Saturday, November 23, 2013

3D Printing

Most of us have heard the buzz about 3D printing. I never read very deeply, figuring it was a technology that I would not have a chance to experience for several years.

But two weeks ago I saw a post from an acquaintance about a project MakerBot was going to launch in conjunction with Interest rose, but the announcement said the promotion would only be for teachers in Brooklyn. Idle fantasies about somehow tricking them to thinking my Bronx school was in Brooklyn, but nothing real.

Then, mid-Veterans Day week I heard the promotion was expanded to every school across the country. What?! Request a MakerBot Academy 3D printing package, including the Replicator 2, 3 spools of PLA filament, and an extended warranty, and MakerBot would fund it down to under $100. Teachers would only have to come up with the remaining $100 to get their own $2300 3D printing package.

I am a volunteer screener for DonorsChoose. They were being flooded with proposals from teachers asking for the deal. Volunteers, like me, were asked to screen additional essays to help with the backlog. In between screening, I quickly wrote my own proposal. But I was way back in the queue by this point. Late Friday the 15th I noticed that my essay had been screened. But there was one more step before it went live, and I could fund it -- a DonorsChoose employee had to do the final approval. I waited.

First thing when I woke up Saturday, I saw that my project had been posted. Hurrah! I checked, and saw the deal was still available -- I only needed to contribute another $80 and the package would be mine (technically, it would be my school's, but I would be the one using it.)

I quickly logged in to my DonorsChoose account, entered the required information, and clicked "submit." I waited while the little clock image spun and spun. It finished. The page refreshed. I needed an additional $2400 on my project.

No! I clicked submit. It can't be. But it was. In the time I clicked the button, the funding had run out. I was so disappointed. If I'd only written my proposal earlier. If I hadn't slept so late Saturday. If, if, if.

Well, as it turns out, MakerBot came up with some additional funds this past week. I came home from school Thursday to find that my printer package was funded.

Since then I've begun researching the heck out of 3D printers, and the Replicator 2 in particular. Seems that the people who take the time to write online reviews are not all that in love with it. (don't get me wrong -- for what I paid out of pocket, it is the best deal on the planet.) But it seems there are some persistent issues with the extruder, and there seem to be quality problems with their PLA filament.

Nevertheless, I'm looking forward to my unit on Solids of Revolution, when I can actually print a solid using a physical process something very similar to a Riemann Sum.

Monday, November 18, 2013


An acquaintance is very excited at coming back from a "learning and the brain" conference last weekend. All weekend long, her facebook feed was crackling with one-liners from pedagogy gurus (people who get paid large sums of money to speak at conferences and overgeneralize about panacea fixes to education).

One idea my friend is very excited about is this: "We need to get away from pretty much any model of teaching we have been doing for the past 100 years."

First off, personally, I don't know anybody who had been teaching for the past 100 years. For my own part, it's not even one tenth that much. There are a few fairly senior teachers at my school, but I don't think any of them has more than 35 years in the system.

Second, what's wrong with the model I used last week? I thought I was having some good interactions using a mix of exploration, technology, guided questioning, and discussion. What am I to replace it with?

The whole thing smacks of snake oil salesmen. My friend says, basically, she spent the weekend listening to lectures from people telling her that listening to lectures doesn't work.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Explore MTBoS Mission 5

The assignment for week 5 was, essentially, to participate in a twitter chat (about a math topic) and blog impressions. Perhaps I misunderstood something somewhere, but I have been unable to do this seemingly simple task.

I chose the Calculus chat, which is supposed to be hashtagged #calcchat. It turns out that hashtag is mostly associated with a twitter handle @calcchat. The profile for @calcchat seems to indicate that it is associated with Larson textbooks.

According to the assignment, calc chat happens on Fridays, but it isn't clear when. 1:30 AM EDT? Is that a typo? Well, it's Saturday now anyway, so it wouldn't be live. So the instructions say further that the chats are archived on the math chat wiki. But the calc chat isn't.  There's a placeholder with no content.

The next suggestion is to follow the chat moderator.  In this case that's @ajitmishra71. He is indeed a math educator, but doesn't seem to have any posts related to a calculus chat.

So, there you have it. My attempt to participate in this week's activity have pretty much failed.