## Tell Me About Infinity

Tell Me About Infinity

Jonas Reitz https://openlab.citytech.cuny.edu/members/jreitz/

Mathematics/ School of Arts and Sciences

MAT 2675 Calculus II https://openlab.citytech.cuny.edu/2012spr-mat1575-reitz/

Activity Description: Provide a brief description of the activity

In this low-stakes writing assignment, students create a blog post exploring the concept of infinity. The post must respond to one of several prompts focusing on personal experiences of infinity, and must include a photo that illustrates infinity in some way. Extra credit is offered for providing a thoughtful comment on another student’s post.

Learning Goals: What do you aim to achieve with this activity?

This activity is introduced in the course MAT 2675 Calculus II as we prepare to embark on the study of infinite sequences and series, the first rigorous introduction of infinity in a mathematical context. Before students begin to wrestle with the (challenging!) technical details of the subject, I want them to reflect on their preconceptions about this pervasive and slippery notion of “infinity”. I want to give them the opportunity to make connections between infinity as it appears in other areas of life – philosophy, art, religion – and as it appears in the curriculum. In addition, I use this activity to build or reinforce technical skills – how to create a blog post, upload images, and add tags. I want to get students writing in a low-stakes environment, where their focus is on the content. Finally, I want to give students a chance to respond to one another, building community and trust in my class.

Timing: At what point in the lesson or semester do you use this activity? How much classroom time do you devote to it? How much out-of-class time is expected?

This activity is tied to a particular topic in Calculus II, infinite sequences and series, which traditionally makes up the last third of the course. The assignment is given just before we begin this topic, around week 9 or 10, and it is due two weeks after it is assigned. I spend 5-10 minutes discussing the project in class when it is assigned, and in subsequent classes I will provide a little time for students to ask questions or raise concerns. I expect students to devote 2-4 hours to this activity, over the course of 2 weeks.

Logistics: What preparation is needed for this activity? What instructions do you give students? Is the activity low-stakes, high-stakes, or something else?

I post the assignment, including detailed instructions, on the course OpenLab site (see below). I will spend a very short time in class discussing the assignment and answering questions – but I will NOT go over every detail (they are expected to carefully read the assignment and follow all instructions). I try to make the assignment stand-alone, with links to appropriate resources (including, for example, how to create a blog post, how to upload an image, and so on).

High-Impact Educational Practices: Which of these practices based on George Kuh’s High Impact Educational Practices (and other innovative approaches) does this activity incorporate? Choose all that apply.

Open Digital Pedagogy (the OpenLab), Wrriting-intensive projects/assignments

Assessment: How do you assess this activity? What assessment measures do you use? Do you use a VALUE rubric? If not, how did you develop your rubric? Is your course part of the college-wide general education assessment initiative?

The assignment includes a list of 5 specific expectations (“You should create a new blog post including the following”), and I use this as a checklist. The assignment is worth a certain number of points, and a student’s score is based solely on the checklist. I want this to be low-stakes in terms of writing — grammar and spelling are not evaluated, and the structure and content of the written work need only loosely fit the instructions. I write a response to each student’s post, and while I don’t share their point score at that time, I will point out if there are significant problems or missing items and encourage the student to make revisions.

Reflection: How well did this activity work in your classroom? Would you repeat it? Why or why not? What challenges did you encounter, and how did you address them? What, if anything, would you change? What did students seem to enjoy about the activity?

This has been one of my most successful writing prompts – I was excited and impressed with the variety of creative and thoughtful responses. Asking them to write about their personal experience provided freedom to talk about the subject without fear of “being wrong,” and gave a rich source of material from which they could draw. Many posts spurred great comments, and I noticed in several cases the comments developed into real conversations (although the extra credit offered for commenting on another post did not extend to multiple comments).
I think this assignment could adapt quite easily to many disciplines. It is often the case that certain words, familiar from our daily lives, take on a specific and technical formal meaning in an academic context which gives students trouble – especially as the “formal” and “informal” definitions may be at odds with one another. I can imagine this activity applying to many such cases – by asking students to explore their existing experience of a word or concept, they begin to focus on the meaning of it in an intentional way, which prepares them to compare and contrast their informal definition with the formal usage.

