Stepping into photography

I recently purchased a second-hand NIKON 800 camera with an AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED lens from the university auction site and have been taking photos, mostly landscape. I will share some of my recent work here. If you are interested in using/printing any of them, you can reach me via email for the original file.

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Should I take attendance for my large enrollment courses?

Today’s reflection stems from a comment I received in my recent SRI (Student Reflections on Instruction) at my current institution. The comment expressed how much the student appreciated all the iClicker activities that were built in as my weekly lecture sessions and they would really love to earn some credit while participating. They also expressed frustration due to how few responses there were in average.

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Pedagogy Learning Science (PALS) Book Club

I started this book club in 2020 fall semester when I joined my current institution, hoping I could get to know people who are also passionate about teaching. We have read 7 books so far:

  1. How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching
  2. Small Teaching Online: Applying Learning Science in Online Classes
  3. Equity-Centered Trauma-Informed Education: Equity and Social Justice in Education
  4. Reach Everyone, Teach Everyone: Universal Design for Learning in Higher Education
  5. Design for How People Learn
  6. Culturally responsive teaching and the brain: Promoting authentic engagement and rigor among culturally and linguistically diverse students
  7. Distracted
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Why did I stop travelling to conferences?

My most recent conference trip was to AERA in Chicago, one of the most popular conferences for people in the educational research field. Over the past 10 years, the average number of attendees at AERA Annual Meetings has been 14,967. Consider this: a three-day event hosting 10,000+ people. One might think, “Wow, that’s a great opportunity to meet others,” but in reality, it’s often the opposite. Everyone seems to be in a hurry to get to the next session. Unless you already know some other attendees, there isn’t much opportunity to make meaningful connections.

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Happy 7th anniversary of moving to Canada!

Today marks the 7th anniversary of our move from Singapore to Canada. What a journey it has been! Little did I know our bold move on April 28th 2016 would change our lives so much. I’d like to take this opportunity to reflect on what I went through, what’s happening and what’s lying ahead.

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Bye bye 2022 Fall semester

This is the very last week of 2022 fall semester so it’s a good time for me to do a short reflection about how it went. From the frequency of my posts in the past half a year, you can probably guess this is a very hectic semester for me. It’s my first semester going back to teach in-person since I joined the math department here in 2020 August. Many adjustments and way-finding (in literal sense) had to be done before I’m finally comfortable with equipment in lecture theatres, seating arrangements in smaller classrooms, the printer and scanning machines etc. I don’t know how other new hires survived their first semester. If you went through it, you know what I’m talking about.

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Test wrapper

We are half-way into the semester and students from all three of my courses have taken at least one test by this point. In order for me to find out what they feel about the test, and the course in general, I sent out an anonymous survey a week after MATH2720 students received their test 1 score. This was done right before Wednesday’s lecture. A QR code was projected in front of the classroom. As students walked into the room, they can scan the code and still filling up the form. 41 responses were recorded so about half of the class took the survey. In Test 1, students were given about five minutes to talk with their peers right before they write the test paper and I’m curious to find out what they think about the activity. The purpose of the activity is mainly to alleviate stress. To many of these students, this is their very first in-person test since 2020 March.

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First week: excitement in the air

This is my first week going back to teach fully in-person after joining my current department in Sep 2020. I had A LOT of worries before stepping into my classroom on Sep 7th: how will I walk from one class to the next one (in a different building) with only 15 minutes in-between? will students remember how to sit in a room and attend lectures? Will I be able to write on whiteboard/under document camera/on my computer screen fast enough? Do I have all the adapters to connect things? Will I be able to find the mic? Most importantly will we be able to connect?

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Summer Workshop In Mathematics (SWIM)2022

Date: Aug 15-26, 2022, except weekends

Time: 10am-3pm

Location: University of Manitoba, 66 Chancellors Cir, Winnipeg, MB R3T 2N2

Introduction:

The Summer Workshop in Mathematics (SWIM) is an initiative of the Department of Mathematics at the University of Manitoba. This is an in-person workshop which will be approximately 4 hours of lectures per day for two weeks. Participants will have regular opportunities to join discussions (led by an experienced high school mathematics teacher) designed to generate ideas for classroom activities, puzzles, and games, and to solicit feedback on the challenges of various topics. Participants will improve their problem solving and reasoning skills as well as learn about mathematics proofs and the foundations of mathematics. Participants who successfully complete the workshop will receive $123.8 which they can use to cover their parking cost.

Intended Audience:

The intended audience is early and middle years teachers (K8) working in Manitoba, and seeking to enhance their skills and background in mathematics.

How to Register:

Please fill up this form to register for the workshop.

You can read some past participant testimonials here.

Questions?

If you have any questions, please email Dr. Xinli Wang, xinli.wang at umanitoba.ca

Refection of a seminar titled What Students Need to Know about Learning (and Why They Won’t Believe Us)

I recently attended UNH Webinar: Empower Students for Academic Success II and learned a great deal from Dr. Stephen Chew, who is a Professor of Psychology at the Samford University. In his talk, he shared some common pitfalls and choke points in learning. He also shared what could be done to address these common concerns which could serve as guidelines when I design my courses going forward.

title of the slide: pitfalls in learning
in the center of the graph, is a flow-chart starting from learning material, then points to Senses, then points to Sensory Memory, then points to Attention, followed by Working Memory, followed by Long-term Memory. Around the flow charts are bubbles that contain choke point and pitfall at different stages of the flow chart.

I find it very challenging to persuade students today that multitasking is not gonna work, and distractions such as listening to music or checking your phone while studying won’t help you learn. Many of them claim they study better when they are listening to a particular type of music. I wonder whether there is any study out there focusing on why students hold this belief.

Another point that Dr. Chew raised is people are often overconfident when judging their level of understanding: often I have students approach me feeling frustrated because they didn’t perform well for math tests. They believe they have mastered the topics since they understand the examples covered in class, and are able to follow examples from the textbook. They are able to solve homework problems, even mock test questions. It must be the test! What they didn’t realize is for all the activities they mentioned, those are not assessments, but rather practice opportunities for them to gauge how well they learned. However, we don’t teach our students self-assessment skills so they have wrong beliefs about how good they are. Many of them miss an important difference between the tests they take and the practices they work on: it takes test-taking skills besides knowledge expertise to excel such as reading a question carefully, interpreting a question correctly and being able to present solutions properly in a limited time.

I know there are many debates over how valid a timed-test is to measure students’ learning, and I try to incorporate ungrading ideas in my courses to address those issues. But for many common entry-level courses, timed-tests are still the norm for assessments. It’s our responsibility to offer them continuous feedback about their learning, and teach them how to assess themselves (and sometimes others) to minimize the frustration felt by so many.

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