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> Maths teaching

Taught kendo for the first time

2013-01-20 08:43:00

Ahhh, life :) I've just gone over the last weeks worth of blogposts from when I was still in college, working on getting my teaching degree. On the one hand I love reading about that time, on the other it makes me a bit sad because it's all done and gone. There's that 'mono no aware' again: the beauty of passing/fading. One thing that has never left me though, is the fact that I love to teach. 

That's why I was thrilled when Ton-sensei asked me to teach the beginners group for a part of class. :)

After warming up and doing footwork practice (laps of okuri ashi, lunges and fumikomi), my sempai suited up for kihon and waza practice (suriage-men, ai-men etc) and I took the group of a dozen newbies. Because I hadn't prepared anything beforehand and because Ton-sensei didn't have any specifics he wanted me to teach, I went through the following thought process.

Putting all of that together, I decided to work on ki-ken-tai-ichi: the unity of mind, sword and body during a strike. This builds upon what we've done so far and is something that the group could use in kihon practice with Jeroen. These are the drills I went through with them:

In each of these practices, I first let the group do them a number of times without me saying anything. Five men strikes, twenty haya-suburi, two laps of okuri-ashi, etc. I only observed them, trying to see what everyone is doing. After the initial round, I would provide general feedback without singling anyone out. Then I'd let them repeat the exercise again, doubling the amount of strikes/laps. During this second round I would provide the students with personal feedback.

I'm very glad that the group paid full attention! At no point in time did they start drifting away or were they slacking off which, I hope, was caused by my demeanor and posture: stern and polite, speaking clearly and loudly and giving precise instructions. Once again my strong lungs came in handy, as I was able to address the group as they lined up (no huddle needed) and still being heard over the loud group in bogu

I certainly hope to teach again sometime soon :)


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No honor among peers: plagiarism is uncool

2008-11-19 20:57:00

T-Rex bullied someone into making his homework!

Well, this is certainly ironic... Not half a year ago my profs at college sang praise of the work I was doing and how helpful it was to publish my notes, calculations and papers on the web. This took a turn today when I received an e-mail from my mentor, asking me to remove all of my work from the web.

Apparently there is no honor among peers and there's a bunch of students that decided to be assholes and completely rip off my work. Of course it was never my intention to help people commit fraud at college. I have faith in my peers and counted on fellow students to have the balls to do their own work.

Publishing my schoolwork was always meant to be an inspiration for fellow students, possibly helping them along in their own pursuits. It'd be great if a glance or two at my work had helped them over that little bump they'd run into. I explicitly mention on my site that people shouldn't be dicks and that my work is not meant to be turned in as their own. I warn the readers that any repercussions following plagiarism of my work are their own responsibility and that I won't be held accountable for their assholish behaviour.

Anyway... It's dilemma time! I dislike the thought of hampering my old profs in their daily work. They made me feel at home at HU and they taught me a lot. On the other hand, I believe that removing my work from the web will only amount to fighting symptoms. Students will always share papers among themselves, it's just that mine are more visible. Besides, it's a very real possibility that at least a dozen students have already downloaded every single file I put up on the web, so it's impossible to stamp out any copying from my work.

I explained to my mentor that this high visibility of my work could also work in their advantage. If they'd consider using anti-plagiarism software like Ephorus, all the work turned in by students would be automatically checked against any papers findable through the web including mine.

I'll be honest and admit that having my work up on my site is also in part down to my sense of pride. I'm fscking proud of all the hard work I did last school year and I believe that my papers are also a testimony to my qualities in documentation and education. Call it my portfolio if you will.

I'll mull things over a bit and have another chat with my profs. Let's see if we can find some common ground in this.


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That, as they say, was that

2008-06-23 20:54:00

*sigh* That was it...

Today I had my last two exams of this school year and, barring any mishaps, I won't have to redo them. Meaning that now my college career is officially over... For now. *sniffle* I'll definitely miss it.

Ah... *stretch* I'll be back in a few years; no doubt about that. Now! Off to do some work around the house!


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All my term papers for History 2 (Geschiedenis 2 - Vakgedeelte)

2008-06-19 21:37:00

One of the few second year's courses that I got out of the way in my first year at college is History 2, ie Geschiedenis 2 - Vakgedeelte. I'd planned on leaving the didactical part of the course until the next year.

The workload for this course isn't that high and it mostly depends on the students reading a whole book on the history of mathematics. Starting at the arithmetic of the Egyptians and Babylonians we proceed through India, Arabia, the middle ages and the Renaissance to discover how maths evolved through the ages. Surprisingly most of the really interesting stuff starts around the seventeenth century. -Astoundingly-, over 90% of the maths we know was invented after 1900. o_O



Biography of Euclid

As part of the preparations for our exam, each student was asked to write a two page biography of a famous mathematician. I was assigned Euclid (Euclides in dutch).

This document is available as a .PDF document and can be downloaded here.



Summary of "Math through the ages"

This course relies on a syllabus made by the Hogeschool and the Math through the ages book by Berlinghoff and Gouvea (Amazon.com). Since the book's rather voluminous I reckoned I'd write a summary of the whole thing, with some stuff from the syllabus thrown in.

This document is available as a .PDF document and can be downloaded here.



Assignments 7.3 through 7.6

One of the minor assignments we were given was to work out a few ancient, dutch math assignments. Well, ancient? Sixteenth, seventeenth century like-stuff. It was actually fun to try and decypher the instructions given in the original texts.

This document is available as a .PDF document and can be downloaded here.


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It's great to know one's work is appreciated

2008-06-03 15:05:00

Fuckin' A, man!

As the title of this post says: it's great to know that at least there's -someone- out there who appreciates the work you do :)

Case in point: I've been putting all my college term papers and summaries online and I've been keeping an extensive Wiki with class notes. From time to time a teacher or classmate will suggest that they've had some use for these sites, which is of course quite nice. But last night the aforementioned guidance counselor told me something that made me really happy ^_^

Next year she'll be teaching the second year's General didactics course. Because the course is currently given by one of our somewhat wishy-washy teachers, she was told that she'd have to hunt around and ask people for all the materials. I guess that most of the stuff was never really put to paper. Luckily Lisette knew about my site, found my summary and class notes and was done within a day. Her supervisor was perplexed! :D

So yeah, it's great to know that you're appreciated ^_^


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An exciting week up ahead!

2008-06-01 20:16:00

Little D, having a hard time sleeping. Courtesy of sinfest.net.

Man o man, is this week going to be exciting and busy! ^_^

For starters, tomorrow will be completely jam-packed! I'll start off with a morning at one of the schools I'm interviewing with, to get a taste of their atmosphere. After our very pleasant meeting two weeks ago, we wanted to make sure that I like the school well enough before getting down to real business.

I'll then head off to school, which lasts from 1200 until 2000, mixing three different courses with a small project that we're working on. After that I'll meet up with my ever-so lovely guidance counselor, to have a chat about my progress at school. She's been of great help to me this year and I think we can both be pleased with the progress I've made. :)

Tuesday, thursday and friday will be spent at the office, doing what we always do :) I'm working on a rather important project, which consists mostly of paperwork, to ensure the SOX compliancy of $CLIENT.

Wednesday will be a rather special day... I've taken the full day off from work (man, school is really cutting into my vacation hours!), to tackle no less than three interviews!

In the morning I'll visit a school here in Utrecht. They're pretty big on that New Learning thing and I'm quite interested to see how their school works. My classmate Badegul has told me a little about their school and they seem like a rather interesting lot! They're on the up-and-up when it comes to modern teaching methods.

