood out as something special.  Their favorite was #factoredform, so I wonder how long until its trending?

Challenging Routine

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Two months ago, as the school year was beginning, I read a handful of articles discussing the correlation between productivity and routine.  Business journals, blogs, tweets, and newspapers praise the importance of routine.  Wake early, exercise, browse headlines before leaving for work.  Work on creative tasks in the morning and mechanical tasks later in the day.  Make lists and wind down before sleep.  Setting a routine and completing tasks based on that routine would certainly make anyone more productive.

Whether we consciously follow a routine or not, we all have daily patterns.  As a teacher, my class has a routine; over time patterns emerge and habits form.  Deviations from our routine signal importance. We are doing something different for a reason.  I hope to encourage my students to realize that changes signal importance.  I hope to say: “Hey look, we are doing we are doing something different!”

Those moments only happen when the routine is broken.  This past summer, my day-to-day routine changed as I worked for a summer program on a rural college campus.  I had to run at different times of the day and worked until later in the evening.  My entire routine- mental and physical- changed and my body responded as if to say: “Hey look, we are doing we are doing something different!”Image

Ultimately, a routine will put us into a position to complete our daily tasks and be productive.  But those moments of innovation or ideas sparking in our minds will only happen if we consciously break our routine.  Consider Google’s “20% time,” which is the one day per week that employees spend time working on side projects. This time is a structured (our routine) break of routine.  This time has been lauded as the nest egg of innovation.

Personally, this blog is my opportunity to break away from my day-to-day routine of teaching, coaching, and economic researching.  I need to make this break of routine a common activity; it is an opportunity for me to think through issues and current events and put my thoughts on “paper.”

Breaking away from our day-to-day habits gives us opportunity and the signal that our task is worth the time.  Within the framework of the routine encouraged by productivity experts, we can incorporate intentional breaks to signal importance and generate opportunities for growth.