Additional Information: Please share any additional comments and further documentation of the activity – e.g. assignment instructions, rubrics, examples of student work, etc. These could be in the form of PDF or Word files, links to posts or files on the OpenLab, etc.

Link to Assignment: https://openlab.citytech.cuny.edu/2012spr-mat1575-reitz/2012/04/04/openlab-assignment-7-tell-me-about-infinity/

Link to Student Work Examples: https://openlab.citytech.cuny.edu/2012spr-mat1575-reitz/?s=infinity

## “How Long is the Brooklyn Bridge?” – Field Trip

“How Long is the Brooklyn Bridge?” – Field Trip

Jonas Reitz (with Ezra Halleck) https://openlab.citytech.cuny.edu/members/jreitz/

Mathematics/ School of Arts and Sciences

MAT 1175 Fundamentals of Mathematics https://openlab.citytech.cuny.edu/mat1175fa2011/

Activity Description: Provide a brief description of the activity

In this introductory mathematics course students are exposed to a variety of mathematical ideas in the abstract, with relatively few built-in applications or connections to the “real world”. By taking students out of the classroom, exposing them to a local New York Landmark (walking across the Brooklyn Bridge), and asking them to use the mathematical knowledge in the course to estimate the length of the bridge, we allow them to make a concrete connection between their own experience and the ideas in the text. The field trip itself provides plenty of opportunity for informal interaction among students and faculty, and overcoming the practical difficulties (staying together, navigating the New York streets, following instructions, accomplishing the goals of the day) gives the class a shared experience that builds community and trust. We paused at the halfway point of the bridge to participate in an icebreaker activity (a bingo variant, which encouraged meeting and talking to many different classmates). Finally, students were asked to take a photo of themselves on the bridge.
Following the trip, students completed a followup assignment on the OpenLab in which they posted the results of their calculations (how long is the Brooklyn Bridge), their photo from the trip, and a reflection on the process.

The field trip combined two MAT 1175 sections (my own section and a one taught by my colleague, Ezra Halleck), and provided a great opportunity for students in both sections to make connections.

Learning Goals: What do you aim to achieve with this activity?

This activity uses an abstract idea (proportions) to answer a concrete real-world problem, “How long is the Brooklyn Bridge?”. Students compare the time it takes them to talk a known distance (the length of the City Tech block of Tillary Street, from Jay Street to Adams Street) with the time it takes them to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. By solving a proportion, they are able to use their time measurements to estimate the length of the bridge. This demonstrates the underlying idea of proportions in a familiar, outside-the-classroom context, and provides perspective on the abstract notions presented in the text.

In addition, this activity (which took place early in the semester) provided a great way to help establish a sense of community in the class. We took advantage of this activity as a way for students to form groups that included members from both participating sections, which went on to complete a larger group project over the course of the semester.

Finally, this activity was a great way to introduce technical skills – creating a blog post, uploading photos, adding tags, and so on.

Timing: At what point in the lesson or semester do you use this activity? How much classroom time do you devote to it? How much out-of-class time is expected?

This activity took place very early in the semester – the second or third week of class. It was a great way to break the ice, to get students engaged with the material and interacting with one another, and to establish a new perspective on the material at hand and on the college experience generally (especially since this course has many first-time freshman students). This meant that planning had to take place very early – distributing field trip instructions, completing necessary paperwork, and preparing the class for day of the trip. We devoted about 15 minutes in class to discussing the trip (prior to the trip itself), one day of class for the trip, and about 15 minutes in class discussing the results of trip (the week following). We expected students to spend about an hour outside of class writing completing the followup assignment on the OpenLab.