Around lunch I'll pay a visit to Red Five in Woerden. They're the software developers and hosting company behind most of Ephorus' products. I spoke to Ephorus' director a few weeks ago and he set up a meeting for me at Red Five. Maybe I'll be able to provide some consulting on the side for these guys, while I'm working in education. Who knows? ^_^

Finally, in the late afternoon, I'll have a second job interview at a school in Maarsbergen. They only focus on the VMBO level of high school education, meaning that they're focused on getting kids ready for blue collar jobs and the service industry. Their school seems very nice, insofar that it's a bit small and everyone's acquainted. Also, their school's located in an old monastery in the middle of the woods. How cool is that?!

Finally, finally, next weekend will be Snow's annual summer get-together. This year, the whole company will gather on Texel (one of the islands on the dutch coast) to have some fun in the sun and sand. A whole bunch of them are going skydiving, but I opted to take along my homework and to ride my bike around a little bit.

So! Busybusybusy! But I'm actually feeling quite well under all the stress! ^_^


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Interviewing at regional high schools

2008-05-22 21:49:00

Today I took a few hours off from work, so I could go out for an interview at Oosterlicht College high school. I'd seen on their website that they were looking for math teachers and thought I ought to give it a whirl.

Their school is quite large, with around 1800 students at their main location, but I've heard good stuff about them. Besides, the school's been divided into two virtual departments, meaning that I'll only interact with about half of that number of students. In this case the job I'm shooting for is part of the VMBO track (the bottom of three ranks in the dutch high school system).

I had a nice talk with the section chief and the head of the maths team, which lasted for about 75 minutes. I think they were at least moderately interested in having me on their team and we agreed that I'd come and observe the school in full swing RSN(tm). If, after those few hours, I'd still like to work at the OC, then we'll have our official talk about the terms and such. So far, things are looking good :)

I was also reassured that, as a teacher, I wouldn't have to earn a lot less than what I'm getting right now. In the dutch educational system (primary and high school), personnel is divided into four salary groups: LA, LB, LC and LD. As a high school teacher I'd rank in LB, meaning that I'd start out at 2250 euros a month. However, since most schools are willing to match your current paycheck if you're leaving another field, I'd be making more. This would put me over halfway of the salary playing field in the LB class. In the end, this means that I won't be taking a pay cut, but that there is definitely less space for me to grow in the future.

Anywho... I'm quite excited about my first interview in the educational system! I was a bit anxious before we got started, but I soon felt at ease. It was just like any other interview I'd been too. Just a bit friendlier and for once I wasn't the stronger party :)


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"Banenmarkt", what an afternoon

2008-05-14 21:08:00

Wow, I am -beat-! =_=

The 1.5 hours I spent at the Banenmarkt at college really took it's toll on me :) It was a great gathering and I managed to speak to everyone I wanted to just barely within the time limit.

I dropped off a total of eight resumes, spoke to reps of eleven schools and have a few very good prospects. I also spoke with folks from three other educational organisations and their information was rather valuable as well (such as the perfectly swank Het Utrechts VO in kaart booklet).

A few reps seemed moderately positive about my suggestion of combining a teaching position/internship, with a full-time supporting role at their school. So that's a good sign :)

Right now, while I am still able of forming coherent sentences, I'm making sure I get all their contact info into my address book, so I can't lose it. After that I'm off to bed... I need some sleep...


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"Banenmarkt" at Hogeschool Utrecht

2008-05-14 09:27:00

A blouse, my resume and some calling cards.

An ironed shirt, a stack of resumes and a pouch of calling cards... This can only mean one thing! We're going networking again! ^_^

Today my department in college (hint: the .edu dept) 's holding their annual banenmarkt; call it a "career day" if you will. For about three hours, students will get a chance to talk to reps from all kinds of high schools in our region. The objective, of course, is to get your foot in the door for an internship or a teaching position.

As I mentioned earlier, I'm on the lookout for a real teaching position. I need the experience and I'm anxious to try my hand at a steady teacher's job. So, while I will definitely grasp any internships I can get, I will be on the prowl for fulltime jobs. Or at least to get my name out there.

This is going to be interesting! :)


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Richard Fitzpatrick - "Euclid's elements of geometry"

2008-05-06 21:51:00

One artist's rendition of Euclid

A few weeks ago I wrote about my research on Euclid, the ancient Greek mathematician. Said research wasn't anything noteworthy, just something to form a basis for a biography written for a school assignment.

Back then I also wrote about a man called Richard Fitzpatrick and his remarkable work. You see, Mr Fitzpatrick took a nineteenth century translation of the Elements of geometry by Euclid and reworked into a new book. Each page of this book is split in two: one column with a greek text approaching the greek original and one column with a modern english translation. While the greek text doesn't add much for the budding mathematician, it does add a definite factor of "cool" ^_^

Mr Fitzpatrick's book can be downloaded for free as a PDF, but you can also buy a printed version from Lulu.com. Lulu.com allows you to publish your own books at a very low price, which many academics and aspiring authors put to good use. $27 (including S&H) bought me a beautiful, hard cover book with an accessible translation of Euclid's Elements. The sleek, black cover looks quite nice and the fact that the book is printed on A4 paper makes it very easy to read.

Now... I shot some video while leafing through the book, just to give you an impression. The video came out a bit blurry, but that's what I get for using my compact camera under fluorescent lighting ^_^;

Euclid.mov


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Holy wars, every profession has them

2008-04-30 12:46:00

Whenever two or more parties are convinced that they're on the side of absolute right holy wars pop up. I'm not just talking about the religious conflicts that we see every day, but also professional debates that are verging on religion.

Windows versus Linux versus Mac OS X. Emacs versus Vi versus Pico. Sendmail versus just about any decent email server. Japanese cars versus American cars versus European cars. Ketchup-on-your-steak versus Ketchup-lovers-should-die. Whatever, there's too much to even think of!

The field of education unfortunately is no different. Many people think that they know what's best for today's kids and thus philosophies about teaching vary greatly! For example, in December I wrote about the Het nieuwe leren versus Het oude leren crowds. The first think that the folks over at BON are decrepit relics from a time better forgotten. The latter think that the HNL crowd are nonsensical managers lusting for new and shiny toys. And neither side is willing to give in one inch, or to even concede that the other side has at least -some- merit.

Great.

One of the stories that's been recently snapped up by the BON-folks, is the story of Jan Verhoeven's family and their experiences with De Nieuwste School in Tilburg (The Newest School). While the Verhoevens are actually quite content in their role as chroniclers, the two battling sides grasp any chance to duke it out. The BON-ers ragged on the school on their fora, in their usual fashion. At the same time the DNS-folks grasp at any chance to portray themselves in an overly positive fashion, by grabbing media attention and by spawn camping the relevant Wikipedia pages. So instead of working on a real solution, both sides are just too fscking concerned with their little battles.

Very productive, que no?

Me, I'm just glad that the Verhoevens are alright and that their daughter's happy at her new school after getting out of De Nieuwste School


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It's official: I'm job hunting as a teacher

2008-04-28 18:16:00

As the title suggests: I've officially started hunting for teaching positions for next school year. So far I've found a few very interesting schools that are actually quite close to home!

Let's see how this pans out.

Any of you Snowers reading this: no need to fret yet. I'm NOT running out on you on a moment's notice ;)


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Networking for fun and profit

2008-04-28 13:36:00

Until recently I used to hate networking, the perceived obligation to talk business with people whom I had no interest in. Over the past year or so a realisation has been growing in me though: networking is something that happens automatically, to a certain degree. And you can make the parts that need to happen consciously as fun as they need to be.

