USCOTS 2009 – Letting Go to Grow

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!

Final Dress Fitting!

The last Tuesday in June I met mom in Peoria at David’s Bridal for my final wedding dress fitting.  This was the fitting where they made sure everything was perfect, made last minute adjustments, and then I got to take it home (or rather mom took it to her house!).

Once I got there I excitedly tried it on and it fit perfectly!  It was absolutely beautiful and I was very happy with how it turned out. Yet, I had seen a picture of my dress online and the person wearing it had added a sash to it and I thought it looked really good and that I might try it to see how it looked.  The first one I tried was almost the same color as my dress and didn’t do much, but the second one was a beautiful shade of pink that I thought just finished the dress and made it look even better than before (if that was possible).  I ended up getting the sash and thus finalizing my Wedding Dress for the wedding!!

Update, since the wedding is over and James has seen my dress, I’m going to go ahead and add two pictures from this fitting!

Father’s Day and Our Wedding Shower

With all of our traveling before the wedding, the only day that worked for our wedding shower was Father’s Day!  Grandma Jones and Deb planned it for early afternoon at Grandma’s house, so we invited James’ Dad and Alice to our house for a Father’s Day lunch before the shower.  James cooked steak out on the grill and we had an enjoyable and very tasty lunch with plenty of extra side dishes!

After lunch was over we headed to Grandma and Grandpa’s house for the shower with James’ Dad and Alice following.  We were happily surprised by the family members that made it to the shower, especially since it was Father’s Day!  The event started with us playing the Candy Bar Game, where we all got sheets of paper with hints about the name of a candy bar and we had to try and figure out on our own (without a list of the different candy bars) which one went with each clue.  It ended up being a lot of fun and my dad’s cousin Lary ended up winning with a perfect score!

We then opened gifts and wow were there a lot of gifts!  Our family was extremely generous and we got a lot of great (and much needed) things for the kitchen as well as other odds and ends for the house.  One of my favorite “gifts” though was the return of the red shoes I had loaned to Mer the previous Halloween and had been broken.  She managed to find someone who could repair them and then re-gifted them to me.  As soon as I started to open the bag, I realized what it was and told James I thought this was something he should open.  The look on his face was hilarious when he saw the shoes because he had no clue they were mine just being returned.

After opening gifts and saying a lot of thank you’s, we got to feast on some amazing desserts!  There was a bevy of them and they were all amazing!!  We then did some more talking with people before it was time for everyone to go.  Everyone got big hugs and thank you’s for the wonderful day!!

Yet, as it got down to just a few of us Deb realized that Glen had accidentally locked her keys in the car… with it running!  James and I offered to drive Deb & Glen back to Deb’s house so she could get her extra set of keys.  Once we made it back, they took off for more Father’s Day’s activities and James and I finished loading up the car and headed back home.

Family Trip to Marco Island

Last year Ty started talking about wanting to take a family vacation, so all of us decided Aunt Beck & Uncle Steve’s condo in Marco Island, Florida would be the perfect place to go.  Mom & Dad went down around the 5th of June and Ty & Austin followed shortly after, but James was right at the beginning of summer school and couldn’t take the time off.  Thus, we could only make it for a long weekend (Thursday June 11th – Sunday June 14th), but we definitely made the most of it!

As soon as James got done with class on Thursday (which was a little after 12PM), we headed to Peoria to catch our flight.  We got there in plenty of time, but when we tried to look up if our flight was on time there wasn’t anything showing up.  We got in line at the ticket counter to find out what was going on, and as we were standing there, we overheard people talking about our flight being canceled because of bad weather in Dallas (where our flight was coming from).  This got us kind of worried because if we only had a few days to start out with and if our flight was canceled, it might cost us one of our few precious days!  James quickly formulated a plan, so when we got up to the counter and the lady confirmed that our flight was indeed delayed indefinitely, James very very nicely asked her if there was any other way we could make it to Fort Myers (where we were flying into).  She said she “might” be able to get us on a flight to Chicago where we could then possibly catch a flight to Fort Myers and that she’d go check on it.  She went over to talk to a different carrier and after a few minutes came over and said she got us seats on the Chicago flight!  It left a little later than our previous flight was suppose to, but since the layover was shorter in Chicago than it would have been in Dallas (our previous flight’s layover destination), we ended up getting into Fort Myers close to the time we would have arrived anyway.  We only had carryon luggage, so as soon as the flight landed we quickly made our way to our rental car and then onto Marco!!

