A couple of months ago James brought the USCOTS 2009 conference to my attention and asked if I’d be interested in going with him. USCOTS is the United States Conference on Teaching Statistics and their conference this year included a number of presentations on teaching statistics online and incorporating more technology into stats courses. With my statistics background and desire to know more about teaching statistics online (especially because Stats is an important course for rounding out the Online Associates in Arts degree we’re trying to implement), this seemed like a great conference to attend.
We left Thursday at noon after James got done with class and drove straight through to Columbus, Ohio. The conference was held at Ohio State University in the Blackwell Conference Center, but we stayed at Comfort Suites off of the interstate yet still close to the conference center.
Friday morning we left early to make sure we had plenty of time to get to the conference, register, etc… Ohio State’s campus had a lot of road construction going on, but otherwise seemed pretty nice. The Blackwell is diagonal from the football stadium, so we got to do a “little” site-seeing while heading to the conference.
The conference started pretty well and the first speaker, George Cobb, had some good things to say about Bayesian logic and how it should be incorporated into the introductory stats course. Two of my favorite quotes were “you can’t expect them to learn what you didn’t teach” and “learners ‘make meaning’ by constantly forging new connections“. Both of these quotes should be obvious to instructors, yet often get overlooked, i.e., can’t see the forest because of all the trees! We then walked around and talked with some people at the poster session before separating to go to different presentations. I went to the one on online learning, while James went to what ended up being a course changing session on Wiki’s by Dani Ben-Zvi. The topic of the presentation was “Using Wiki to Promote Collaborative Learning in Statistics Education” (see synopsis below) and was very informative as well as inspiring!
“Using Wiki to Promote Collaborative Learning in Statistics Education” – Dani Ben-Zvi
In this session I attempt to make a strong case for the use of Wiki to support collaborative learning experiences for students in the statistics classroom. Wiki is an innovative Website that allows all users to add and edit content with relative simplicity. Wiki features empowered learners and bottom-up organization that enable easy authoring of Web content, open access and unrestricted collaboration. I introduce statistics as a collaborative discipline and therefore compatible with Wiki as a collaborative learning space. I show evidence that collaboration can improve the learning of individuals in the statistics classroom as well as the whole class. Finally I demonstrate how Wiki can facilitate collaborative learning and bring about instructional change to improve student learning of statistics. Several types of Wiki-based activities are presented: Collaborative writing, glossaries, discussion and review, statistical projects, self-reflective journals, and assessment.
After sitting through this session, James really got thinking about how he might be able to completely change the format of his statistics course by using a class wiki. This later turned into Stiki, a Statistics Wiki, but that is a story for another day! Back to the conference, the rest of the Friday sessions were pretty good (but not as curriculum changing) and that evening we headed to Confluence Park for the awards dinner.
The park was right on the river and the Confluence Park restaurant was quite scenic and had excellent food! Afterwords we decided it was early enough that we could still catch a movie, so we we headed off to two different movie theaters before settling on one where we watched the “Taking of Pelham 1 2 3”.
Saturday included a bevy of other interesting sessions, including one of our personal favorites, TYC: It’s 2009 – Are we There Yet?, by Karen Kinard (see synopsis below).
“TYC: It’s 2009 – Are we There Yet?”
In two-year college math/statistics courses we typically have to live by a specified calendar and syllabus for the semester into which one or two sections are placed each class day. Good grief! There’s no space left after all the required sections are placed. Many adjuncts/full timers feel tied down tightly. The students like the clarity, but they don’t know what they’re missing. But neither do the teachers! Indeed there are lots of things that can be let go, while still meeting the requirements of your department, including the students, in the sense of “let them run with something” instead of controlling their every move. Trusting some open space in the schedule when there are some clear guidelines, assignments, and goals, can produce magic through their sense of freedom and their imaginations. In this session, you see and discuss my top 10 list of things we should be letting go of. (For example: “Let go of rewarding just the numerical answer.”) You’ll also do some activities with me that I do in my class, and get the materials, related practice, and assessment questions to take home with you.
This was a great presentation that also included some pretty fun hands on activities that Karen uses with her Stats students.
We had a lot of fun “playing” the different roles and then talking about how this would be effective for student learning. Mid Saturday afternoon the conference wrapped up and we headed towards Cincinnati, stopping at an outlet mall to look at luggage and then going to my first ever IMAX movie!! It was Transformers 2 and it was really good, especially on such a large screen!!
Sunday morning we got up bright and early and headed off to Kings Island amusement park to ride the roller coasters!! I’d never been there before, but James had, so he knew exactly which rides were the ones we wanted to go on first.
Diamond Back was my favorite and James got a lot of really cool pictures and video of this ride, but I think his favorite was Firehawk, which is a rollercoaster you ride while inverted, facing the ground! We had a great time, but had to leave pretty early in the afternoon in order to make it home at a decent time. Unfortunately we both had to work bright and early Monday morning!! On the drive back we were making pretty good time until we went out of route to stop at Cold Stone in Indianapolis!! 🙂 James’ idea of course!! Otherwise, we had an uneventful drive home and a full weekend worth of learning and fun memories!