Example 1: Like many young folks in IT I hated the idea of networking and actually tried to avoid it. I reckoned that I had no network whatsoever and didn't care about it that much either. However, after eight years of working in IT I realised that I -do- have a network and that it's rather expansive! My friend/colleague Deborah recently nudged me to get onto Linked In and I managed to map out a large part of my network with minor effort. That's 150 names right there, that I can tap into if I ever need help with my job, a technical question, or whatever. In case you're curious, here's my profile.

So yes, everyone has a network. Even you. All the people you have worked with, or for? Network! All the friends you made at that IT conference? Network! And so on...

Example 2: Sometimes you stumble upon stuff that peaks your interest. Case in point, I recently poked around in and wrote a review about Ephorus. The product is Europe's leading anti-plagiarism software and both the teacher and the sysadmin in me got curious as to its workings. I managed to get my hands on a trial account (not normally given to students) and tried it out. I liked it well enough.

Then a few days later followed an e-mail from their directory, asking if I'd like to come in for a talk. We had a great chat this morning, about Ephorus, about my work, about their work and just stuff in general. I had a great time and I even got a few -very- helpful suggestions that could help my career in the near future.

So you see? Networking consists of two things: the stuff you do every single day and just shooting the breeze with people you don't know. The third part, the obligational marketing talks to possible customers, I'll leave to the sales folks ~_^


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All of my term papers for Analysis 1 (Analyse 1 - Didactiek)

2008-04-21 09:28:00

Analysis 1 - Didactics is one of the larger projects that the first year's students have to tackle. There are ten reports to be made, some of them rather largeish. To us the project is known as Analyse 1 - Didactiek - Rekenen is complex. Analysis in this case is the dutch name for what is know in the english speaking world as Calculus.

In short, this course focusses on the learning of arithmetic and math. We'll take close looks at the various algorithms that children need to learn and we'll even try and re-learn calculus ourselves by doing it all in Base-8 (octal). I found this class particularly challenging, mostly due to the pressure of having to hammer out these reports so quickly. All in all I did well though, since I managed to score a 90% at the end of the term :)



Dossieropdracht 1

Students are asked to re-learn arithmetic by doing it all in Base-8, instead of in Base-10. This way we would be forced to study addition, subtraction, multiplication and division like we were twelve year olds again. This was great fun! We also examined multiple methods to do multiplication.

This document is available as a .PDF document and can be downloaded here.



Dossieropdracht 2

All of us are studying to become math teachers in high school, so it's only natural for us to focus on maths for teenagers. However, it is also a very interesting exercise to examine mathematics education in pre- and middle school. Using reports made by CITO called the PPON (Periodieke Peiling Onderwijs Niveau, more information here), we are asked to investigate the level of math knowledge at the end of preschool (K8 in the USA). We are also asked to search for any problem areas that our teenagers may have encountered in their education.

This document is available as a .PDF document and can be downloaded here.



Dossieropdracht 3

One of the (comparatively) recent trends in mathematics education is realistic calculation (realistisch rekenen). The proponents of this method reason that students don't benefit from simply repeating algorithms all day. Instead, they'd like assignments to relate to reality by way of providing a context. That ought to keep students motivated, while also keeping maths "tangible" for them.

For this report, students are asked to investigate the pros and cons of realistic maths.

This document is available as a .PDF document and can be downloaded here.



Dossieropdracht 4

This assignment is kind of similar to the first report: we will be re-learning various methods for division and for determining the square root of a number.

This document is available as a .PDF document and can be downloaded here.



Dossieropdracht 5

Remedial teaching is an important part of education. Not every child will immediately grasp the concepts that you are explaining and some will have a downright hard time understanding the materials. As teachers we will need to understand why students make the mistakes they do and we'll need to know how to address these problems.

For this assignment we'll be talking with kids, after taking a look at some of the mistakes they've made in their calculations. For my report I spoke with a few kids who'd recently done a test on coordinates.

This document is available as a .PDF document and can be downloaded here.



Dossieropdracht 6

Continuing the research into thinking mistakes, the student is given five separate situations to analyse. In each, people have made mistakes in their assumptions or calculations and it's up to the students to find and explain them.

This document is available as a .PDF document and can be downloaded here.



Dossieropdracht 7

The students are asked to do some book research on learning disabilities and disorders that may affect kids in learning mathematics.

This document is available as a .PDF document and can be downloaded here.



Dossieropdracht 8

For this assignment students will treat the high school math education as a black box. We will be comparing the output of pre school with the output of high school to determine the process that takes place -in- high school. As input for our research we will be using the final exams of preschool and the final exams of maths education in the VMBO part of high school.

This document is available as a .PDF document and can be downloaded here.



Dossieropdracht 9

We continue our research of realistic math by researching contexts used to teach about negative numbers. This is one of the notorious subjects in teaching high school maths.

This document is available as a .PDF document and can be downloaded here.



Dossieropdracht 10

For our final report, we are asked to do a didactical analysis (didactische analyse) of the way that fractions, percentages and decimals are taught in high school. This starts off with some book research and ends with us pouring through books for the first three years of maths ed in high school. Nice :)

This document is available as a .PDF document and can be downloaded here.




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All my term papers for Student Care 1 (Project Zorgverbreding)

2008-04-21 09:01:00

In my third semester I only took one class, because I'd fallen behind in my work a little bit. Luckily, the semester's project Student Care (project zorgverbreding) wasn't very complicated.

In this course, students will explore the care for students with learning and personality disorders. ADHD, ADD, Asperger, Tourettes, Anorexia... You name it, we've got it. The assignment for each project team was to pick a number of disorders, each of which was to be studied on an individual basis. Each team member would report on the specifics of his chosen disorder, including information such as:

My chosen disorders (I accidentally picked two, instead of one) were anxiety (angststoornis) and mood disorders (stemmingstoornis, depression et al). Below you'll find my big report on the subject, two summary sheets and a flyer.



Individueel verslag

Each of the team's members was to compile a document on his chosen disorder. Mine covers anxieties and mood disorders.

This document is available as a .PDF document and can be downloaded here.



Informational flyer

The docent offered extra credit to each team for making additional, informational products. I took the time to create flyers for each of our disorders, based on the reports everyone'd written. My flyer is a compilation of the two summary sheets below.

This document is available as a .PDF document and can be downloaded here.



Summaries

In the course of our project, we were to hold a small presentation for other project teams. As a basis for this presentation, each group member wrote a summary of his materials.

These documents are available as a .PDF document and can be downloaded here and here.



Mind maps

In order to keep my research for this project organised, I've worked with so-called mind maps.

These mind maps are available as .PNG files and can be downloaded here and here.


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Researching ancient mathematics

2008-04-20 14:16:00

Part of the 1482 print of Euclid's work.

This semester I'm taking the second year's course Geschiedenis 2 Vakgedeelte, which can be translated as History of math 2. Over the next two months we'll be taking a look at math through the ages, starting with the Egyptians and Babylonians.

As part of this course, each student is expected to write a short biography on one of the Great Mathematicians (tm). I was assigned Euclid (Euclides in dutch), which seems to be a very interesting topic. So far I've done some six hours of research and I've gotten a pretty good picture so far.

During my research I've run into some very cool things! Things that may be of interest to a lot of people :)

For instance, there's Rare Book Room.org. This website has gathered thousands and thousands of photographs of antique books. They've created a huge archive, so that mere mortals such as you and I can leaf through tomes that are normally in musea.

A 1482 print of Elements, by Euclid.

A 1613 print of Istoria e Dimostrazioni Intorno Alle Macchie Solar, by Galileo Galilei.

Another neat project is Euclid's elements of geometry by Richard Fitzpatrick. Mr Fitzpatrick has taken the 1883 Heiberg translation and used it to make a completely fresh english translation of Elements (Euclid's most famous work). You can download the book for free as a .PDF at the link provided, or you can fork over $28 to buy the hardcover print from Lulu.com. I'd say the print is definitely worth it! I've just ordered my copy, to support Mr Fitzpatrick's work.