The first day in Marco was spent just lazing around, enjoying the beautiful weather and great company.  Ty and Austin had gone to meet up with some of her friends who were having a bachelorette party, so it was just us and my parents.

In the evening we walked down to the beach and I picked up seashells (and a baby shark!).

The second day in Marco, my brother and Austin came back (very early in the morning) and my Uncle Thad came over from Vero Beach Florida where he lives.  My dad, Ty, and Thad all went out fishing early in the morning, so the rest of us went down to the dock with them to send them off.

Afterwards we went out to breakfast and then back to the condo.  Once we got back to the condo we got our swimsuits on and headed over to find out what we needed to do to go parasailing.  I’d never been, but James said it was a lot of fun so I was excited to try it!  We ended up having a great time and the view was amazing!

After the guys got back from fishing (no luck at all!), we broke apart with some of us napping in the condo (Ty & Austin), some of us napping out by the pool (James & Kona), and a few of us going over to the hotel next door for some drinks (Dad, Thad, & Mom)!

Later that evening we got cleaned up and took some nice pictures on the deck of the condo looking out over the ocean before heading over to Snooks Inn for some amazing seafood!

Snooks Inn is a favorite of our families, it’s right on the water and boaters can even dock their boats there while they eat.  We all enjoyed our meal and then got some pretty good pictures out on the dock.  Afterwards the younger group stopped by Cold Stone on our way home and then once home we all just sat around talking and enjoying being with each other.

Our last day at Marco was a busy one!  We started out the day by going a jet ski tour of the ten thousand islands (not all of them, but around some of them), something I had done before, but James never had.  The guy who briefly instructed James on how to use the jet ski didn’t do a very good job, but James picked it up really quickly and was soon zipping around like a pro!  The tour was a lot of fun and we saw a lot of manatee, some of which got pretty close to us!  When the tour was finally over and we made it back to the beach I asked James what he thought of the jet ski and you could tell by the smile on his face he had a really good time!

Once the tour was over, James and I quickly got cleaned up, finished packing, said our goodbyes, and headed back to the airport.  Yet, luckily we had enough time to stop by friend Kelley’s house.  She has been one of my best friends since we were in Kindergarten, so it was great to visit her home and see her and her adorable daughter Noa.  As you can see in the pictures, James also had a good time entertaining the little ones!

Kelley’s house was only about 15 minutes from the airport, so we easily able to make it to the airport with time to spare.  After dropping off the rental care (which was ridiculously easy), we had some amazing airport food and then caught our plane home (stopping in Chicago before getting back to Peoria on time!).

Six Flags, St. Louis

Saturday we got up bright and early and headed off to Six Flags, St. Louis.  I hadn’t been there in forever, but James had a season pass he picked up the previous year and with all the craziness coming up with the wedding we thought this would be a good weekend to go.

Friday night James decided it would be worth it to get the season parking pass and a season pass for me, so Saturday we cruised through the admission gate, but had to go get my picture taken for my season pass card.  The line moved pretty quickly and as I was getting my picture taken, the James asked the lady taking the picture about something to do with his card.  The lady asked to see it and after looking at it told him she could take a better picture and to get up there so she could take his picture.  As he was standing there and I was standing off to the side and slightly behind the lady taking the picture she said to James, “Smile for your daughter” (i.e., meaning ME!!!).  Well, needless to say, this picture was not better than the previous picture because of the incredulous look on James’ face after hearing that!!

Anyway, we spent the rest of the day having a great time riding all the roller coasters and going on the water rides.  I have to admit Six Flags had a lot more/better rides than Elitch Gardens in Denver.

Sunday we decided to spend the day on the water park side of Six Flags and had a blast except it started to lightening and rain (Yes, this did appear to be the theme for much of our spring and summer).  Yet, we were still able to go on a number of rides in the water park before they shut down and then we went over to the regular side of the park and went on a couple of rides before the rain really did get too bad to continue.

Regardless of the rain, we still had a great time and look forward to going back at least a couple more times this year!