Alison Tarbox ---Final Reflections
1) I see mathematics in more places now. I see geometry in the patterns of floors, and I see dimensionality in literature. Through this course and VA10, I've learned to appreciate better the way shapes actually look and how that relates to the wqay they really are. I also see better now how one can use imagination in mathematics, trying to visualize things that don't physically exist in our world, dreaming up new ways of soving problems and proving theories- when before mathematics was always a mechanical kind of process, something you could program a computer to do.
2) One of the most positive aspects of the course was the open dialog. Having everyone reading everyone else's thoughts throughout the course led ot discussion about other ideas, not necessarily related to the class specifically. It added to the sense of community in the classroom. However, one of the negative aspects of the class was that our learning was so undirected. I think for many people, it was wonderful to be able to explore anything they wanted to, but I had a hard time getting into anyting on my own since it was all new to me. Also, since the pace from concept to concept was relatively fast, I felt as if I were just skimming along the surface of things not knowing what to explore further or how. Not that I think information should be spoonfed to sutdents, but it might have been better for me to be given exercises to complete rather than being asked to create exercised on my own, which became too daunting a task, I think I noticed, for many people, later on in the book.
3) I think the paperless course is an interesting experiment. Personally, I am of the paper- and pen-loving sort, so I ended up doing most of my assignments on paper first, then I typed them into the HTML editor. I also hate dealing with the Brown server's always being down, and since I don't have a computer of my own, I always had to fight and/or wait for a cluster computer to use. So, the paperless course was not ideal in that it was not the most convenient way for me to do the work, but I do believe I am in the minority for my lack of love for modern technology. From other standpoints, however, the paperless course was very nice. I already mentioned that I liked having everyone's work in one place, and I like the idea of a sort of class document that is published as it is composed, a single piece that signifies all the learning going on in the course. It is a convenient reference for people interested in the class, and aslo just a satisfying document to look at after the class is over. One of the best aspects of this class is that our work will never get dusty or lost in a box in some office at Brown. It's especially nice to know that our final projectswill remain intact for a long time. Saved on the Internet, they can only be improved by being linked to other pages.
Any course could have some projects on the WWW. It's a valuable skill to be able to write in HTMl, and at least an exposure to it, especially through big projects like our final is important in our time.
4) I mentioned before that I am not a lover of technology. Sometimes, having to use a computer was the most frustrating aspect of my work in the class. Better tutorials in the beginning would have been helpful; I had to learn on my own how to use the commands in the Mac HTML editor, and I'm sure that I wasn't doing them exactly right. Even just a list of commands and what they do would have been extremely helpful and would have allowed me to feel as if I have acquired a skill through this class.
5) My responses grew weaker and weaker as I got increasingly lost and paranoid that I could say nothing interesting that someone else hadn't already thought of. I read all the chapters and responded to all (except 9, which I'll do right after I do this), though at times (Chapters 4 and 5, for example) I couldn't respond through the World Wide Web and I used e-mail instead (I also passed my story in on paper). Your comments were for the most part very encouraging and helped me in figuring out what I had learned by reading each chapter. A few weeks I never got responses. I read a good amount of other people's work, skimmed most of it, and got ideas and learned form all I all read. I enjoyed having the option to read everyone's work, as well as the professor's responses.
6) The polyobjects group worked together to produce most of the document. We met for long hours on several occasions to team-write and organize the whole page. Jeremy and I worked together to outline the document in detail, and we wrote the introduction and most of the section on slicing together. I worked with Mike to outline the rest of the slicing and fold-outs sections and Jeremy and I filled in and edited most of the project together toward the end. My role slowly became the advocate fro the simple-minded folk who might not comprehend the geometry involved as well as the three die-hards I worked with do. I did do a fair amount of writing on my own, but when I brought it back to the group, we ended up writing the whole section. This was a little frustrating and made me wonder what everyone else saw my role as being, but I did my best to help out as much as I could.
7) I was glad to be working in a group, because I usually learn more by throwing ideas around with many people and combining strengths to create a finished project we're all proud of. But the polyobjects group was not where I should have been. The dynamics of the group were strange. I was the lone woman working with three men. The only Mainer in a group with 3 people who went to high school together. And I felt as if I was the only one with less than a command on the material already. In a way, I suppose I learned the most (except Dave, who tried some cool programming for the first time), but I didn't find the final project to be that satisfying or fulfilling, because I could not donate as much expertise as I am used to in a group situation and would have liked to.
Thanks for all the learning. Have a good summer!
Prof. Banchoff's response