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Ephorus, anti-plagiarism software for teachers

2008-04-13 18:30:00

Recently, we were discussing a few anti-plagiarism measures over at the Scholieren.com forums. Plagiarism of course being a rather stupid and bad thing to do if you want any form of education.

One of the checks so far is to just take any suspect sentences and plonk them into Google. This actually works miraculously well, seeing how Google indexes the hell out of half the Internet. The only downside to this approach is that you really only ought to apply it to suspected plagiarism, because you really can't copy and paste a whole document into Google's search bar.

To make things easier, some people have tried their hand at making a Google frontend, but with little success. So we'll have to turn to commercial companies who have their proprietary front ends and search methods.

Enter Ephorus, stage left.

Ephorus anti-plagiarism

On their website, Ephorus boast about their services like any good marketeer would. The emphasis in the following is mine.

Never search for plagiarism yourself again? An end to all irritations and qualitatively better papers? No problem. With Ephorus, you can prevent plagiarism with no extra effort. Moreover, with this anti-plagiarism market leader, you will be assured of the best service and the lowest prices. With Ephorus, teaching will be fun again!

Not only teachers and students benefit from Ephorus. Examination boards also see an improvement in the quality of papers. And since teachers no longer lose precious time investigating possible plagiarism, more time can be devoted to education.

Alright, sounds like a sales pitch, right? :) You'll notice that I bolded out two fragments that are rather important: they make it sound like Ephorus is the end-all-be-all solution to spot plagiarism. Sadly, this is simply not true. I'll explain this in a little detail shortly, but the gist of it is that Ephorus only checks materials they have access to through the Internet (eg Google search) and from their own database.

Ironically, their best source of original texts and information are their own clients. By submitting a document for verification, the customer allows Ephorus to keep said document in their database for future reference. This is also why recently students have been clamouring about copyrights on their documents. While teachers and schools are made aware of the fact that documents will be stored indefinitely, students are never told such a thing. The only thing they see is an upload form that asks for their details. No warnings, no disclaimers, no nothing. I guess Ephorus leaves that up to their customers.

The legalities behind all this are debatable. There's such a thing as fair use for academic purposes, but one could reason that Ephorus' goals are not purely academic.

Toying with Ephorus: a cursory glance

My initial impressions of Ephorus were good! The interface looks clean, well designed and calm. There's nothing there to confuse you and it's a good example of form following function. The interfaces is divided into a few sections:

You will find screenshots of most parts of Ephorus at the bottom of this page.

So far I've found a few small nags with the Ephorus online interface.

All in all I'm well pleased with the Ephorus interface. It's user friendly enough and is pleasing to the eye.

Testing Ephorus on some real documents

Of course, what would a software review be without putting it through its paces?

I've selected a few documents from my own schoolwork and a few other sources and I've submitted them to Ephorus. These documents are:

Analysis 1, DO10 One of my original works and never before published on the Internet.
Statistics 1, DO5 One of my original works and available on my website since last year.
Border-line op school A document written by one of my project team members at school. Never before published on the Internet. Also, at least 40% of the text was copied straight from books.
Pride and prejudice Well, we all know this book, right? The classic by Jane Austen which has been freely available on the Internet for years.

The first document came out as expected and only slight traces of "plagiarism" were found. It scored a 3%, 2% of which was accredited to other documents that I'd written. Ephorus has marked parts of my cover page and my student information as being straight copies, which isn't remarkable. The final 1% came from the fact that I had literally quoted one paragraph (properly cited by the way) from a book.

By turning up the strictness a notch, another 2% were added to my score. Apparently the words Maar dat was niet het doel van were found on two separate pages on the Internet.

The second document I'd submitted came out as expected as well: 96%. Of course, I'd expected a 100%, because the file itself has been on my website for over half a year now. So that's a bit odd. What's even stranger is that the cover page and information that was picked up for the first document wasn't flagged at all this time.

Disturbingly, my group member's document scored a measly 3%, in spite of his liberal copying. This can only be accredited to the fact that Ephorus cannot and does not search through books. Ephorus only relies on digital resources that it has free access to.

Finally, Jane Austen's Pride and prejudice was properly picked up at 98%. It would've been scary if Ephorus'd missed out on this ^_^

Personally, I think that the look and feel of the reports are just right. They could've been much prettier, or take the original document's formatting into account, but I reckon that would detract from its purpose. The reports offer just what a professor would need:

Fiddling with the strictness controls shows me that it modifies the amount of words that do NOT have to be similar in one sentence. By setting the level to "strict", Ephorus will also point out any lines that share a number of words (but not all of them) with another source.

In conclusion

Earlier, I promised to tell you why Ephorus isn't the end-all-be-all solution to plagiarism. And it's not something that only applies to Ephorus, but something that goes for all of its competitors as well.

This software does not search books, magazines, research papers and other published print.

Case in point: my classmates document came through fine. This means that teachers will always need to be on the lookout for plagiarism anyway. Ephorus and its ilk are just a first barrier that documents need to get through. And it's in that respect that I quite like Ephorus.

I'm glad that the Ephorus team gave me the chance to try out their software. I'm convinced that it makes a nice addition to the teacher's toolbox, even if it doesn't save him much work.

Screenshots

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The Ephorus name and logo are of course copyright of Ephorus. All my screenshots were taken using the demo version of their website.


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Aw yea! More results for school

2008-04-10 15:03:00

As I wrote in one of the comments I got a 90% for our project about students with learning and personality disorders. That was awesome.

Well, today got even more awesome, because I just got my -second- 90%! /o/

Analysis 1 - Didactics (about the teaching of basic math) consisted of ten separate reports. They came back as five 90%'s, three 80%'s and two 70%'s.

I'm grinning from ear to ear here :D


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Oral defense of this semester's project

2008-04-09 11:05:00

Last monday my project team had its appointment for our oral defense of our essays. This was the first time we've had to do such a thing, since most docent's are happy just reading through our papers. In this case however, the teacher wanted to prod our minds a little about some additional questions.

We came well prepared, as each of us had researched the questions we'd been given. In my case, the teach wanted to know about two things:

1. How would you go about planning a big workload for a depressed child, say for example his final exams?

2. What needs to be done if a depressed child becomes the victim of harassment by his peers?

Our defense went very well, with each of us answering all the questions to the teach's satisfaction. We actually had a good time and there was no stress at all :) In the end we were told that we could count on a 90%, assuming he didn't find any flaws in our final process reports. Nice!

I have to say that the docent did come off quite wishy-washy. We'd told him that our fifth group member had quit school no less than three times and he was still surprised when there was noone to answer the questions about the guy's report in depth. Uhm yeah, we told you? He left? Which also explains why he was about to completely skip my part of the interview, since he thought I was the guy who left. Scatterbrained much? :/ Jeez!...


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Tips for Microsoft Office

2008-03-07 00:03:00

Generating a table of contents

A few of my classmates have asked me questions about creating a table of contents in their Word documents. Most of my classmates appear to be creating their TOCs manually, by copying each chapter's title and adding a page number after it. Of course this manual process is prone to errors and it also takes up a lot of time. Every time that you make a change to the layout of your document, you'll have to completely redo the TOC.

Luckily, MS Word (and most other word processors) are capable of automatically generating a TOC for you! The clip below shows you how to do it.

The clip weighs in at 29MB, so it will take a little while to load.

TableContentsHOWTO.mov

Inserting pictures into your document

Another thing my classmates have asked me about, is how to insert pictures into their documents. The following clip (about 26MB) will show you the whole process.

