Technology Advice Request Tuesday, Apr 19 2011 

So I am going to begin a PhD in math at NYU’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences in the fall.

(Congratulations me! EXCITED.)

Do not for a second think this means I am abandoning Team Teacher. K-12 education 4eva. More on this another time.

Anyway, for a math teacher blogger I am sort of a luddite so I could use some internet advice.

I’m trying to start a study group for my cohort at NYU. (We have to pass a written exam during the first year of study; a lot of folks e.g. me want to get it done in the fall.) So far nobody who’s written back is going to be in New York over the summer, so an online study group seems indicated. Question: what’s a good platform for an online study group?

We need to be able to ask, answer, and reason through stuff. We need to be able to write stuff. My thoughts so far:

Idea A: a group-authored WordPress blog. I have never done anything group-authored on WordPress so I don’t know how to think this through, but it supports LaTeX so we can typeset stuff. Somebody can post on a question or problem they’re struggling with and other folks can answer in the comments. Drawbacks: everybody needs a WordPress account, right? And writing a post is not the most user-friendly thing compared to commenting. And we’d need to be deliberate about how to make it easily navigable.

Idea B: somehow get our hands on the platform used for MathOverflow and Stack Exchange. It’s already set up for questions and answers and also has full LaTeX support. Drawbacks: how will we get our hands on the platform? Also, the “reputation” part would be bad for our purpose – can we omit it?

Idea C: One of my classmates suggested a Facebook group. I’ve never used a Facebook group for anything and somehow the idea seems lame to me, but I don’t have a valid basis for that. Do you have experience with them? What are they good for?

Okay, do you have other ideas for me? Do you have any additional thoughts/advice about these ideas?

Thanks for real.

UPDATE 4/20:

To clarify what I think we need (although if you have experience with online study collaboration, I want to hear what you think we need too) –

We need to be able to ask, answer and discuss math problems. I think that means we need to be able to typeset math, so LaTeX support is a plus; we need to be able to have back-and-forth discussions, so support of comment threads or the like is a necessity; and we need to be able to participate in multiple conversations at once, so some sort of easy-to-navigate organizational structure would be nice. (The last of these is the primary drawback of a WordPress blog as I see it.) Also, the ability for multiple people to contribute content in a user-friendly way would be nice.

UPDATE 5/2:

When I sensed this turning into a much bigger project than I intended, I went with WordPress. I got lots of great suggestions that I’m looking forward to learning more about when I have the time.

Bob Moses in NYC Thursday, Apr 7 2011 

I just found out that one of my heroes, Bob Moses, founder of The Algebra Project, and an important leader in the civil rights movement (specif. the SNCC voter registration movement), will be speaking at NYU this afternoon, and I can’t go. GRRR. Maybe you can.

The title of the talk is:

Working the Demand Side: Mississippi, SNCC and the ’60s struggle for the Right to Vote. The Algebra Project, the Young People’s Project and the current struggle for a Quality Public School Education as a Constitutional Right.

The info:

Thursday April 7, 4:00-5:30pm
King Juan Carlos Center Auditorium (NYU)
53 Washington Square South, 1st floor

The talk is sponsored by The DOE History in the Classroom Project and NYU’s Department of Teaching and Learning. Bob will have a book signing afterward for his two books Radical Equations and Quality Education as a Constitutional Right.

I don’t have time at this second to properly introduce you to Bob Moses’ work if you aren’t already familiar with it but let me at least say that if you are interested in the relationship between math education and democracy, there isn’t a deeper thinker on the subject anywhere.

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