Saturday, October 24, 2009

... and the beat goes on!

Wow, I just found out where they plan to move my pcLab/classRoom.  We are moving from room 429 to room 622 in order to be closer to the science department so as to improve collaboration!  BTW, we already collaborate plenty.
This move is a huge mistake, however.  I've been in room 429 since 1984 and I've been perfecting it all that time.  Room 429 is great the way it is.  If The-Powers-That-Be decide to move my existing hardware, software, firmware, linux LAN, linux cluster, windows LAN, ftp server, ssh server and apache server you know there's going to be a ton of debugging to do after the move.  Nothing will work right for months adversely affecting the amount of instruction time available.
On the other hand, if we build a new lab from scratch, we are still looking at a lot of manhours before, during and after the move.  I didn't even mention the expense of all new hardware...
A bigger problem still, is the fact that room 429 is about 22 ft x 32 ft.  The new room, 622, is only 22ft by 25ft or so.  How will we fit all 24 student stations in the new room?  If we move to the smaller room, we would have to sacrifice upwards of 6 student stations!

BTW, please realize that room 429 is not just a resource lab used once in a while for its PCs.  Room 429 is used everyday as a classroom too.  As such, every one of the 24 students has a "PC desktop" and an old-fashioned "Wooden desktop."  The wooden desktop is necessary for taking notes, writing drafts, taking tests, etc.  The PC desktop is necessary when the students are programming. 

My AP Computer Science students have always used both desktops every period, every day.  My AP Calculus students traditionally only used the wooden desktops, but they are starting to use the PC desktop more and more as we discover more scientific computing and computer algebra system applications!  Origianlly, I moved my AP Calculus students into this pcLab/classRoom some years ago as it was the only room where I could use the Smart Airliner Slate (Wacom PC Tablet that works with Smart Notebook like a Smartboard) to present and record all my lessons.

Current Room 429:
SS_SS_SS_SS_         _SS_SS_SS_SS
SS_SS_SS_SS_    x    _SS_SS_SS_SS
SS_SS_SS_SS_         _SS_SS_SS_SS
Propsed Room 622:
SS_SS_SS_         _SS_SS_SS
SS_SS_SS_    x   _SS_SS_SS
SS_SS_SS_         _SS_SS_SS
             TS1     TS2
SS = Student Station/PC desktop
_ = wooden desktop
x = ceiling mounted projector
TS = Teacher Station/PC desktop

BTW, the new room has 2 teacher stations proposed.  One will run Linux all day and the other will run Windows all day.  This way, we don't have to reboot the teacher station every period when teachers need to switch from Linux to Windows and back again!

Learning with Technology,

Don't drink the Kool Aid!

I'm going crazy trying to get ready for a conference day I'm presenting at the High School on election day.  My problem is that I'd like to end the session with a little hands-on activity whereby the participants can each login to a PC and try out for themselves.  However, this online version of Sage is optimized for use with a Mozilla like browser.  Now, I have Mozilla in my LInux partition, but the Linux Lab has no internet access!  Further, Mozilla is not installed in the Windows lab as the kids can use it to bypass some of the school's content filters.
To paraphrase the Great Lobachevsky, "What I am going to do?"  So, I'm trying some Linux liveCDs such as Fedora 11 or even the Sage 4.1.1 CD.  The Fedora CD has Mozilla on it and when it boots it defaults to the "windows lan" so I get internet access so that's an option.  The Sage CD has a full working version installed on the CD, but its hard to save or print your work. 
BTW, the presentation is entitled "Look Ma, No Calculator" as its a show-and-tell session where I will discuss how I use technology in the classroom.  So, I subtitle the talk "Don't drink the Kool Aid" as I will show how to use Smartboard technology differently than the Smattech trainers would have you do it!  Also, part of the discussion will feature VTI (the Virtual TI graphing calculator), Mathematica Player and Sage - thus no physical calculators...
Note, this is a practice run for LIMACON 2009.0416 where I asked for a room with a PC podium so I can hook up my laptop.  In this venue, I don't think I'm getting a full blown PC lab where the partitipants can do any hands-on work.
Decisions, decisions, ....

Teaching with Technology,

ICON is back at SUNY Stony Brook!

Yes, you heard it right!  ICON 29 will be hosted by SUNY Stony Brook in March 2010!  That's great news for my Computer Independent Study class (CIStheta) as we hope to display our digital art work in the Art Show at ICON.  We have produced a lot of digital art work on our cluster (Shadowfax) including ray tracings and fractals:

ICON 1 - ICON 27 were held at SUNY Stony Brook.  Last year, SUNY Stony Brook underwent a huge remodeling/construction project involving nearly the whole campus.  ICON uses a lot of buildings all over campus, so ICON 28 was moved to Suffolk County Community College (SCCC) and it didn't work out too well.  They really didn't have enough space there either, so many events were moved to nearby Hotels and the Art Show was summarily cancelled!

Anyway, take a look at if you're interesed.  I've gone every year since ICON 9 as I'm a huge Star Trek fan.  CIStheta displayed art work at ICON 26 and ICON 27 so we hope to be back for ICON 29.  BTW, ICON is a huge convention devoted to Science Fact and Science Fiction.  So you can meet scientists discussing their latest work in the field as well as your favorite novelists and actors!  ICON has science and technology panels, authors' panels, amateur rocketry, an observatory for astronomy buffs, movies, documentaries, anime, filk, jousting, board gaming and pc gaming if you are interested in those sorts of things....

Happy Clustering,

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Live from NY, its Calculus class on youtube!!!

