Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?

KGilbertKim Gilbert – University of Georgia

Trying something completely different can be very scary. But sometimes, you just know it’s totally worth the risk. That’s how I felt after hearing a couple of fabulous stat educators talk about using simulation-based methods for teaching the intro course. I was immediately inspired by their enthusiasm. But more importantly, I was excited to try pedagogy that they/I believed would make a genuine difference in student learning. So I jumped head first into the deep end and have enjoyed every minute.

As it turned out for me, technology helped.

First, I followed ISI’s content, even when it at first felt very different, almost odd. Since our students need the theory-based approach, I also cover that in every chapter. The theory-based applications flow quite easily from simulations, but the simulations are definitely the fun part! Another transition is adapting to the student centered, activity-based structure of the book. As it turned out for me, technology helped. So how did I use technology in this novel teaching approach? 

Trying something completely different can be very scary. But sometimes, you just know it’s totally worth the risk.

Going to computer labs is one option.  But on the first day of class, I asked if students had a laptop or tablet they could bring to class every day.  More than 75% said they did. I knew immediately that was more than enough and would actually encourage collaborative learning. So instead of creating special lab type activities, or worrying about how to integrate a separate computer lab classroom (down the hall) that fits the timing of my day-to-day plan following the book, we use their mobile technology and access it every chance we get.   This has been the secret for me successfully using the applets because we can use them “on demand.”  I will show the keystrokes the first time, then let them loose with the Examples or the Explorations.  

I jumped head first into the deep end and have enjoyed every minute.

It always surprises me how few questions they’ll ask at the beginning of the semester.  But they will eventually trust that their questions can be addressed better when we can dialog in small groups about their specific questions. Using laptops and tablets to access the applets supports the discovery-based, collaborative philosophy I’m aiming for (and works perfectly with the textbook).

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