Logistics: What preparation is needed for this activity? What instructions do you give students? Is the activity low-stakes, high-stakes, or something else?

Any City Tech field trip requires proper paperwork to be completed, including permission forms for any students under the age of 18. We provided detailed logistical instructions for the day of the trip, including directions (in case students came late and wanted to catch up with us) and suggestions of what to wear and bring (comfortable walking shoes, weather-appropriate attire, water bottle, camera, stopwatch). We also created written instructions for the mathematical part of the trip, detailing where and how to time themselves walking and emphasizing the importance of maintaining a steady walking pace. The activity is low-stakes but is counted towards their grade – we did not deduct points for wildly unrealistic estimations of the bridge length, for example, as long as they were supported by data recorded on the trip, and calculations were shown clearly. Students that missed class that day were allowed to make it up by following the instructions on their own and completing the followup assignment on the OpenLab.

High-Impact Educational Practices: Which of these practices based on George Kuh’s High Impact Educational Practices (and other innovative approaches) does this activity incorporate? Choose all that apply.

Open Digital Pedagogy (the OpenLab), Place-Based Learning, Brooklyn Waterfront

Assessment: How do you assess this activity? What assessment measures do you use? Do you use a VALUE rubric? If not, how did you develop your rubric? Is your course part of the college-wide general education assessment initiative?

The field trip itself was not assessed, beyond checking attendance. The followup assignment included a list of 5 specific expectations (“Create a new blog post responding to the field trip.”), and this was used as a checklist. The assignment was worth a certain number of points, and a student’s score is based solely on the checklist. We wanted this to be low-stakes in terms of writing — grammar and spelling are not evaluated, and the structure and content of the written work need only loosely fit the instructions.

Reflection: How well did this activity work in your classroom? Would you repeat it? Why or why not? What challenges did you encounter, and how did you address them? What, if anything, would you change? What did students seem to enjoy about the activity?

This is the first time I took students out of the classroom, and I was gratified by the energy and excitement that this simple change of scenery infused in the class. It was great to see students interacting with each other (and with me) in an informal setting, and I believe that the connections that were made that day had a lasting impact on the students’ experience.

I was surprised at the amount of planning and logistics that were involved in even a simple field trip, and in the future I will aim to have my planning absolutely complete prior to the start of the semester. It was difficult to carve out time in our overfull departmental syllabus to allow the trip to take place. While we did not cover a great deal of mathematical content on this day, I still believe it was a worthwhile investment of time – the mathematical content that we incorporated was presented in a way that drove home the efficacy and wide applicability of the underlying ideas, which I think our students will remember beyond the end of the course (unlike the vast majority of the other content).

I think this kind of activity is widely adaptable to many disciplines – for me, this is not a project about studying proportions, but instead about allowing students to experience a connection between course content and the outside world. Asking students to step out of the classroom immediately creates new perspective, and giving them something “hands on” to do involves them in the course content in a way that is difficult to do inside the classroom walls, in the context of a traditional textbook. In addition, the social and emotional impact on the class can be profound – especially in large, “non-major” courses in which students are not already incorporated into a discipline-specific cohort, and may not be predisposed towards engagement in the material.

Additional Information: Please share any additional comments and further documentation of the activity – e.g. assignment instructions, rubrics, examples of student work, etc. These could be in the form of PDF or Word files, links to posts or files on the OpenLab, etc.

Field trip instructions:
https://openlab.citytech.cuny.edu/mat1175fa2011/assignments/day-5-brooklyn-bridge-field-trip/

Followup assignment:
https://openlab.citytech.cuny.edu/mat1175fa2011/brooklyn-bridge-trip-followup-assignment/

Student work: https://openlab.citytech.cuny.edu/mat1175fa2011/?s=field+trip+response

## Visit to a Drugstore

Visit to a Drugstore

Anna Matthews https://openlab.citytech.cuny.edu/members/amatthews/

Dental Hygiene/SPS

DEN 2315

Activity Description: Provide a brief description of the activity

This assignment is focused on place-based learning as the activity happens outside of class. It is part of DEN 2315 course, Oral Pharmacology, taken by our second year students in a 5-week Summer session. Full description for students can be found here: Visit to a Drugstore Assignment 2015

Learning Goals: What do you aim to achieve with this activity?