WordPicturesHOWTO.mov


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A summary of "Identiteitsontwikkeling en leerlingbegeleiding"

2008-02-16 21:05:00

As I've said, one of the killer first year's courses is Kijk op leerlingen en leren. Aside from a number of term papers and research that need to be done, there's also a big exam.

This exam presents the students with a number of cases that they need to assess using the experience they've gained throughout the course. During the exam, students are allowed to refer to the course book, Identiteitsontwikkeling en leerlingbegeleiding by van der Wal, de Mooij and de Wilde.

Below, you'll find my summary of four of the book's chapters. I didn't have time to tackle the chapter on the development of intelligence.

My summary is compiled as a 50+ .PDF document. You can download my summary here.


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All my term papers on Student Identity Development

2008-02-16 20:52:00

One of the killer courses in the first year of the teachers education at Hogeschool Utrecht is Kijk op leerlingen en leren. This course has a twofold focus and is tested in three seperate ways. The two main subjects of this course are identity development in students and a new approach to teaching known as The New Learning (Het Nieuwe Leren).

Testing is done as follows:

  1. An exam on identity development in teens.
  2. Five term papers on identity development.
  3. A group project on Het Nieuwe Leren, with a bunch of papers as output.

To help prepare for the test, I've written a summary of the book that we used in class. The book in question is Identiteitsontwikkeling en leerlingbegeleiding by van der Wal, de Mooij and de Wilde. Here's the summary.

The page you're currently browsing features all of my term papers on identity development and all of the papers I wrote for the group project.



Dossier opdracht 1

As an introduction to this course all students are asked to look back at their own teenage years. They're asked to speak candidly about their days in high school, their sexual development and their identity as a teenager.

Since this document contains a lot of stuff that hits a bit too close to home, I won't be putting it up on my website.



Dossier opdracht 2

This paper contains a few assignments about chapter 2 from the course book. The chapter covers basic identity development, including the various influences that work on a teenager.

This document is available as a .PDF document and can be downloaded here.



Dossier opdracht 3

This paper contains a few assignments about chapter 3 from the course book. The chapter covers the development of intelligence and learning processes.

I haven't done this one yet ^_^



Dossier opdracht 4

This paper contains a few assignments about chapter 4 from the course book. The chapter covers the sexual identity of teenagers and how they cope with the changes their body and mind go through.

This document is available as a .PDF document and can be downloaded here.



Dossier opdracht 5

This paper contains a few assignments about chapter 5 from the course book. This chapter covers student guidance and counseling. It explains what to do with students who have learning problems, or various disabilities.

This document is available as a .PDF document and can be downloaded here.


Group project on The New Learning

The second, huge part of this project involved research into The New Learning, or Het Nieuwe Leren as it is known in the Netherlands. These "new" (or actually "reinvented") teaching methods have led to a lot of changes to the dutch educational system and as you can imagine it has led to a lot of fighting as well.

Our group of four was asked to investigate various parts of Het Nieuwe Leren, including the didactical and historical backgrounds. We produced a number of documents, but you'll only find my own documents on this site.

The following documents are available for download:


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I taught my first class today

2008-02-07 15:50:00

The Cals College in IJsselstein

Oh. My. God. I was so nervous this morning, it's unbelievable!

This morning I headed over to the Cals College in IJsselstein, to teach a class for the first time ever-ever. Before that, I had an appointment with the school's student care coordinator, to discuss another school assignment. Fifteen minutes before my class, I was in pretty bad shape though. Crampy stomach, cold and clammy: also known as "nervous".

The same went for the first two minutes of my teaching: I had a shaky voice and kept losing track of my story. After that though, things were fine :)

The students in my classroom were nothing short of awesome. Just like my classmate had predicted, they were very kind ^_^ They were very attentive and they were fast on the uptake. They all managed to finish the whole stencil of assignments, with only a few making minor mistakes. I couldn't have wished for a better class.

<dutch>

Klas 1DLW, heel erg bedankt voor vandaag! Ik ben heel erg blij met hoe het is gegaan en had geen betere klas kunnen vragen voor mijn eerste les. Heel veel succes nog met school en misschien tot ziens :)

</dutch>

One point of important feedback that Gineke gave me: at this level of education, the questions I ask to verify the students' learning process are too open. Instead of asking if everyone gets it, I should ask more closed questions to see if people give the correct answers. Were this VWO instead of VMO (uni-prep as opposed to vocational school), -then- I could've asked open questions.

Of course, there was more feedback, but I'll put that in my report for school. This will be published in the School section in a few days.

Here's a snippet from the videotape I made for my portfolio.

NegGetal.mov


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A sneak peek into my class

2008-02-05 22:36:00

Here's a little taster of the stuff I'll be using in Thursday's math class. I'll be introducing the kids in a VMBO-BL class to the notion of negative numbers, which can be quite a challenge. I mean, how the heck do you explain to a twelve year old that there's something smaller than zero?

Of course, people will immediately point out things like temperatures, debt and years B.C. Thing is, those are only examples of negative numbers and they don't explain how or why. They just show that it's possible, but a child may not instinctively understand how these figures work.

So, this should prove to be interesting! The picture shown above is part of a stencil I'm putting together for the students. It's part of the first assignment they'll be making, pointing out the height at which various objects reside. I'm very curious about how it'll work out :)


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Our kids don't need to learn fractions

2008-02-02 08:41:00

Or apparently that's what prof. DeTurck of Penssylvania-U thinks.

DeTurck does not want to abolish the teaching of fractions and long division altogether. He believes fractions are important for high-level mathematics and scientific research. But it could be that the study of fractions should be delayed until it can be understood, perhaps after a student learns calculus, he said. Long division has its uses, too, but maybe it doesn't need to be taught as intensely.

From:

USA Today

and

Good math, bad math

Of course, like many others I believe this notion to be nuts. Decimals have no meaning unless you know what fractions are. It'll be like handing a bunch of powertools to a carpenters apprentice and asking him to build a house. Oh, you don't need to know what everything does, just get to work...

As a future maths teacher I'm scared by this idea. And it's not just limited to the US. A dutch prof by the name of Kees Hoogland shares DeTurck's opinion that kids should be learning less longhand maths and should instead be focusing on using the calculator. Why? Because they'd be stupid not to use the modern materials at their disposal. *sigh*

I've started a forum discussion about this, over at Ars. Obviously, it's gotten some pissed off responses ^_^

EDIT:

In response to my thread over at Ars, GwT has started a new thread asking how important math is in general.


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It's finally going to happen!

2008-01-30 18:05:00

Well, it's finally going to happen! I've been putting this off for a long while, but Marli kicked me hard enough to get over it.

I'm going to teach a class.

The very thought still makes my stomach do somersaults, it's silly really. This is exactly what I'm studying for, so I ought to be longing for this moment! Of course, I realize that stage freight is something completely natural, but to be putting it off for months on end is just stupid. But now it's going to happen! In part because Marli got me out of my rut and in part because I'll fail my VAKDID2 class if I don't D:

My classmate Gineke is giving me a huge break, but letting me teach this class to one of her first year's groups. She tells me their absolute sweethearts, so I really have nothing to worry about.

In a week's time (OMG!DEADLINE!) I'll be introducing a group of first year's students to the concept of negative numbers. On the one hand this deadline's great, since it's putting some real pressure on me. On the other it's a bit scary, because I really have to push myself hard to make it.

I'm going to teach a class.

My very first time, in front of a room filled with youngsters that -aren't- there to listen to me talk about anime or Japan. My very first time, trying to educate the young. My very first time, making my career switch more real than it ever was! This is why I've been working my ass off the past few months. I need to remember to enjoy the experience and not just try to be perfect.

I'm going to teach a class.

