Your Study Habits

I want to get a feel for how others study.  What seems to work and what doesn’t.  I’ve created a quick survey for you to fill out.

Thanks! I’ll share my results as soon as I get enough information!

Math + iPod

The other day I was trying to do some vector calculus homework. Not exactly the most exciting thing I’ve ever done. It wasn’t particularly hard stuff as we’re only two weeks into classes, but I was struggling with trying to visualize the graphs of the functions I was doing questions on. I’m not too sure how many people can easily visualize what the graphs of f(x,y)=x^2y or f(x,y)=cos(x^2-y) look like.

The graph of f(x,y)=x^2y courtesy of Quick Graph

The graph of f(x,y)=x^2y courtesy of Quick Graph (click to enlarge)

Trying to find any excuse to put off my homework, I started playing around on my iPod touch. I found myself in the App Store looking for some free game to amuse me. So I played for a little while, then realized I had to buckle down and get to work again. I was still really struggling with these graphs, they were taking forever to figure out. Then I thought to myself, maybe there is an App in the App Store that is capable of doing these kind of graphs. So I searched “graph calculator” into the search box and found “Quick Graph” (and it was FREE!). After I got into the application I got playing around and got the hang of it really quickly.

I typed in my functions (f(x,y)=x^2y and f(x,y)=cos(x^2-y)) and was able to see what they actually looked like! I found i could also zoom in or out and rotate it however I wanted. This was so incredibly useful for the duration of my homework.  With a few touches, I could see what exactly I was working with in my questions.  I flew through the rest of my homework with the help of this app!

I will likely have to memorize how these functions actually work since I’m quite sure I won’t be allowed to use my iPod in exams. Despite not being able to use it on exam, I will be able to get through many many more problems compared to before. Plus the more different graphs I see, the more I’ll get a better understanding of they work in general.

The graph of f(x,y)=cos(x^2-y) courtesy of Quick Graph (click to enlarge)

The graph of f(x,y)=cos(x^2-y) courtesy of Quick Graph (click to enlarge)

Correct me if I’m wrong, but almost every kid has an iPod or something very similar. As a kid with an iPod, I know I want to use it for everything I can. I know it’s capable of more than just playing my music. Now I’ve discovered it could be a great educational tool. Students would probably enjoy their homework more if they got to “play” on their iPods as they did it. If, as teachers, we allow our students to use and explore these excellent resources, they could get through much more work at a faster rate while enjoying it.

But will tools like this just make students lazy? They definitely could if they aren’t utilized properly. I think that as long as a we continue to push them to understand what they’re doing this shouldn’t’ happen. A tool like Quick Graph could certainly enhance a students learning experience.

While in the App Store, I noticed there is an entire category devoted to Education with 282 pages of apps with 20 apps per page.  That’s just over 5600 apps!  I haven’t had the opportunity to look closer at them, but there has to be some great apps dealing with every subject there is.

Why don’t we start letting kids “play” with their education a little and enjoy it more?   The more fun it is for them, the more fun it will be for us too!

The SHA Has it Right!

Saskatchewan Hockey Association

Saskatchewan Hockey Association

]This past weekend I took my hockey refereeing certification course. I haven’t been a referee since my younger days, but as a student I couldn’t think of a better part time job. I get to work when I want to, I get to participate in something I love, and the money is pretty good.

I know what you’re thinking: Kyle, what does this have to do with your blog relating to education, specifically technology? Everything, believe it or not. When I used to go to these officiating clinics back when I was in grade 7 or 8 it was a full day event. You would show up at nine in the morning and stay until somewhere around 4 or 5; a full day. Much to my surprise, things have changed significantly in the past few years. Before showing up to the clinic I was required to do online modules. The last thing I wanted to do was do online modules on top of the full day I thought I going to have to use to do the clinic.

So what did these modules include? They had slides on all the different topics: rules, penalties, procedures, expectations, and safety. Some topics even had excellent images and videos to complement the slides. This would come in very handy for someone who doesn’t quite understand what an offside or an icing is for example. After each set of slides or movies there was usually a quiz that you had to pass in order to move on. Someone who knows nothing about hockey or officiating the sport could quickly start to grasp the game and its confusing rules. And the best part was that the clinic was reduced to only four hours!

