Friday, 7 January 2011

Faculty Teaching Award: Excellence in Student Support

Last month I was nominated for a Faculty Teaching Award: Excellence in Student Support. A pleasant suprise!

Update: A short video showing some examples of my Mathematica-based courseware has appeared on the Wolfram Blog.

To support my nomination the distinctiveness of my application has to be emphasised and evidence provided to support my achievements in enhancing student learning, according to the following criteria:
  1. Approaches that provide opportunities, influence, motivate and/or inspire students to learn
  2. All my courses, from first year to graduate level, make immersive use of Mathematica, for which UWA has a site license. This general and very powerful software enhances existing mathematical skills, increases confidence, and inspires students to learn more. In first year Mathematica is primarily used as a presentation tool. By third year, students end up with considerable expertise using Mathematica, which has broad application to physics, engineering, mathematics, mathematical modelling, and simulation. In 2010 I added the following question (Item 6605) to all my SPOT tests: "learning to use Mathematica will be useful for other units". In first year, the mean response was 3.59 rising to 4.64 by second year, an expected trend, as students became more familiar with the software, and a most encouraging sign. Students get immediate feedback from Mathematica, and can do self-consistency checks, numerically, symbolically, and graphically, which empowers them. The current version of Mathematica allows students to enter queries in plain English using free-form linguistic input, which significantly reduces its learning curve. Published examples of my interactive lecture notes can be downloaded from here.
  3. Respect and support for the development of students as individuals
  4. My goal is to make each student capable of solving problems using research methods. Independent learning is fostered by research-based questions, using a software tool widely used by graduate students and researchers. In 2010, students could choose whether to sit a "standard" computational exam in the computer laboratory, or create and publish a demonstration (like Adobe Acrobat and Adobe Reader, Mathematica demonstrations can be viewed using the free Mathematica Player). As a result, the following student demonstrations have been published (with five more currently under review):
  5. Scholarly activities that have influenced and enhanced learning and teaching
  6. For almost 20 years, my role as a contributing editor to The Mathematica Journal, and as a reviewer and member of the programme committees for two international conferences — The International Mathematica Symposium and Asian Technology Conference in Mathematics — has both influenced and enhanced my continually evolving view of optimal methods for teaching and learning using software as a tool to empower students. 

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Climate Change

Storms of my Grandchildren makes a convincing case for anthropomorphic climate change, but is less convincing about the action required (nuclear power and immediate cessation of coal mining and use in power generation). A simple and direct complement to Hansen's polemic is Climate Change by Darryl Cunningham.