Wow, my students are really getting into the youtubes I make out of class.  

I record the whole class for kids that are absent or for anyone who wants to review an old topic as window media files (*.wmv) using Smart Recorder and store them on my ftp site.  That's period 1 Calculus BC.

Now, I started recording the first 10 minutes of my period 9 Calculus BC class as a quicktimes (*.mp4) using for youtube.

Please take a look and see what you think:
goto and search for "u CAN learn AP" or "u CAN learn AP Calculus"
or simply

Feel free to leave comments and to subscribe to my channel.  Look Ma, I got my own TV station!

Learning with Technology,

Look Ma, I got my very own TV station!

OK, I've been recording 10 minute samples of my AP Computer Science class as quicktimes (*.mp4) using for youtube.  Its great for students who are absent or want to review an old topic.  My kids love that we have our own TV station!
I just finished Chapter 3 in Cay Horstmann's "Computing Concepts with Java" and I recorded some highlights from class.  We talked about objects, classes, object variables, instance fields, local variables, constructors, accessors, mutators, tester classes, derived classes, passing parameters, java, javac and javadoc.  Chapter 1 was HelloWorld like class and Chapter was constructing and using objects of exiting classes.  Only Chapter 3 is on youtube.

Please take a look and see what you think:
goto and search for "u CAN learn AP" or "u CAN learn AP Computer"

or simply
Feel free to leave comments and to subscribe to my channel. 

Teaching with Technology,

Meeting III

Today's Aim: Burn Fest!!!
Tonight's Reading: Building Parallel Programs, Chapter3
This Week's Research: Jefferson HS Supercomputing classes
Attending: JeremyA, SteveB, DevinB, ArthurD 
We burned 30 Fedora 11 liveCDs.  We used 20 PCs all at once to burn and test these CDs running K3B on the current hd installation of KNOPPIX 5.3.1 DVD.  I'm going to use these in class while we upgrade the linux partitions next meeting with the Fedora 11 64bit installation DVD.  Surf on over to for your own copy!

Happy Clustering,

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Communing with nature!

OK, sometimes you just have to have a little down time.  I especially like the solitude of Jones Beach in the off season.  I go there on the way home every Friday and just walk up and down the shore with my coffee for about 15 - 30 minutes.  Its a great way to decompress from the work week and its really close to my school! You can relax, meditate, pray, whatever you like....
Generally Speaking,

u CAN decompress at Lincoln Center on Saturdays too!

Generally Speaking,

Programming Numerical Methods in AP Calculus?

As the Computer Science and Calculus teacher at my school, I've found it instructive to teach the students in Calculus how to write programs in TI-BASIC to investigate such algorithms as Newton's Method, Reimann Sums and Euler's Method.  I also have my Computer Science students solve Calculus problems in this vein using C++ or Java. 
In fact, these last few years I've done a project with Octave (much like MATLAB) after the AP with my Calculus students which the students find interesting. This project involves Vector Calculus and AP Physics C topics. 
MATLAB is a great tool for dealing with vectors and marices.  In fact, the base type is a matrix of doubles or ints or whatever you like.  If you define a matrix with 1 row and n columns, you have a row vector.  If you define a matrix with n rows and o1 column, you have a column vector.  You can define a square matrix nxn or any kind of matrix nxm and have lots of built-in functions to manipulate them!
In addition, I'm hoping to start a Calculus Lab this year using Sage.  Sage is much like Mathematica, but I'm not using it just for CAS, I'm using it to program numerical methods as well (Python is built into Sage).

Learning with Technology,

u CAN learn AP!

I finally broke down and added an AP Calculus video to my youtube site,
You can find my content if you goto youtube and search "u can learn ap" or if you just want calculus you can search "u can learn ap calculus" and if you want only computer science, "u can learn ap computer" will get you  there!

Teaching with Technology, 

Saturday, October 3, 2009

More on youtube!

My students just love "Video Vednesday" (just pronouce it like Chekov when he was looking for the "Nuclear Vessles").  IDK, why they don't like my MCQ Mondays or my FRQ Fridays....
Anyway, I show Math and Computer Science related videos every other wednesday from youtube.  Its surprising how much stuff is on there that's actually educational. These videos are very short, under 10 minutes each, but well worth the time.

For computer science, go to and search: "Grace Murray Hopper" for an interview from 60 minutes,  "Cliff Stoll" or "The Cuckoos's Egg" for a Nova edisode on same and "Sorting out Sorting" for animations related to searching and sorting routines!
For Math, you can search: "Mathematicious" for precalc topics, "I will derive" based on Gloria Gaynor song, "Tom Lehrer" songs, "Calculus songs" even "Calculus Carols" and "Calculus in 20 minutes" just to name a few.

Learning with Technology,

Wow, YouTube as a learning tool?

Who would have thunk it!  I have discovered a great web client for recording my desktop as I teach.  I record my desktop with Smart Recorder in my Mathematics classes, but Smart Recorder doesn't work in Linux and it only creates *.wmv files.  So, I tried
which works in Mozilla as long as you have the java 1.5 jre installed.  This is a free service but I think its an ad for Camtasia software.  What's nice about client is that it exports to *.mp4 format or quicktime.  This video format is great for my students that use Linux or Mac at home as watching *.wmv files is difficult for them.  Also, if you limit your recording to 10 minutes, you can post these *.mp4 files on youtube as I have:

That's my video channel on youtube, its like my very own private TV station, and I just posted the first 10 minutes of two of my AP Computer Science classes from this week!  Let me know what you think!

Teaching with Technology,