Noon. Class starts in two hours. I’ve several possible scenarios in mind, but won’t really decide until the actual start – rather like improv theater. Here are the important issues I’ll have to weigh, on the spot.
- There are only 8 students registered. Perhaps a few more will show up, but the class will surely be small. That means no lecturing. We’ll have to have some kind of seminar structure. The room assigned is much too large for the class. We’ll probably move to a smaller one – perhaps even a conference room somewhere.
- I’m teaching in a regular classroom, not the mac lab. That was my request. I hate what the computers in the lab do to the classroom atmosphere. That will change the feeling in a good way, but one I don’t yet know.
- The class is the usual mix of freshman who may not know quite why they are here (at UMass, in this class) and seniors who have put off the qr requirement until the last possible semester. Some of the students will be captivated, some will be recalcitrant.
- I’m not at all sure of the actual subject matter for today. Today’s Globe suggests two possibilities.
HERE’S THE FIRE ALARM TEST – WHOSE IDEA WAS THAT FOR THE FIRST DAY OF CLASS?!
Back at 12:30 . Eric suggests that the recent Italian cruise ship disaster prompted Public Safety here on campus to get the drill in early. It was a useful half hour – I found out about possible access to a good computer lab, with a table in the middle of the room and machines around the outside.
Here are several substantive topics we might do today. First two from the Globe.
- The increase in crime on the T. Lots of numbers, but mostly pretty small. We’d get into percentages and absolute vs relative change (Chapter 3). These could become Fermi problems (which I need to get to for the hw) if we try to think about how dangerous it actually is – comparing the numbers of incidents to the ridership.
- Romney’s effective tax rate of 15%. That would take us directly to percentages and to the tax structure.
- On the way back from the fire drill I met another instructor in the hall. He did the “can you finance your education on bottle deposits?” question in his RCC class. What a good idea. I might try that.
I’ll report back here about what actually happened in class. I’d like to do it right after, but there’s only three quarters of an hour before my next class at four. I’ll fit the blog in if I can, since it’s really much better when it’s fresh.
OK what happened? I was really pleased. Eight excited students. After some general remarks I put the three topics on the board (tax, T safety, bottle collection) and asked who wanted to do which. We ended with two groups doing the last two. I promised the one student who wanted to think about taxes that we’d get there in about a month and a half.
The bottle deposit group did a first rate job entirely on their own. They very naturally came to estimates and approximations for the necessary rates: cans per dollar, cans per year, cans per day and per hour.
I worked with the T safety group, whose task was harder. There were lots of numbers on the Globe graphic, but I directed the discussion to just this question: does 7,000 crimes on the T in 2011 say that the T is unsafe? That led to the need to know the ridership figures, which we first estimated (starting from a population estimate) and then googled.
Each group then reported back to the class.
We’ll do fine with minimal computer access. Here’s what I’ve just written to the lab manager:
Yes please just cancel my TTh Lab C reservation and sign me up for Th
Lab A. In fact given how well my class went today in the Wheatley room
with no computers (not even my own laptop connected), and that more
than half the class can come with their own laptops when necessary, I
will probably not even need lab A often. I know I won’t need it at all
until March 1 at the earliest.
Lab A is a room with a central table that will seat the whole class, macs arranged around the periphery. I’ll probably try it out when we get to Excel.
I had fun. I think the students did too.
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