What I Did On My Summer Vacation

I am not quite done with jet lag. I think I’m trying to hang onto being away, it was so delicious.

I love travel. In my other life as a freelance science-and-math educator, I attended conferences and traveled a lot. Now the schedule does not permit it much, so I guard my opportunities carefully. Summer is the big chance.

So: ICOTS. The International Conference On Teaching Statistics. Held every four years. 2010 was in Ljubljana. (Huh? The capital of Slovenia. Oh. You mean Slovakia? No, Slovenia. Just to the right of the top of Italy. Under Austria. Part of the former Yugoslavia. Forests. Mountains. Caves. Castles. Gelato. Tied USA 2-2 in the World Cup even though we maybe shoulda won.)

There is a great deal to say about this conference, but I am both jet-lagged and still daunted by Dan Meyer’s incredibly thoughtful posts about NCTM. But it’s worth some overarching observations:

  • It’s amazingly affirming to present to old and new colleagues and have them like what you’re doing.
  • As anxious as I am about working with kids and getting it right (which is impossible), I am actually good at presenting to adults. I never quite get it right there either, but at least I know that some level of comfort and a feeling of competence is achievable.
  • Maybe it’s the concentrated time, maybe it’s the networking, but I get more new ideas and more questions answered and elaborated in a good conference day than I tend to get out of journal reading. Meeting the designers of some assessment instrument and hearing about the troubles they had is much better than just reading about it.
  • Hearing about progress (especially at four-year intervals) is heartening. We don’t see our kids growing from day to day, or our programs changing. We push every day but can’t see any movement. But talking again to a friend and colleague after four years, you can really see that the boulder has moved.
  • Finally, you get to meet Luminaries. Me, I got to talk at length with Hans Rosling, one of my heroes, who gave the keynote and hung around all day.  Yes, you may touch the hem of my garment.

If you don’t recognize the name Hans Rosling, you can be forgiven, but only briefly unless you watch, for example, his original TED talk (he has given several) or visit gapminder.

The other big take-away is that the idea of teaching inferential stats though resampling methods seems, after so many years, to be in practice. A number of the best and brightest are turning to randomization. The good news: I will not be alone, by any means. The bad: Dang! I had hoped I would be the first!

Author: Tim Erickson

Math-science ed freelancer and sometime math and science teacher. Currently working on various projects.

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