Research: Learning algebra from Instagram

Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development

Research: Learning algebra from Instagram

Stock photo of a student working a math problem on a blackboardCan students learn algebra from Instagram and video games?

SMU teaching researcher Candace Walkington thinks so. And her new study, funded by the National Academy of Education, will test the idea.

“In previous work, I found that students draw upon rich algebraic ways of reasoning when pursuing their out-of-school interests in areas like sports, social networking and video games,” says Walkington, an assistant professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning in the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development. “Making connections to these topics in algebra class can improve long-term understanding of algebraic ideas.”

The new study asks pre-algebra middle school students in the Dallas Independent School District to author their own algebra stories based on their personal interests. They will describe how linear relationships approximate what they encounter in their everyday lives, such as how they accumulate followers on Instagram or score points in a video game over time, says Walkington, whose research focus is evidence-based effective teaching. About 200 pre-algebra students in eight classrooms at DISD schools are participating in the study.

Based on results from earlier research, Walkington hypothesizes that authoring the stories will elicit students’ interest in the content to be learned by drawing on their knowledge about home and community.

Algebra is a gatekeeper to many careers and to higher-level mathematics, making it critical for students to master, Walkington says – but students struggle to understand the abstract representations.

“Students often can’t see the connection between their world and algebra,” she says. “Exploring ways to connect math to their lives, experiences and knowledge is critical for making it accessible and captivating. That’s especially true when considering students from diverse backgrounds.”

A pilot version of the study begins in spring 2015. The full study starts in fall 2015.

Walkington was awarded the grant as part of the Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship Program of the National Academy of Education. The $55,000 grant supports early career scholars working in critical areas of education research.

Written by Margaret Allen

> Read the full story at the SMU Research blog

October 24, 2014|Research, Year of the Faculty|

Calendar Highlights: Oct. 16, 2014

b1830bce49be4c75ad18f2a0ce3f98f5World Changing 101: SMU Hegi Career Development Center presents World Changing 101: Why Should You Do Public Service? Featuring representatives from Teach for America, Peace Corps, CityYear and CitySquare, guests will explore how public service experiences apply to future careers. The event will take place Thursday Oct. 16 at 5:30 p.m. in the Annette Caldwell Simmons Hall, Room 138. For more information contact Devon Skerritt or visit the event webpage. 

Comini Lecture Series: The Comini Lecture Series presents “Oracle’s Signs (and Sounds): An Iconographic Exploration of the Ancient Andean Gods’ Images.” Guided by Marco-Curatola-Petrocchi, Professor at the Catholic University of Peru, the lecture will examine how Andean deities “spoke” to their priests. The event will take place Thursday, Oct. 16, 5:30 p.m., in the Greer Garson Screening Room. For more information call 214-768-1222.

Music at Meadows: SMU Organist and Professor of Harpsichord and Organ, Larry Palmer presents “Scarlatti’s Cat.” During a short program on the Museum’s Oldovini Organ, Palmer will play the 1762 instrument built for the Cathedral of Evora in Portugal. The performance will take place Thursday, Oct. 16, 5:30 p.m., in the Virginia Meadows Galleries. For more information call 214-768-4677.

Museum Evening Lecture: The Meadows Museum hosts “Into the Realm of the Imaginative: The Portraiture of Zuloaga, Goya and El Greco.” The evening lecture will examine portraiture, an artistic genre in which all three artists made great achievements. The event will take place Thursday, Oct. 16 at 6 p.m. in the Bob Smith Auditorium. For more information call 214-768-4677.

Larry Palmer. Professor of Harpsichord and Organ.

Larry Palmer. Professor of Harpsichord and Organ.

Meadows Wind Ensemble: The Meadows Wind Ensemble presents “The French Connection.” Featuring a menu of works by composers who share a “connection” to France, the program will also honor faculty artist and professor Larry Palmer as he celebrates his 45th year at SMU Meadows. Tickets are $7 for SMU faculty and staff. The event will take place Friday, Oct. 17 at 8 p.m. in Caruth Auditorium. 

SMU Football: SMU Mustangs will play Cincinnati Saturday, Oct. 18, 2:30 p.m., at the Gerald J. Ford Stadium.

