Saturday, August 08, 2009

Education Planning

School Sculpture
Twas my privilege to join some of the best and most innovative teachers in Oregon yesterday, to figure out if we were putting more discrete math into computer science, or more computer science into discrete math. Either way, by 2010 we'd like core curriculum credits given to digital math students in exchange for seat time and/or recognized achievement against standard benchmarks. We're looking at pilots, more than across-the-board adoption, given the small number of qualified teachers, skeptical administrators and so on.

We're going off existing state standards from Oregon State for discrete math (high school level). We have electronic media and distribution, eager grad students, so it's highly realistic to not wait for the big east coast textbook, trucked across North America, aimed at saving us from ourselves. Don't want it, don't need it. We've got CS Unplugged from New Zealand. We've got NSF funding for modules. What more could we need? More computers, for sure. Every high school needs some terabytes, for saving school plays, athletic events, speech and debate events, the school paper.

In Oregon you need three years of math by law, which is traditionally Algebra 1, Geometry, some 3rd thing, but then many urban kids are getting those first two by middle school (there's a disparity with rural areas, which I'm hoping the XRL academies might address, also the various brands of bizmotica). A third year might be something more digital perhaps? I took my standard line that calculators might be displaced at any level around any topic, including analog math topics such as convergence to a limit (the Litvins text is pregnant with examples, Python generators apropos).

This was a six hour meeting with a break for lunch. A high point was T. Smith over sandwiches, talking about a tour group he'd hosted the day before, consisting of Chinese teachers, including university level, checking out this Sherwood school district, seeing all the bells and whistles (they already have clickers and, like in Beaverton, the teachers at least, have access to Youtube, are free to project 'em). Anyway, it turns out Smith's son is fluent in Mandarin and lives in Shanghai and was able to introduce his dad live over Skype, to these Chinese tourists. That somewhat blew them away -- a good kind of shock 'n awe (more civilian -- as in civilized) we're all experiencing these days, not just the Chinese (or call it "globalization" as in "forming a Global U").

Regarding theses state standards, my contention is once you revisit art history with a large format screen, you're gonna want ray tracing experience, and hard fun with polyhedra will give you the right scaffolding for understanding about vectors, translation, scaling, rotation, the methods for doing those (my POV-Ray and VPython segments). The standards are silent on polyhedra except polyhedra are graphs and graph theory is present. I wouldn't call it a "loophole" but will cop to bending the rules a bit, to squeeze them in (like V + F = E + 2 is germane to graph theory, who doesn't think so?).

Lindsey ran her mouth (as she puts it) both ways in the car, sharing practical bookkeeping regarding the rock star business she's in, a textbook example of "computational math" i.e. highly logical and to-the-bone relevant in terms of proteins versus money to pay the mortgage. She also contributed in highly valuable ways to the meeting, as I expected she would (she's on my "top five" list of smart cookies, right up there with Jody and Suz (yes, I know some smart guys too)). For example, she pointed out that a serious self schooler might land a job directly with private industry minus the liability of indentured servitude to a college or university. Having strong technology teachers in high school can make a huge difference (she'd had one, took his course several times, advancing in skills and understanding, starting with the Mandelbrot Set).

After the gig in Sherwood, we drove the keyboard and stand, cords, to what might be Lindsey's last open mic for awhile at the women's bookstore In Other Words, which used to be close to The Bagdad, is now on NE Killingsworth.

Grace ran it as a healing ceremony complete with sacred space rituals of the kind Dawn was so good at (Grace is good too). Each person there (all XXs except me) got to do some testifying and signifying.

I made a plug for "my" Cult of Athena (apropos given the audience), introducing myself as Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) for Coffee Shops Network and greater geekdom, yakking about the temple in Nashville 'n stuff ("FOSS covens... FOSS witches").

We all shared water fresh from Mt. Shasta, just collected there yesterday. I found this all very Portland (in a good way) plus I had the Toshiba Satellite and was rattling the keys for the Wittgenstein discussion list, getting some words in edgewise there too.

That was all yesterday. Today, Dr. Nick is around, doing laundry and sorting stuff, comparing notes about this and that. He tracks a lot of the same players I do.

Related post to math-teach (Math Forum).