What I Learned This Week
November 12, 2014Posted by on
I write on my phone so please excuse typos. Fate caused me to try New Holland Accumulation today. My employer switched back from actual travel reimbursement to per diem. I tried to catch an earlier flight and failed. The cafe I ate at while loitering at DTW only had bottled Two Hearted Ale.
Accumulation had a crisp start and seems very citrusy. It is bitter enough to balance the citrus tones, however. I would not hesitate to order it again were a bar to have it and not Two Hearted Ale on tap.
October 30, 2014Posted by on
Plickers are another way to collect informal feedback from students. Each student holds up a card with a 5 by 5 grid with some of the cells shaded. (Really only 12 of the squares on the perimeter matter). The teacher scans the classroom with a cell phone or tablet running the Plickers app. Based on the orientation of the card the Plicker app recognizes which student is answering and whether the student is answering A, B, C, or D. To get student recognition you enter which student has which card ahead of time.
I tested the 2 cards to a page with some colleagues in the hallway. My phone could read multiple cards at around 30-35 feet. Walking across a standard College classroom it read all the cards I had a class hold up before class one day. Plickers can display the responses as a bar graph similar to other polling software. I plan to test this feature with my Precalculus class next week.
Plickers offers up to 63 cards with its free version. If I have thought about how these work correctly there should be 1008 possible Plickers cards. I imagine that this will be a way they can begin to charge for extra services. They promise basic Plickers will remain free even as they offer enhancements for a fee.
October 17, 2014Posted by on
I tried Polleverywhere again after a couple years away from it. Polleverywhere is a system that allows you to poll students using texts, Twitter, web browsers, an app or a combination of these. It has made some big improvements for math. One big limitation, unfortunately is compatibility with WordPress.com so I cannot show you live examples of the polls I made. I’ll try to describe them.
One big plus is that you can put images in answer choices now. So, math expressions and equations can go in multiple choice answers. You cannot put them in the questions so that is only sometimes helpful. You can also just put an image up as the question and have regions of the image defined for the answers. The drawback to this is that students then must have a smartphone to vote using the browser or an app. You have a lot of control over the voting. For instance I plan to use this for a coin tossing experiment to generate a histogram. I’ll allow each group to send in exactly 5 responses to how many heads did you get when you tossed 10 coins.
There are a couple of serious limitations. I used to get around the lack of images in questions by posting both the question and the poll to Power Point. The questions could just refer to the image. This now requires a plug-in. Our College maintains a policy of protecting the equipment over using the equipment for education so we cannot install software ourselves. To use this I’d have to have IT staff install the plug-in on my PC and all the classroom PC’s I use. Alternately I could use a laptop and plug into the data projector (even though I think we are also not supposed to mess with those wires either.)
The other is the ad stating that this is a free account. I certainly don’t object to any business model that Polleverywhere wants to use. The small ad that shows in Chrome is certainly reasonable. However, in Internet Explorer the free account announcement is huge and in the center of the screen. It makes the free product unusable in the classroom if you only have access to that browser.
Instructors may pay $349 for a semester of polleverywhere to get extra features and the ad removed, or may pass the cost on to students at $14 each. Both of these are a great alternative to forcing students to buy clickers. Both are great improvements over their pricing a few years ago. However, alternate methods of informal assessment are (essentially) free. Unless I decide to build my class around this kind of assessment I think I will stick with the free version and other methods of informal assessment. If I still taught sections of 200 like I did early in my career I might make a different choice.
October 13, 2014Posted by on
I downloaded Roadsign Magic because we wanted signs for some fliers we were making at the school. The app itself is free, but not very useful for what I wanted without adding the $0.99 US Road signs and $0.99 background control and .jpg output.
I was generally pleased with the results. Here are some of my drafts as I learned to use the program.
It took 15 minutes to figure out I needed the $0.99 sign module, 10 minutes to figure out all the navigation (hint- really read the keystroke help before starting) and another 20 minutes to make all the signs. To edit text you click edit at the top first. That did not seem intuitive to me. This is also how you delete an element.
There is also an option to share these via Facebook and Twitter so I look forward to trolling with these next baseball season as well as creating nice looking signs for fliers.
October 11, 2014Posted by on
MyScript calculator (iTunes version link) is a calculator that does a fairly good job of recognizing your handwriting and turning it into an expression and then evaluating that expression. It can even solve equations if you use ? as the variable.
It’s fun to use. Most of the time it could recognize what I wanted. I could cross out what it didn’t recognize and rewrite it and most of the time the second pass worked.
