Monday, February 21, 2011

NOVA, NOVA Everywhere!

I've been showing YouTubes in class on Wednesdays for several years now. Usually I'll show 5 or 10 minute clips of an educational YouTube something to do with what we are learning in class. I have several students in Computing and Math classes, so I try to show something different in each.

Lately, I've been showing NOVAs. There's a good one from 1985 called the Mathematical Mystery Tour about the great unsolved problems of Mathematics with interviews of some of the top Mathematicians of the time about how they do math.

I've also been showing one in my Computing classes about Clifford Stoll and the Cookoo's egg virus. I think this one is from around 1988 and its all about the dawn of the internet and a ring of hackers Clifford tracked down while working in the IT dept at LBL.

Watch the full episode. See more NOVA.

The last year has seen a number of new NOVAs that are very good. One is about the life of Beniot Mandelbrot in particular and fractals in general.

Watch the full episode. See more NOVA.

Another NOVA that was on last week was about the IBM supercomputer called Watson and a match it had against some Jeopardy champions. My Computing Independent Study class is upset with Watson. They've been working hard all year to get all 50 cores in my classroom to work as a single Linux Cluster. We finally harnessed all 50 AMD 64bit Athlons and got Shadowfax running at 24 GFLPOS. Well, Watson runs at 72 TFLOPS and has 3000 processors. So, Watson is 3000 times faster than Shadowfax and one of Watson's cores is equivalent to all our 50 cores put together. In other words, my entire PC Lab/Classroom/Cluster is just one chip out of 3000 on Watson....

My 21st Century Math Classroom!

I've been waiting ALL YEAR for the tech dept to get me internet access on my new sftp/ftp/SAGE servers....

So, I am using sftp on the new server for my AP Computer Science class to do their classwork. I gave them an Ubuntu Desktop as a client and setup the new server as an Ubuntu Desktop plus openssh so they can write their java programs.  I also added vsftp to that server so I can share some files with them. The problem is that all this is only available to them during class! My old servers had external IPs as well so my students could work from home.

I also used to share all my SmartNotebook pdfs and mp4s on the old ftp server for my Math students to access from home. Access to these files from home was a great added resource to my classes. If a student is absent, they can easily see what was missed and catch up. If a particular topic is giving the student difficulty, he or she could load up the files from that class and review what we did even if it was months ago! I am using the new server as an ftp site too, but its only accessible in school via Linux. That's great for my computing students except for no access off campus. However, most of my Math students don't use Linux and liked accessing these files from home.

Enter the 21st Century Mathematics Classroom! I just started uploading my pdfs to just like my old ftp site. Also, all my videos are already on for my students to view. I'm also looking at to link all these resources together! Edmodo is fashoined after Facebook, so the students know how to use it already. I created a teacher account. Then I added a group for each of my classes. Each group gets a unique access code that you can give to your students. When they make a student account, they provide the access code and get a private Facebook-like wall for the course. On that wall I can post assignments for the week and links to the slideshare pdfs and youtube mp4s.

BTW, just for the record, I take full responsibly for coining the following terms.

MultipleChoice Mondays: 
I give an entire Part IA or Part IB every other Monday. I give AB exams in the Fall and BC exams in the Spring. I have my students complete only as many as one class period allows based on real AP exam time limits (about 2 minutes per question without a calculator and 3 minutes per question with). I start this around Thanksgiving after we finish most AB topics in my BC class. One week is the exam, the following Monday we go over it in class. In this manner, we cover 10 Parts I in the 20 weeks leading up to AP Week. 
TakeHome Tuesdays, 
I give one take home per quarter with Free Response Questions of my own making that review what we've done so far and extend the students' knowledge using topics from AP Physics C Mechanics as I have a lot of those students in my BC Calculus class. 
YouTube Wednesdays: 
I show a funny 5-10 minute clip (Calculus Carols, etc) or part of a documantary related to class usually from YouTube, sometimes Ted, sometimes PBS/Nova (see current blog post about Nova). 
Think-a-lot Thursdays: 
Every 2-3 weeks, when we finish a unit, I give a pretest reviewing topics on the test the next day. Students are placed in groups of 3-4 and compete for bonus points as a group toward individual test on Friday. 
FreeResponse Fridays: 
Every 2-3 week unit ends in a test of my own design similar to past Free Response questions emphasizing the use of technology.  