Screenshot of the Modules (click to enlarge)

Screenshot of the Modules (click to enlarge)

Whoever thought of doing this course this way is a genius! Not only did it save me half of a day of sitting in an uncomfortable desk, but I didn’t have to go anywhere. It could have only made sense for the Saskatchewan Hockey Association as well: They would have only had to pay their instructors half the hours and rent the classrooms for half of the time. It was really a win-win for both of us.

This clinic really got me wondering. Why don’t teachers take advantage of effective learning tools like online modules? Perhaps some do, but I sure never encountered one as a student. Why not have quick little modules or videos for our students to do as homework? Maybe even just some quick review tutorials on how to do some tasks. How handy would a quick video on how to do long division be for a student who is at home struggling with their long division homework? It would be an invaluable resource to students! I know there are some sites with videos like these kicking around, but what if your teacher is teaching you a different way than the video you stumbled across does? Having that reinforcement and help from a teacher while he/she isn’t their could be just as good as them being their helping with homework.

I think that the SHA has increased effectiveness with their clinics through this method. Why shouldn’t we be trying to increase our effectiveness in our every day lessons? With all the tools at our fingertips, it’s well within our reach.

On a sidenote, if anyone is interested in learning more about the rules of hockey, I believe anyone can take the modules here.

A Lacking Experience

Coming from a small school that served as the K-12 school for three communities and only had 150 students at most, I found my experience with technology in my education was very minimal.

Believe it or not, my school didn’t even have high-speed internet until I hit eleventh grade (2006), and, as I recall, more often than not there was many problems with it.  Once I hit grade twelve, and all the bugs were worked out, we weren’t really allowed to use it for personal use or our own interests.  The only times I remember really using it was to look up some information for the odd project or paper here and there.  To be quite honest, I didn’t really even know how to research, which I found later to be a huge disadvantage when entering the world of post secondary education.   Even to this day, at my home, in the heart of my home town we cannot get high speed, no matter how badly we want it.  To me this doesn’t seem fair to students who are or were in my shoes.  How can I be expected to come to university ready to tackle the hardest research assignments I could ever imagine without a clue as to how to even look anything up through Google?

This made me think; how did we research and do our projects before the internet?  Thinking back, we were always encouraged to use the outdated encyclopaedias and pick from the scarce selection that was our library.   I must admit, these skills are hard to put a price on, but how effective are they if the information being used is outdated or now irrelevant?

I also remember that we had TV’s we used every once in a while to watch some sort of educational video.  I’m not sure how effective these videos were at the best of times since most were created before I was even born.   Using a resource like YouTube would be much more effective than outdated VHS videos.   After recently learning about how quickly new information is being created in my ECMP class, I think a resource like this is essential in classrooms.  For example, watching environmental videos that don’t even acknowledge Global Warming is crazy.  Whether you agree with the Global Warming theory or not, it’s here and impacting out world immensely.   Students need to be aware of current issues like Global Warming and how they are affecting the world.  Otherwise, who knows how far behind their peers they could be.

On the topic of outdated materials, text books from the nineties are old.  There’s not a nice way to put it.   Why not use up to date materials which can be found from trusted resources on the internet.  Yes, the base knowledge in this textbooks likely hasn’t changed too much over the past 2 decades, but perhaps the way they are presented has been upgraded and now easier to comprehend for students.  Why should our future leaders be denied this privilege?  I think the mentality of creating a better world for our children and grandchildren should also apply to the classroom they spend most of their childhoods in.  Our students need to be up to date with the newest technologies and the newest knowledge for them to be able to compete in this always changing, ultra competitive society we live in today.

Although I didn’t have the best experience with technology in my secondary schooling career I have only optimism for the future.  Why?  I took my Calculus class over TV correspondence.  Without this option, I would have never had the chance to even take Calculus and I wouldn’t be where I am today.  The internet and distance education is giving hope to small rural schools that, unfortunately, don’t have the resources they need to compete with schools in large centers with more resources.   The internet is an endless array of information and can connect people from across the world.  I hope schools begin, if they haven’t already, and continue, to use the incredible technology at their fingertips.  Without it, our students will be left behind in the dust.