Oh my!..


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Closing the second semester

2008-01-23 10:14:00

So, the second semester has come and gone.

I've taken the only test on my list and I think it went fairly well. Unfortunately I'm well behind on my reports, meaning that I'll had to finish two courses next semester. Because of that, I've chosen to only follow one new course, which should give me enough free time to tie off any loose ends.

Luckily I've gotten some of my drive and energy back, so I'm motivated to keep going. Also, my EVE trial account will run out in a few days, so I'll be safe from that distraction as well. I -will- be getting a full account some day though. It really is an awesome game.


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Speaking of educators...

2007-12-11 20:17:00

As you can imagine, this whole deal about the New Learning has the whole country in uproar. Teachers, educators, students, parents, scientists, educationists and simple bystanders: everyone has an opinion, well-informed or otherwise.

And of course, as things go with conflict, most of the people are only willing to see things black or white. "You're with us, or against us!" Stuff like that. To aid each party in their cause, public fora have appeared on the Internet: the opponents seem to gather at Beter Onderwijs Nederland, while the proponents assemble at Natuurlijk Leren.

So far I haven't joined any discussions at the latter, opting instead to visit the BON site. This is in part due to the fact that I like their website design a lot better (it's more transparent). BON's opponents typecast them as grouchy, old men who are completely stuck in their ways and who disparage any ideas that are not their own. And unfortunately they're not doing much to break down those stereotypes.

So far the questions and opinions I have voiced (which partially contradict their own) have been met with derision and hidden insults. Which is a shame, because I think there's a lot to learn from healthy discussions. I'm still studying to become a teacher, so I'll grasp any straw that may include some new information.

Of course, I have no desire whatsoever to have my ambitions quashed by snide remarks. I'll try and maintain a level head in my forum discussions. Developing a thicker skin may actually help protect me from students later on. ^_^ Of course, if things keep going like they are I'll just leave BON again. Practicing my debating skills is one thing, letting people sap at my enthusiasm is something else entirely.


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A day off? Schoolwork it is!

2007-12-11 20:05:00

I'd taken the day off from work today, in order to work on a school project. This project has each group looking into the so-called New Learning (which really isn't new, but just different), in hopes that we learn something about recent education reforms.

You see, over the past few years the Netherlands have seen quite a few changes to their educational system. One of the big-ass ones, is the move from class-based education, towards a more individual approach. If you're interested, we're discussing the matter over here, at Ars Technica.

Among other tasks, each group member is expected to pay a visit to a New Learning school. I decided to be a little off-beat and opted for a democratic school (which are actually quite rare in the NL): De Kampanje.

The talk I had with one of their staff members was rather educational. I will probably never see eye to eye with them on schooling, but it -is- always interesting to hear new ideas. Such talks allow me to take a step back and take another look at the work I'm doing myself.

De Kampanje bases most of their work on steps that have already been taken by the Sudbury Valley School in the US. Most of their ideas really are quite daring and I'm sure that 95% of today's educators would be infuriated even thinking of them.

For now I will refrain from fully forming an opinion on their methods. I still have to write an objective paper in the issue ~_^


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My strategy for this semester and the next

2007-12-08 12:21:00

I'm going to have to fit in various "unwieldy" tasks, that will not fit properly into my normal agenda. Among others, I'm expected to make multiple visits to schools: to talk to students, to teach classes, etc. Given my normal day job this is simply impossible. I've also fallen slightly behind in a few areas, so I'm going to have to shuffle things around to make it all work.

This semester:

* I have to finish last semester's General didactics, or I'm going to fail it completely. That would mean I'd have to completely redo the course next year.

* I've already dropped the maths part of Analysis 1 in order to make room for other stuff.

* I'm going to postpone my work for SLB and WER, after conferring with my teacher. She understood my need to make room in my schedule.

* I will finish both Kijk op leerlingen and Analysis 1 - Didactics on time.

Next semester:

* I'll drop the second year's Counseling and mentoring project, so I can take it next year. That ought to free up enough time to finish this semester's SLB and WER and to tie up any loose ends.


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That's one big feather up my ass!

2007-12-03 22:07:00

Awesome! One of my teacher just gave me a big-ass compliment!

In the first three weeks of the Analysis 1 Didactics course, I'd turned in my first four reports. So far Theo's graded three of them, giving each a 90%.

Today he came up to me to tell me that he thought my work was extraordinary, because of all the extra research I put in. He also wanted to know whether I'd allow him to distribute my reports among his colleagues. He thought they'd be useful, to set an example of what they'd expect of their students.

Hot diggity! ^_^;;


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A different kind of hacking

2007-11-25 22:40:00

You know? This whole college deal, burning the midnight oil over homework, feels like hacking to me. It gives me the same feeling I had during my internships or during late-night projects at the office. A feeling that I'm completely into what I do and that I want to keep on going.

Case in point: tonight I'm working on a report for Analysis 1 - Didactics, scratching away at my whiteboard. And of course I turn to the music I always play at times like these.

If you're curious, the song's Funky doll from the original Bubblegum Crisis soundtrack.

It's awfully eighties, but there's something I just love about that song. Of course, I'm also glad there was no video camera there to register my gay-ass dancing at the board. There's just something weird about a geek dancing, while working ^_^;


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Yay, for more results

2007-11-19 23:29:00

Yay for more test results :)

Remember that one report that had me worried so much? Well, it came back a 70% so it wasn't all bad :)

Also, that one test I was waiting for (on General didactics) came back a whopping 80%! Awesome!


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Ouch, Analysis-1 is going to be a toughy

2007-11-17 11:55:00

Careful now, this may sting a little... o_O

This semester we're covering Analysis 1, which requires a wholly new way of thinking. Where Statistics 1 was pure maths and calculation, this course requires something additional: insight and a sense of logic.

The thing about this course is that it's all about proving maths. Not using maths to prove stuff, but proving the mathematic equations themselves.

Folks who aren't too hot on math may want to skip the next section :D

==========

For example, the calculation show is above belongs to the question "Prove or disprove that (k^2 -1) is divisible by eight, for all values of K that are integers and odd". "Odd" in this case is opposed to "even".

So, how do you even get started on such a question?! Well, you start filing in bits and pieces, starting out by equating k to (2n + 1). Why? Because one can make -any- odd number by taking integer n, multiplying it by 2 (thus becoming an even number) and then adding 1.

Once all of that is done we're left with 4(n^2 + n). In order for the original theory to be right, this'd mean that any value of (n^2 + n) needs to be even. And that's what I'm testing in the second and third lines: first for even numbers, then for odd numbers. And indeed, both tests come out positive: any value for n will result in an even number.

Pulling this back to the original theory means that any outcome is indeed divisible by eight, because four times any even number is always divisible by eight.

==========

Joy!... I've always sucked at being insightful, so a lot of these "tricks" don't come natural to me. Then again, I used to get good grades for math and even for stuff like this. I ought to be able to get the hang of it again.

I hope ^_^;;


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How do you make grownups re-learn basic maths?

2007-11-15 13:20:00

This semester, the didactics course that's part of Analysis 1 focuses on the teaching of basic maths to children. What kind of troubles do they run into? What are common mistakes they make? How does learning maths even work?!

Of course it's a bit hard for a bunch of grownups to sympathize with the issues kids run into. Adults have been calculating things in their heads for decades and everything's become an autoamtic process.

8 + 5? The answer "13" automatically pops up in my head. No need to even think about it. 2 x 20? Boom! "40".

So how do you make adults relive their days of learning basic maths?

By making them do maths in base-8, ie octal counting.

Using the classic method known as the Land of Okt (het land van Okt), aspiring teachers are introduced to the problems of learning maths. We're using a book published by APS, though there's also a book dedicated to this specific subject.

