Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Lightning conductor

Part of what is making my few weeks at UBC a really interesting experience are the community of people who are drawn towards a science education effort like this. It is almost as if the CWSEI (someone suggested it should be pronouned "queasy", though I don't think that would catch on...) acts as a lightning conductor for people with an interest in all aspects of science education.

So I am sharing an office with Perry Samson, meterologist from the University of Michigan. It turns out he is working on some really nifty things in the area of development of e-learning tools to enhance student learning. And he chases tornadoes in his spare time, which explain the title of his webpage: "Science is a contact sport".

He showed me two systems he is currently developing. The first is LectureTools, an environment that allows students to take notes online in real time during a lecture, ask text questions during the lecture, and complete various self-test and PRS type questions online. There's some rather nice Web2.0 stuff in there as well, that creates tag clouds from an analysis of the content that students write.

The second is Xamprep, an alternative to the traditional textbook. It contains all the contents of your textbook plus the ability to performs self-help quizzes, search the text, work with animations, add your own notes to the material and ask questions of clarification.

Both of these systems have the 'user-can-annotate' feature that we were thinking of for Physics 1A recently. And both are developed in a way that should permit sharing and reusability of the codebase.

Perry is currently developing an Xamprep site for a statistics course, so is interested in the work that we have done with MathML. I shall show him around and also get access to both systems so that we can take a closer look.


Alistair said...

Does LectureTools allow sharing of notes as well between students and tutor? Could be an efficient way to crowdsource an accurate transcript of the lecture which the tutor can then finalise and redistribute.

PaulTopping said...

Is the intention to expose the MathML to the end user in browsers that support it? This would be great for accessibility, cut and paste, search, etc.

Paul Topping
Design Science, Inc.

Simon Bates said...


That is the idea, yes. It is the same design idea that we utilise within our course materials in Physics here.

Simon Bates said...

Alistair, not sure if it automatically does. One thing that is produced though is a tag cloud derived from all the notes that students make (based on a glossary of key words or terms that are defined by the instructor). This is shared between staff and students.