Teaching with Technology, 

There's old teachers and there's bold teachers, but there's no old bold teachers???

Holy cow, if I have to hear the argument that "tenured/experienced teachers are not dedicated to their profession or their students, just sit on their asses all day and should be replaced" I will explode! Take a look at this article:

 Generally Speaking,

Sunday, February 13, 2011

CIS(theta) Meeting X (2010-2011) - Time to switch gears!

Time to switch gears!


The school networks were down this week. So, we didn't get much done except for talking a lot! We decided that we should look into alternatives to the cluster solutions we've been trying of late. See the readings and research sections above for some ideas.

Maybe we should just break down and install openMPI directly onto our Ubuntu Desktop? What about fractal renderings, povray scenes and blender sequences using non-traditional clusters? It may be time for a change! 

Well, that's all for this week!  Please stay tuned.  We hope this record will help others trying to make their own clusters.  Also, if you have any hints or pointers, please leave a comment to let us know.  

Happy Clustering,

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Course Selection Week: "I don't do Windows, and neither does my Maid!"

Well, it's that time of year again! It's time for that yearly festival at my school. The week after midterms, students start to choose their courses for next year. My courses are largely elective, so I have to sell, sell, sell!

I'm not only selling the curriculum, but all the bells and whistles that goes with it including my PC Lab/Classroom/Linux Cluster, not to mention, myself! Contrary to popular opinion, I did not talk a lot about myself. I did introduce myself each period and give a little info about my background. The students also asked some questions about me. So, over the course of 9 periods, I divulged the following:

1973 - Graduated Laurel Elementary
1975 - Graduated Longwood Middle School
1979 - Graduated Longwood High School (Sciences, Languages and Orchestra)
1983 - Graduated Cornell with BA Physics with EE minor
1989 - Graduated CW Post with MS Applied Mathematics and Computer Math

1982 - Joined Riverhead SHS Faculty as a Student Math Teacher
1983 - Joined Freeport SHS Faculty teaching Programming on Commodore Pet and Apple IIe
1984 - Joined Southampton SHS Faculty teaching Summer NYS Regents Math 11
1985 - Joined Baldwin SHS Faculty teaching NYS Regents Math and Science
1986 - Joined Syosset SHS Faculty teaching Summer NYS Regents Sequential Math III
1986 - Joined Ames Massapequa JHS Faculty teaching Math 7 and Honors Chem 8
1987 - ReJoined Baldwin SHS Faculty teaching NYS Regents Math and Science (to present)
1990 - Joined SUNY Farmingdale Faculty teaching Technical Calculus 1A and Discrete Math
1995 - Joined Nassau CC Faculty teaching Harvard preCalculus, Calculus I&II (to present)

1988 - Wrote Computer Math course (revised several times since - currently Discrete Math and SAGE)
1993 - Wrote Advanced Computer Math course (revised several times since - currently Discrete Math and python)
1999 - Wrote Computing Independent Study course (Linux Clusters)
2009 - Wrote Calculus Research Lab course (Calculus reenforcement using SAGE)

1986 - Designed first PC Lab (Room 429) in Baldwin and have redesigned several times since (hardware)
1987 - Installed first PC Lab (Room 429) in Baldwin and have reinstalled several times since (firmware)
1987 - Maintained first PC Lab (Room 429) in Baldwin and have done so ever since (software)
1988 - Introduced third website ever: CALCPAGE
1994 - Introduced Linux to Baldwin SHS
1997 - Introduced first ftp server to Baldwin SHS
1998 - Introduced first ssh server to Baldwin SHS
2005 - Introduced smart-boarding to Baldwin SHS
2006 - Introduced screen-casting to Baldwin SHS

