15 November 2019: STEM Colloquium

STEM Education Colloquium 2019

Where: WT121
When: Friday 15 November, 1-3 pm


Speaker: Catherine Z. W. Hassell Sweatman


Abstract: Recently, I designed and delivered a new mathematics course for foundation art and design students, based on geometry and symmetry. It is assessed by portfolio. Students create original mathematical designs by coding in Processing. This language is very accessible and allows students to quickly incorporate geometry and animation into their artwork. Transformations such as translation, rotation and scaling are easily implemented. Art and design students are sometimes intimidated by the thought of mathematics and coding, but find Processing very easy to use. They enjoy experimenting and the quick results. What is the value of such a course? Mathematical art is beautiful, fun to create and a great addition to the skill set of a graphic or textile designer, artist or architect. Developing the logical thought processes required for coding is helpful for all students. I will present my reflections and those of my students on the value of teaching mathematics to art and design students.


Speaker: Kerri Spooner


Abstract: Gaining useful insight into real world problems through mathematical modelling is a valued attribute cross many disciplines including mathematics, biology and engineering. This being the case, in what ways can mathematical modelling be taught to first time modellers? A New Zealand study was carried out involving three case studies. Each case study comprised of a mathematical modelling course, lecturer participant and student participants. For student participants, it was the first time they had taken a mathematical modelling course during their tertiary study. Data was collected through participant interviews and classroom observations to address the question “How do your lecturers create student learning experiences in mathematical  modelling?” Lecturer participants all had a different approach to teaching modelling. For the first case study, the lecturer taught modelling techniques and processes during lectures, followed by an open-ended modelling day. For the second case study, modelling techniques, including mathematical tools, where taught during lectures, with students experiencing the modelling process through modelling case studies. For the final case study, modelling techniques were taught during lectures and students used computer programming to explore how these modelling techniques could be applied. Reflective thematic data analysis was used to reveal insights into the student experience for these three different approaches.
Preliminary results show that providing opportunities for students to discover their own process for modelling allows for the learning of modelling to occur. Due to the change in culture experienced by the students, ways of providing reassurance need to be explored.


Speaker: Renu Choudhary


Abstract: A team of dedicated lecturers teaching on a pre-degree certificate STEM program had the opportunity to reflect on their teaching practice while preparing a portfolio for a tertiary teaching award. Five criteria were used to guide the team's practice: Excellence, Teaching Process, Outcome, Evaluation & Feedback and Leadership & Impact. This process gave us an opportunity to reflect on our own practice and gain insight into each other’s strategies, philosophy, and reasons for using myriad techniques in diverse situations.
Overall, it emerged that team-teaching means celebrating and embracing diversity within the group rather than pushing uniformity onto everyone. The team found that the level of support required for students’ success goes well beyond conventional expectations. Many activities outside of traditional teaching practice contribute to the success of a pre-degree student. The practice of group reflection was challenging as it involved coordination among teaching team but was reinvigorating; refreshing the groups perception. Transformation is ongoing and appraisal helped to identify areas for change.
This presentation will introduce our pre-degree certificate program and the framework of reflective practice. Specific examples discussed include our student-centric philosophy, student engagement with pen-enabled tablets, and embedded student support. Some ideas of future research directions will be shared to conclude.


Speaker: Jeff Nijsse


Abstract: This presentation investigates Jupyter and Scratch; two contemporary tools that can be used for coding-based tutorials. A blockchain course has been developed for undergraduate and master’s students called Applied Blockchains and Cryptocurrencies. The aim of the course is to provide students with exposure to blockchain development and methods. Coding experience was not required as a pre-requisite because it was a new course that did not fit within any specific subject pathway.
Programming tutorials were developed to guide students through concepts related to blockchains such as the Poisson distribution and hash functions. The Jupyter Notebook is an open-source web application developed for interactive data visualization. Students without programming experience found the Jupyter tutorials to be too abstract and struggled to complete the course project. One-third of the students did not complete a coded blockchain implementation. This has prompted looking into Scratch – a block-based visual programming language aimed at teaching kids to code – to help ease the transition for students without programming experience.
The Poisson distribution is an important topic for understanding block-intervals in a blockchain. A tutorial on the Poisson distribution using Jupyter is presented and compared to a version created with Scratch. Early indications are positive that students without programming experience feel more comfortable starting with Scratch.