October 20, 2003
Cowley math instructor using more technology in classroom
Uwe Conrad constantly searches for ways to improve student learning.
The math instructor at Cowley County Community College’s Southside Education Center in Wichita attends as many workshops and seminars on math instruction that he possibly can.
And during the Kansas City Math and Technology Expo at Rockhurst University in early October, Conrad was elected president of the Kansas Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges. He’ll begin his term in two years.
Conrad, who has been a full-time math instructor for Cowley since January 2000, is particularly interested in the use of technology in the classroom.
“It’s important to get in touch with other community college math instructors to see what they’re doing, to communicate what we’re doing, and to see what works and doesn’t work,” Conrad said. “Technology is one of the main things I’m looking at for my classroom.”
Since January, Conrad has used a digital video camera to show him working certain math problems. The camera shows Conrad working the problem on the calculator, complete with narration on how he came up with his answer. That file is then burned on a CD and distributed to students in the class. He also has used digital video and put it on his web pages on the Internet.
“Students really put a lot of stock in this,” Conrad said. “If they see the instructor work the problem, it makes a big difference. Our class only meets once a week, so there’s no need to proceed to something new if someone doesn’t understand last week’s assignment.”
Using a camera to show how to work a problem was a tip he picked up from a KAMATYC conference.
“Math instructors are more willing to try something new,” he said. “It used to be students had to memorize formulas and rules. Now, students are more hands-on as we incorporate new forms of technology.
“Communication is the key now. It’s so much easier to see what people are doing.”
Conrad also has incorporated a different use for the software program Excel in his classroom, creating elaborate surface graphs using a spreadsheet.
“Most people have Excel on their computers, but they don’t own a TI (Texas Instruments) 83 calculator,” Conrad said. “The calculator is great, but you can’t print out your results. There are a lot of statistical functions in Excel.”
Conrad also recently attended a workshop on the use of Palm Pilots in the classroom.
“I go to as many math-related conferences as I can,” he said. “You have to stay on top of things.”
Since his emphasis is on technology, Conrad said that likely would be an area he’d focus on when he takes over as KAMATYC president.
“I want to keep up our workshops and increase our membership,” Conrad said.
“I’m hoping to get instructors excited about technology.”
Conrad uses Excel to teach Statistics. He also teaches Trigonometry, Calculus B & E, and Calculus I and III.
“Math has gotten less scary for students,” he said. “Maybe all of these things will make them look forward to math class.