1. to enhance classroom learning by observing the availability and selection of herbal and nutritional supplements, and vitamins/minerals in a drugstore or supermarket of students’ choice;

2. to work individually or in groups of 2-4, depending on the students’ preference, and learn to work in teams;

3. to investigate the claims listed on the package of the selected supplement and find information from independent academic or professional sources;

4. to explain possible adverse effects, drug interactions, and effects on dental/periodontal conditions and process of dental hygiene care;

5. to share the findings, including pictures from the visit to the drugstore, references, and personal impressions with classmates on OpenLab.

Timing: At what point in the lesson or semester do you use this activity? How much classroom time do you devote to it? How much out-of-class time is expected?

this is the 3rd of the four OpenLab written assignments and it is due at the end of week 3 of our Summer session.

Logistics: What preparation is needed for this activity? What instructions do you give students? Is the activity low-stakes, high-stakes, or something else?

as a place-based assignment, this activity requires extra time and some additional travel from students, but because they can select the drugstore to visit and choose to either work individually or in groups, it hasn’t presented any difficulties.

High-Impact Educational Practices: Which of these practices based on George Kuh’s High Impact Educational Practices (and other innovative approaches) does this activity incorporate? Choose all that apply.

Collaborative assignments and projects, Open Digital Pedagogy (the OpenLab), Wrriting-intensive projects/assignments, Place-Based Learning

Assessment: How do you assess this activity? What assessment measures do you use? Do you use a VALUE rubric? If not, how did you develop your rubric? Is your course part of the college-wide general education assessment initiative?

this assignment is 5 points of the students’ final grade in DEN2315. I did not use the VALUE rubric but evaluated the students’ work using a simple Grading rubric, which I created myself based on the examples from Bean’s “Engaging Ideas: The Professor’s Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking and Active Learning in the Classroom” (2011). Although reading and commenting on each others’ posts was not graded, I strongly encouraged it, and many students did reflect on information shared in group. The post authors, however, were responsible to answer any questions I or the classmates asked and to provide additional information when necessary.

Reflection: How well did this activity work in your classroom? Would you repeat it? Why or why not? What challenges did you encounter, and how did you address them? What, if anything, would you change? What did students seem to enjoy about the activity?

this is my favorite assignment that I created and started using in 2014 and the students share with me that it’s their favorite as well. Visiting a drugstore for a specific purpose can be overwhelming due to the variety of available supplements, their brands, and dosages, and my goal is to let the students experience this and become aware of how our patients who don’t have background information that we know, and perhaps don’t have access to reliable and trustworthy sources of information, might feel in a similar situation. Many students describe this assignment as an eye-opening experience and share that they learn very much from it.

Here are some of the students’ quotes from this year’s posts:

“This assignment made me realize just how many conditions one drug can treat, as well as just how much side effects may occur with the use of these drugs. It really goes to show just how complex the field of pharmacology really is, and just how much there is still to learn.“

“This exercise helped me learn that before I buy such things it is important to do my own research. Trusting the words on a bottle is simply not enough!”

“With all that we have learned in class and my own research I have done, I have decided to stop taking vitamin supplements all together. This assignment has opened my eyes even more and I rather get my vitamin intakes from real food sources.”

I intend to continue using this place-based activity in the coming years and i hope my students will continue to learn from this experience and enjoy the trip!

Additional Information: Please share any additional comments and further documentation of the activity – e.g. assignment instructions, rubrics, examples of student work, etc. These could be in the form of PDF or Word files, links to posts or files on the OpenLab, etc.

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