Meadows Museum Art Activity: The Meadows Museum hosts “Drawing from the Masters.” Providing an opportunity to explore a variety of drawing techniques, guest artist Ian O’Brien will lead participants through the Meadows Museum‘s galleries. Attendance is limited to 20 and offered on a first-come, first-serve basis. Drawing materials will be available, but participants are encouraged to bring their own sketchpads and pencils. The activity will take place Sunday, Oct. 19 at 1:30 p.m. in Meadows Museum. For more information, call 214-768-4677.

Michael Ramirez to give 2014 Sammons Lecture Thursday, Oct. 2

Screen shot 2014-09-29 at 4.16.04 PMTwo-time Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist Michael Ramirez will give the 15th annual Rosine Smith Sammons Lecture in Media Ethics. Presented by SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts Division of Journalism, the lecture begins at 8 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 2 in the Bob Hope Theatre. 

Currently a senior editor and editorial cartoonist for Investor’s Business Daily, Ramirez cartoons are eye-catching, provocative and hilarious. Pairing an extensive news knowledge with a captivating drawing style, he consistently creates outstanding cartoons seen worldwide in over 400 newspapers and magazines. Ramirez offers a unique perspective on today’s issues with commentary on everything from the economy and markets to politics and international affairs.

> Ramirez’s cartoons may be seen online at IBD.editorials.com/cartoons 

The Rosine Smith Sammons Lecture Series in Media Ethics is funded by an endowment from the Rosine Foundation Fund of the Communities Foundation of Texas. Named after 1920 SMU journalism graduate Rosine Smith Sammons, the endowment provides permanent resources for the Meadows School of the Arts to present annual lectures focusing on media ethics.

The event is free and open to the public. For more information call 214-768-2787.

Read more from the SMU Meadows News site

September 30, 2014|Calendar Highlights, News|

Research: The speed secrets of super sprinters

The world’s fastest sprinters have unique gait features that account for their ability to achieve fast speeds, according to two new studies from SMU’s Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development.

The new findings indicate that the secret to elite sprinting speeds lies in the distinct limb dynamics sprinters use to elevate ground forces upon foot-ground impact.

“Our new studies show that these elite sprinters don’t use their legs to just bounce off the ground as most other runners do,” said human biomechanics expert Ken Clark, a researcher in the SMU Locomotor Performance Laboratory and lead author on the studies. “The top sprinters have developed a wind-up and delivery mechanism to augment impact forces. Other runners do not do so.”

The new findings address a major performance question that has remained unanswered for more than a decade. Previous studies had established that faster runners attain faster speeds by hitting the ground more forcefully than other runners do in relation to their body weight. However, how faster runners are able to do this was fully unknown. That sparked considerable debate and uncertainty about the best strategies for athletes to enhance ground-force application and speed.

“Elite speed athletes have a running pattern that is distinct,” Clark said. “Our data indicate the fastest sprinters each have identified the same solution for maximizing speed, which strongly implies that when you put the physics and the biology together, there’s only one way to sprint really fast.”

The critical and distinctive gait features identified by the study’s authors occur as the lower limb approaches and impacts the ground, said study co-author and running mechanics expert Peter Weyand, director of the Locomotor Performance Lab.

“We found that the fastest athletes all do the same thing to apply the greater forces needed to attain faster speeds,” Weyand said. “They cock the knee high before driving the foot into the ground, while maintaining a stiff ankle. These actions elevate ground forces by stopping the lower leg abruptly upon impact.”

The new research indicates that the fastest runners decelerate their foot and ankle in just over two-hundredths of a second after initial contact with the ground.

The findings are reported in the Journal of Applied Physiology in the article, “Are running speeds maximized with simple-spring stance mechanics?” It appears online at Physiology.org in advance of appearing in the print journal.

Written by Margaret Allen

> Read the full story at the SMU Research blog

September 18, 2014|Faculty in the News, Research, Year of the Faculty|

SMU breaks ground on Harold Clark Simmons Hall

Harold Clark Simmons Hall at SMU, artist's rendering

An artist’s rendering of Harold Clark Simmons Hall, the second building in SMU’s Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development quad. The University broke ground for the new facility on Friday, Sept. 12, 2014.

SMU broke ground on Friday, Sept. 12, 2014 for the second building in the University’s Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development complex.