1975 - Started teaching BASIC Programming!
1979 - Started teaching FORTRAN Programming!
1980 - Started teaching PL/I and PL/C Programming!
1984 - Started teaching AP CompSci/Pascal
1988 - Strated teaching Computer Math/BASIC
1993 - Started teaching Advanced Computer Math/C
1993 - Started teaching AP Calulus BC
1999 - Started teaching AP CompSci/C++
2005 - Started teaching AP CompSci/Java and html
2010 - Started teaching Calculus Research Lab (aka Scientific Computing Lab)/SAGE
2010 - Started teaching Computer Math/Discrete Math/python
2011 - Started teaching Advanced Computer Math/Discrete Math/python

I talked about Linux for a while. We talked about Linux mascots. I displayed the mascot for our Linux Cluster, Shadowfax. I played the KNOPPIX theme song and asked them to identify the chirping bird like sounds made by Tux. They eventually guessed it was a penguin! I showed them a picture of Tux. I had them fire up their Linux Boxes. Ubuntu booted up with its theme music. I showed them Maverick Meerkat. Then I played the clip from "The Big Bang Theory" where Dr. Sheldon Cooper is playing with his laptop saying how much he loves Ubuntu....

I got a sub for all my classes, gave then an assignment and bid them adieu (they went to the library). So my PC Lab was freed up. Every period through out the day, I selected one class to take on a "Field Trip" to our computer room. I told them what we do in all the courses they can take at their particular level. I talked about Scientific Computing. I let them play with SAGE. I basically did the first few days worth of Computer Math or Calculus Research Lab (selected from the following topics), depending on the audieance, in one period!

Day 0: Arithmetic in python, 2+7, 2-7, 2*7, 2/7, 2//7, 2%7, 2**7, repeating decimals with high precision such as 2/7.n(digits=1000000), very large integers like len(str(2**7777777), why is -12/5=-3 and -12%5=3?
Day 1: Algebra: factoring and 2D plotting
Day 2: 2D Geometry
Day 3: 3D Geometry
Day 4: Trig identities and equations
Day 5: Vectors: adding, subtracting, dilation, dot product
Day 6: Vectors: cross product, the triple scalar product
Day 7: Matrices: solving simultaneous equations, simple encryption
Day 8: Matrices: linear programming
Day 9: Programming: finding Mersenne Primes and solving Quadratic Equations
Day 10: Calculus: functions, derivatives and integrals

I visited primarily our Junior classes.
Regents preCalculus 4R-11 can take 5HAB aka AP Calculus AB, Calculus Research Lab and AP CompSci.
Honors preCalculus 4H can take 5HBC aka AP Calculus BC, Calculus Research Lab and AP CompSci.

Underclassmen can take Computer Math/Advanced Computer Math next year.  I nearly killed myself visiting all those Math classes last year.  So, this year I simple\y ran off flyers for the teachers of the Geometry Math 2H and Algebra II Trig Math 3H classes to hand out and discuss!

The usual sequence for computing is:
Algebra or Geometry or Trig
=> Computer Math Fall and Advanced Computer Math Spring (CM/ACM)
=> AP Computer Science (APCS)
=> Computing Independent Study (CIS(theta))

There is only one level of APCS now as the College Board cancelled APCS AB.  There is talk of a new introductory APCS course much like our CM/ACM coming soon.  Maybe we will be able to offer 4 levels of APCS one day:

APCS - Principles (new course)
APCS - Algorithms (current course - APCS A)
APCS - Data Structures (old course - APCS AB)
APCS - Clusters (current CIS(theta) course)

Calculus Research Lab (CRL) is open to AP Calculus AB and BC students as a lab every other day like a science class.  In CRL we use SAGE to do Calculus in the PC Lab in every class!

Oh, one more thing.  Did I mention that I'm getting a model 885xi extra wide SmartBoard???

Well, that's all folks, and I hope that gives you ideas for your Course Selection Week Field Trip Day!