I have to say that it's an interesting and somewhat frustrating experience. It feels odd break down addition and multiplication into steps again. Ie: 3 + 9 = 3 + 5 + 4 = 14. Or: 4 x 5 = 2 x 12 = 24. Don't even get me started about fractions :D

Yeah... Good stuff! If you're curious to see some of the assignments we're doing, check the Wiki page for week 1.


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Microsoft Sharepoint: collaborating on documents

2007-11-14 17:17:00

A dutch translation of this page, can be found here, on my Wiki.

During my second semester at Hogeschool Utrecht I got into my first group assignment. The five of us had to work together on a project for Kijk op Leerlingen 1, which is a course focussing on student identity and psychology.

School expects us to store all of our reports and materials on a dedicated Sharepoint site. Now, you know that when multiple people start working on the same documents, that things are going to get messy. So in order to prevent mayhem, I've created a short HOWTO for my project buddies.

Making sure you don't work on the same thing, at the same time.

With software like Sharepoint it's very easy to start mixing up versions of documents. For example, let's say that both Badegul and Arjan have downloaded the file called Foobar.doc. Both of them are making changes to the document on their own computers. First Arjan uploads the new document to Sharepoint. Then Badegul does the same.

Now there's a problem! Because all the work that Arjan has done, has now been overwritten by Badegul's document. All of his work is lost. Of course, it's still stored on his own computer, but that's besides the point.

In order to prevent multiple people from working on the same document, at the same time, here are some simple rules. All of this is explained in the video below.

  1. Never continue working from a document on your computer. Always download a new version from Sharepoint.
  2. Before you start working on the document, use the "checkout" command.
  3. The only one who can make changes to the Sharepoint version of the document, is the one who checked out the file.
  4. After you're done working on the document, upload a new version.
  5. After uploading the new file, "checkin" the file so others can work on it.
  6. If a document is already checked out, DO NOT start working on it! Contact the person who's checked out the document, to see when he/she is done with it.

One of the risks in working this way is that one person can keep a file locked indefinitely. So please, keep an eye out! If you're done working for now, please upload your file and check it in. Don't keep a document checked out, unless you're really working on it.

Click here to open or download the movie.

What if you need to work on the same document together?

If you're in a situation where multiple people need to work on the same document, then things get interesting.

Put one person in charge of the document; this is the person who'll do the checkout and checkin. Now everyone can start working, BUT with one difference. The person in charge has the document itself. All the others only send their -changes- to this person. Thus, they tell the person in charge exactly what needs to be changed and where.

The person in charge then gathers all the changes into the main document and uploads the new version to Sharepoint.


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More test results have come in

2007-11-12 23:38:00

Hooray for more good results!

It's been confirmed that the first result that I got back (see a few days ago) was actually an 8,3! /o/ That's the equivalent of an 83%. Nice!

And the reports I'd turned in for Statistics 1 (all of which can be found over here) were also good for a G (and hence an 8, or 80%). Fsckin' A!


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First exam result is in

2007-11-11 10:00:00

I just checked Osiris (my school's online student administration site) and found my first test result.

Statistics 1 came back a G, which is equivalent to a 7, or a 7,5 if I'm not mistaken. My expectations were spot on :)


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Here I go: my first exams in college

2007-11-05 09:57:00

My calculator, my pens, my reports and my summaries.

So... Exciting day! Today's the first time I'm taking exams for my new college education. Of course I've done all of this before, but that was years ago!

I've got two tests scheduled for today:

* 1200 - 1400 = Statistics 1.

* 1800 - 2000 = Didactics 2.

So yeah, I've got four hours of wasted time in between my tests. I'll use that to go through the summaries some more and to relax a little.

Well, here I go ^_^ Faito!


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All my term papers for Didactics 2 (Vakproject Vakdidactiek 2)

2007-11-02 11:51:00

I assume that it's Hogeschool Utrecht's philosophy to start their students off with basic knowledge that can be applied in practice, followed by years of more advanced information. This methodology has irked quite a few of my classmates, but I really don't mind. I actually quite like it.

One of the more advanced courses (it's a second year's class) is Vakproject Vakdidactiek 2 (General & Maths didactics 2). This course is divided into two separate streams: one covering general didactics for the complete n00bs (like me) and one covering didactics in maths. The first stream is finalised with an exam, while the second stream requires the student to write a full dozen (12!!!) reports.

I have already written summaries on general didactics, which can be found on this page and on this page. The page you're currently browsing features -all- of my term papers for the maths didactics part.



Dossier opdracht 1

At the start of this second year's course we are asked what we believe makes a "good" maths teacher. We are asked to analyse our own strengths and weaknesses, so we can form goals for ourselves.

This document is available as a .PDF document and can be downloaded here.



Dossier opdracht 2

This report is based on BIT-report 1. What's different is that dossier opdracht 2 also contains my description of the lessons I've drawn from the course material.

This document is available as a .PDF document and can be downloaded here.



Dossier opdracht 3

We've already discussed direct instruction on earlier occasions (BIT-report 1). For this assignment, students are expected to design a class plan on the subject of the Pythagoras theorem.

This document is available as a .PDF document and can be downloaded here.



Dossier opdracht 4

After working on dossier opdracht 3, students are asked to review each other's work in pairs. Report 4 contains the feedback that I've given one of my class mates.

This document is available as a .PDF document and can be downloaded here.



Dossier opdracht 5

Term paper 8 requires that I spend some time teaching a class. Unfortunately I haven't been able to do that yet. Hence, there's no paper for you to review.



Dossier opdracht 6

This one's a huge one, weighing in at around thirty pages! We are asked to take an exam that's been handed out in class and turn it inside out. What's wrong with it? What's good about it? How would you grade the paper?

We are also given five tests as they were turned in by students. What did they do right? Where did they go wrong? Can you understand why they made certain mistakes?

This was a very interesting assignment, but IMHO it was just too fscking huge. I sank at least thirty hours into this report.

This document is available as a .PDF document and can be downloaded here.



Dossier opdracht 7

Term paper 7 requires that I spend some time teaching a class. Unfortunately I haven't been able to do that yet. Hence, there's no paper for you to review.



Dossier opdracht 8

Term paper 8 requires that I spend some time teaching a class. Unfortunately I haven't been able to do that yet. Hence, there's no paper for you to review.



Dossier opdracht 9

This assignment focusses on the problems high school students may encounter when using the dutch language. Students are asked to read and analyse a few chapters on this matter.

This document is available as a .PDF document and can be downloaded here.



Dossier opdracht 10

This assignment focusses on the problems high school students may encounter when using the dutch language. The object is to analyse an assignment that would've been used on an exam, to find its flaws and to rewrite it.

This document is available as a .PDF document and can be downloaded here.



Dossier opdracht 11

This assignment focusses on cooperative learning, as pioneered by Dr. Spencer Kagan. It contains a summary of relevant chapters from our course books, as well as a BIT reading report.

This document is available as a .PDF document and can be downloaded here.



Dossier opdracht 12

This assignment focusses on cooperative learning and takes a look at Wiki's as a learning tool.

This document is available as a .PDF document and can be downloaded here.


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All my term papers for Statistics 1 (Statistiek - Vakdidactiek)

2007-11-02 10:30:00

The first year at Hogeschool Utrecht's study Tweedegraads docent wiskunde starts you off with a course in statistics. They could've picked any part of math to start out with, but it was this one :)

The course, Statistics 1, is divided into two classes: one dealing with the actual maths, the other dealing with the didactics involved with teaching statistics. The first class ends with an exam, while the second requires you to hand in a total of eight papers (called dossier opdrachten. This page serves as a portal to all eight of my reports.



