Saturday, February 27, 2010

Atlantic Corridor Conference 2010

On Thursday,  I attended and spoke at the 2010 Atlantic Corridor conference in the Tullamore Court Hotel.  Funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs,  the organisation has built links between Ireland,  and in particular the east coasts of Canada and the USA.   The main theme of the conference this year was the education of Science and Mathematics.
About 150 adults attended part of the conference,  while concurrently about 150 4th, 5th and 6th year secondary school students had their own conference.  After lunch,  the two groups came together to hear the students recommendations for improvements in the teaching of Science and Mathematics.

The Taoiseach opened both parts of the conference.  Leo Enright acted as the compere for the adults part of the conference.  Michael John Gorman gave a perspective on the first two years of the Science Gallery (which I also chair).   Padraig McManus told of his difficulties in finding Engineering schools in Ireland willing to engage with the ESB on increasing the numbers of students undertaking engineering,  with the notable exception of the Cork Institute of Technology.  Andrew Parish gave an overview of Wavebob and spoke about the wave energy section in Ireland.

Eucharia Meehan of the HEA gave numerous statistics on the uptake of engineering and mathematics by students,  and especially focussed on gender differences.   I spoke on the role of the internet in teaching,  drawing largely from some of my blog posts,   and gave live illustrations of some specific websites.

After lunch,  the students joined us for a panel session.  Some of the themes which emerged were a strong desire to make maths and science teaching more interesting by having live practical examples in the classroom;  concerns that Project Maths may disadvantage those who take it because they will not have covered the breadth of topics compared to the regular course;  and a desire for more inclusive team based and social inclusion teaching.

Jean Marc Soustre of Ericssons Ireland discussed technology changed,  drawing on some of the themes of Shift Happens.  John Mighton of the Fields Institute in Toronto gave a talk by recorded video on his JUMP approach to teaching maths.   Jeff Evans from Georgia Tech discussed his experiences of internet based teaching approaches,  particularly in rural areas.

A final panel discussion,  in which I also participated,  was then held.

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