Harold Clark Simmons Hall was funded by a gift of $25 million from Annette Caldwell Simmons and Harold C. Simmons in February 2013. The gift will also support three new endowed academic positions. The new facility will be named in honor of the late Mr. Simmons, at Mrs. Simmons’ request.

“This new building will support the growing impact and leadership of the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development. The Simmons School excels in research productivity and innovative programs that have direct application to the critical education needs in our community and beyond,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “The generosity of Harold and Annette Simmons reflects their wisdom and foresight in supporting programs that expand human potential and achievement. We are grateful to them for enabling us to increase student and faculty achievement in the school.”

> Visit the Simmons School online at smu.edu/simmons

Situated along Airline Drive, Harold Clark Simmons Hall will be a three-story, 40,000-square-foot academic building and home to the Budd Center for Involving Communities in Education, the Teacher Development Studio and the Department of Teaching and Learning. The facility also will include classrooms, labs, faculty and administrative offices and conference rooms to meet the expanding program needs of the school. Completion is scheduled for late 2015.

“One dean should not have this much fun,” said David Chard, Leon Simmons Endowed Dean of the Simmons School, noting that in the space of a very short time, he has been privileged to break ground on two buildings made possible by Harold and Annette Simmons.

“Harold C. Simmons Hall represents a generous commitment to the teachers and children of our region,” Chard added. “It will enable the Simmons School to help teachers optimize their impact on children’s education. It will also serve as the hub of our community-based programs, allowing us to expand our understanding of the relationship between schools and the communities they serve.”

In 2007 Harold and Annette Simmons made a historic $20 million gift to SMU, which established endowments for the school and provided funding for the school’s first new building, Annette Caldwell Simmons Hall. The gift created an endowed graduate fellowship fund and an endowed deanship and faculty recruitment fund, both of which honored Mr. Simmons’ parents, who were educators in Golden, Texas. In recognition of their commitment, SMU named the school the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development.

Their combined gifts of $45 million to the school make Harold and Annette Simmons’ commitment among the largest to SMU’s Second Century Campaign, also making them among the most generous donors in SMU’s 100-year history. Previous gifts include the endowment of four President’s Scholars and the creation of the Simmons Distinguished Professorship in Marketing in the Cox School of Business.

“The innovative programs of the Simmons School, including those to be housed in the new Harold Clark Simmons Hall, have the potential to influence the direction of American education,” said Paul Ludden, SMU provost and vice president for academic affairs. “They are also examples of the kind of intellectual capital that SMU is increasingly able to provide for the region and the nation.”

“We were a collection of unrelated programs,” Dean Chard said to Mrs. Simmons. “The seeds you and Harold planted have (allowed the Simmons School to become) a force for change.”

Harold Clark Simmons Hall will serve as home for these Simmons School programs:

  • The Budd Center for Involving Communities in Education focuses on a strategic and holistic approach to fighting poverty by transforming education. It equips school districts and nonprofits as they work together to assess and meet the extraordinary needs of children in poverty. The center builds data-sharing infrastructure, makes previously inaccessible data available, teaches partners to translate data and uses data to develop collaborative and highly targeted plans to accelerate students’ academic success. Its work centers on West Dallas as a model that eventually can be adopted by other urban areas. Endowed in 2014 by Russell and Dorothy Budd ’06, the center is the backbone organization for The School Zone, a West Dallas collaboration of 26 social service agencies and 23 public and private schools.
  • The Teacher Development Studio will occupy three laboratories that are technologically equipped to train students in teaching, instructional design and assessment. These labs offer teachers a place to practice being teachers in low-stakes environments:
  • The Teaching Performance Lab will simulate pre-K–12 classroom environments with computer avatars standing in for students. The avatars play the roles of students in classroom situations, and the teacher interacts through the same technology used in video games.
  • The Assessment Lab offers software programs that allow teachers to create assessments and evaluate student performance. Assessment outcomes will be relayed to the Instructional Design Lab, where teachers can construct the resources they need to connect with their students.
  • The Instructional Design Lab will provide teachers access to state-of-the-art technology as well as conventional materials to develop unit and lesson plans and technology applications to support student learning.

> Read the full story from SMU News

September 16, 2014|News|
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