Looking ahead to fall semester

In an earlier post, I mentioned that I’m excited to have a considerable number of my colleagues at GVSU teaching from Active Calculus this fall.  One reason is that an increase in people using it will lead to suggestions and improvements that will help the text mature and be even better for others to use in the future.  In addition, several of us will be collaborating on related work for the course, and I plan to share some of that work here on the blog.

Along with piloting a new text, many of us will also be working to implement proposed changes in our department’s use of technology in the calculus sequence.  Historically, we have been a Maple platform:  our calculus classes all meet in a computer lab one day a week, we strove to introduce students to some key features of Maple in calculus I, and we used a significant portion of the computer lab meeting time for students to work on self-directed computer lab activities that various instructors develop.  Recently, however, many of us have been feeling that it’s time to move away from Maple in single variable calculus in favor of technologies that are more intuitive, more available, and perhaps more suited to learning calculus.  We’ll still meet weekly in a computer lab, and we absolutely want to continue using learner-centered activities that use technology to build and enhance understanding.

Geogebra has unquestionably been a driving force in this change in perspective.  Completely free, easy to use, most of the desired graphical features of a full CAS, plus a superb spreadsheet view and option … these features and more make the software well-suited to use in the teaching and learning of calculus.  As several of us will be refining or developing new lab activities that use Geogebra, I plan to share a couple exemplars on the blog.

We will also be entering out second academic year as a fully supported WeBWorK platform.  That is, our department now has its own server, capable of carrying the demands of 5000 students a semester, and any class we teach in the department can use WeBWorK.  This has already been a fantastic addition to our technology platform, and I look forward to using it in calculus I this fall alongside Active Calculus.  At the end of the semester, I will make publicly available the library of problems I select to go along with Active Calculus chapters 1-4.

Finally, as I work with others in my department, I expect the blog this fall to provide some more narrative on teaching differential calculus.  By sharing some thoughts while teaching the course, I hope to provide some insight and perspective on ways that AC can be used by anyone who’s interested.

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