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

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.