To be more practical it needs a couple upgrades. First, really complicated expressions- like financial computations from the formula for monthly payments with interest rates entered like 0.04/12 were recognized by the calculator, but not computed. It seems there must be a limit in how many computations can be done at once. Also, you can’t easily use the answer from the previous computation, You can add more to your last calculation, but I sometimes ran out of screen space. It would be great if “A” or “ANS” automatically used the answer from the previous computation. The solve feature only returns one answer. When working with trig functions or square roots you need to know that more solutions (might) exist. Also, you can only have one “?” per equation at this point.
The company that makes this calculator also makes a LaTex generator using handwriting recognition. This causes me to guess that this calculator is going to get a lot better soon. All they need to do is improve the math kernel since they can already recognize complicated expressions in their other product.
Wow, what fun for fans of the Royals- 4 extra inning games out of 5 games and they have won them all.
September 12, 2014Posted by on
I was looking for graphing software for my iPad that handled aysmptotes better than any of the other calculators I have installed. I found an app called Desmos. After experimenting on my iPad I found that Desmos could also be run right from their website. And better yet, you could save documents right to your Google Drive so that they could be opened anywhere.
THE GOOD: Desmos allows multiple graphs. You can toggle graphs on and off. You can add a table that is in the equivalent of Texas Instruments ask mode. If you are projecting the graph a setting increases graph thickness and font width. It automatically finds maximums, minimums and intersects. Zooming is easy using the wheel on a mouse or pinching on the app. The app and the website are free and ad free.
WHAT’S MISSING: Intersection features are hard to use or missing [EDIT – NOPE FOUND THEM]. You can draw dashed lines, but I couldn’t find a way to graph inequalities [EDIT – JUST TYPE ]. I did not try to graph any implicitly defined equations, but I don’t think it has this feature [EDIT – IT DOES].
All in all this is good presentation software and it is easy to share the graphs using links generated by the software. For most of my algebra lessons I would use this in place of the TI-84 if I were just presenting or the students had access to computers or smart phones. For interactive lessons the TI-84 still has a place because of the technology available to students.
EDIT: AND EASY PARAMETERS AND POLAR COORDINATES AND … THIS IS GREAT!
August 19, 2014Posted by on
The Tigers seem to be doing better with me doing school work and wasting time on the internet based on quick checks of my Twitter feed. So, I will catch up on recently sampled beers.
Oatmeal red ale sounded very interesting. My first impression was actually favorable as I liked the strong hoppy flavor. Later some of the sips had an almost medicinal aftertaste. This is one I don’t think I will get again.
August 19, 2014Posted by on
I wasn’t going to blog about this beer since it isn’t great. But, the Tigers were down 4-0, I had already done 45 minutes of work and I was looking for a way to procrastinate. Writing beer reviews mostly for yourself on the internet is a great way to procrastinate.
I had wanted to try this beer for some time (well since I thought I could get it cheap before 7 at the bar in Fleming’s only to find they had switched to Summer Shandy) and a local store lets you mix and match a six pack for $8.99. So I bought and tried one. This beer is citrusy and safe. It is nothing particularly special, but it would make a good compromise beer if your family wants to drink Summer Shandy and you want to drink Two Hearted Ale. Since Sam Adams is ubiquitous at chain restaurants it would also make a good alternative to domestic pilsners.
August 17, 2014Posted by on
We went to see the Hernandez v Price match up yesterday. We bought standing room tickets since the secondary market was high for real seats. The Tigers won 4-2. Price pitched 8 innings. He only allowed 1 run and got out of a bases loaded jam in the 8th. Hernandez left after 5 innings. He was only at around 90 pitches, but in the 4th he was hit by a sharply hit ground ball.
Standing by the Kaline statue you meet some interesting folks. Several people wanted to take selfies or panoramic shots. I tried to accommodate those who asked between innings. Those who asked during action got the same look I typically give those doing the wave.
One fan spent half an inning describing which pitchers she found attractive. She was a bit more graphic. Her boyfriend took this all in stride.
We left before the fireworks since we saw them at Friday’s game. I’ll pretend I can’t remember Friday’s game. We also wanted to beat the One Direction fans at Ford Field to I-75.
August 15, 2014Posted by on
A Tigers Twitter friend posted a picture of a six pack of Bell’s Mars he procured from a local wine shop. Mars is the first of 7 specialty brews from a planet series. I thought I might try my luck to see if the shop had any unencumbered bottles. It ended up win-win-win. I got two bottles. The cost was obnoxious. I didn’t have to specifically name drop the other person- I just vaguely referred to Twitter.
Now since this is the first post in my beer series you should know that I prefer dark beers, or nutty brown beers. The exception to this is Bell’s Two Hearted Ale, an IPA. Bell’s Two Hearted Ale is the beer to which all beers are to be compared.
Mars does well even when compared to Two Hearted Ale. It starts out citrusy, then it tastes a bit bitter. The malt gives it a great body. It almost finishes sweet or with umami.
It is a shame this beer is only available in a limited batch. It’s great.