Dossier opdracht 1

As their first assignment of the year, students are asked to investigate how statistics are taught in high school. We are asked to focus on the first three years of HS, thus limiting the scale of the job.

Each student picks one specific method and searches through all the books for those three years. Any mention of statistics should get a little footnote, while whole chapters on statistics deserve a thorough analysis. For my report I picked the Getal en ruimte method.

This document is available as a .PDF document and can be downloaded here. Be aware that the file is a whopping 10MB, due to the heavy use of images.



Dossier opdracht 2

In a similar light as the first paper, students are asked to investigate the final terms for statistics. The VMBO have a list with specific subjects from statistics that should be featured in the exams. We are asked to pick one assignment per subject from the method we used for the first paper.

This document is available as a .PDF document and can be downloaded here. Be aware that the file is a whopping 6MB, due to the heavy use of images.



Dossier opdracht 3

One of the many philosophies in teaching is direct instruction (directe instructie). One of the key principles of this philosophy is that one should keep student motivated. Motivated students are willing to accept education and will thus learn more efficiently. For more information on direct instruction, read BIT-report 1 on maths didactics.

In order to grasp students' attention it's good to start a class with a bang. We were asked to write three separate opening sessions (15 minutes each), which can be used in a class on statistics. One of these openings will be presented in class. For a report on these presentations, read my class notes for weeks 3 through 5.

My class openings use the following subjects:

This document is available as a .PDF document and can be downloaded here.



Dossier opdracht 4

After giving the presentation mentioned with dossier opdracht 3, each student is given feedback by his classmates. Feedback is gathered through forms created by the student and through forms handed out by the teacher.

Dossier opdracht 4 gathers all the feedback into one report, for analysis. It's expected that I use this report as a guideline for future learning goals.

This document is available as a .PDF document and can be downloaded here.



Dossier opdracht 5

In teaching statistics, schools often make a grab for software like MS Excel and VU Stat (or SPPS). For this report, students are asked to investigate the capabilities of these tools and to assess their usefulness in teaching statistics.

This document is available as a .PDF document and can be downloaded here.



Dossier opdracht 6

For paper 5 we researched software that runs on the local computer, like Excel and VU Stat. With paper 6 we are asked to research online tools. One may not expect this, but there are a few websites out there that offer schools online learning suites.

This document is available as a .PDF document and can be downloaded here.



Dossier opdracht 7

The students are asked to investigate GWAs. In this case, GWA stands for Geintegreerde Wiskunde Activiteit (Integrated Maths Activity). The idea behind GWAs are that they're supposed to help students discover the place math has in daily life.

GWA assignments pose the student a problem and give no hints as to the required theory. A student is expected to figure things out by himself. He'll need to discover which pieces of theory are required and how he should combine them.

Our investigation quickly glances over the how-and-why of GWAs. One of the most important conclusions of the report are five characteristics that a "good" GWA should have.

This document is available as a .PDF document and can be downloaded here.



Dossier opdracht 8

As you may have read, dossier opdracht 8 gave me quite a bit of trouble.

The students are asked to create a GWA for students in their first, second or third year of high school. My report covers a GWA on electronic payments (electronisch betalen).

This document is available as a series of three .PDF documents. Part 1. Part 2. Part 3.


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W00t! New books have arrived.

2007-10-31 20:22:00

Three new books and a pamphlet

This year's second semester will start in about a week. In preparation for my new courses I've been ordering books left and right. Luckily I already own the most expensive book on the list, so I won't have to get that one.

On the pile on the left you see:

* Identity development and student counseling

* Maths for students between 12 and 16

* Teaching effectively: learning maths

* A pamphlet entitled Don't touch me!

The last two items weren't on the official book list, but I decided to get them anyway. Learning maths because it will make a nice addition to my current library. Don't touch me! because I am very curious how one would handle a situation where kids are harassed by others.

This leaves two syllabi that I should buy at school. After that I'm all set.


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A summary of "Lesgeven en zelfstandig leren"

2007-10-27 14:16:00

In my first year at Hogeschool Utrecht I will follow a few second year's courses, to speed up my studies. One of these second year courses is Project Vakdidactiek, which concerns the didactics behind teaching maths.

As part of this course we are also required to take a test labeled Algemene didactiek (general didactics). This test is based on materials we study in Vakdidactiek, but also on the book Lesgeven en zelfstandig leren, by Geerlings and Van Der Meer.

As part of my preparation for this exam I've composed a summary of the three relevant chapters.

My summary is compiled as a 30+ .PDF document. You can download my summary here.

We are also required to read parts of Leren op school, by C.F. van Parreren. As an aside we have also covered various learning styles as defined by American psychologist Kolb.

This summary is also available as a .PDF document. You can download my summary here.


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A summary of "Statistics 1"

2007-10-14 11:06:00

Statistics seems to be one of the least liked subjects among students taking maths as part of their curriculum. This seems to be the same in both high school and college. I'm not entirely sure why this is, but I've heard a lot of people call the subject matter vague and the rules fuzzy.

The HU must've thought it'd be good to start off with this tough subject, 'cause that's what they dropped on us for the first semester :) STAT1-VAK is one half of the Statistics course, the other half of the course focussing on didactics. STAT1-VAK is closed off with a test of three chapters on statistics, taken from the Moderne Wiskunde books.

This summary focuses on the following chapters from the Moderne Wiskunde books.

You can download the summary as a PDF document.


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Freemind: free mind mapping software for all OSes

2007-10-09 09:45:00

A certain colleague of mine has been trying to get us on the mind mapping band wagon for months now. He uses mind maps to take notes, to organise his project and lord only knows what else. I've held off on mind maps so far, thinking them to be the latest fad in productivity enhancement.

First off, mind maps are graphical representations of a thought, concept or idea that can be quickly cobbled together. They work by associating new words and ideas to the ones already on paper. So for example, if the central idea is "paper" you may get branches like "material", "writing" and "printing", which may also have branches of their own. Mind maps allow you to brainstorm about a lot of ideas and to quickly take notes of the process.

Yesterday in class we created a mind map about cooperative learning (samenwerkend leren). I've recreated the mind map using Freemind and the result can be seen here.



Free mind mapping software

To create the mind map linked above I've used the free and open source tool FreeMind. This software can be used on both Windows, Mac OS X and Linux, which makes it perfectly suitable for students. Of course the price is right too ;)

Because the software is written in Java it takes a while to start up. Once it's up and running it works like a charm and you will not notice any speed issues.

Editing the mind map is very easy. The software distinguishes children and siblings. A child forms a new branch from the currently selected idea. A sibling creates a new branch in parallel to the currently selected idea (a brother, or sister if you will). These two basic functions are performed using either the TAB or the ENTER key, which makes it trivial to quickly type up a big mind map.

Mind maps that you've created can be exported as either graphical files (JPG or PNG), as HTML or as an Open Office file. Those graphical exports are very useful when you want to include your mind map in either a website, or a printed report.

FreeMind offers a lot of additional options that can make for a very snazzy mind map. There's colours and icons aplenty, most of which the average student won't use anyway.

I'm not onboard when it comes to being hyper-enthused about mind maps, but I can now definitely agree that they're very useful.

You can download FreeMind from their SourceForge page.


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Cellphones, blight of any teacher

2007-10-07 13:07:00

I'm researching some high school maths projects online, for Statistics 1. In a few cases some actually useful stuff pops up on YouTube. However, when following a few of the YT links I quickly stumbled upon movie on movie of kids misbehaving in class.

It's not the usual tomfoolery like wisecracking or being allround noisy though. No, it's the constant mucking about with cellphones that gets to me. Snapping pictures of each other and messing around with the video camera, trying to be as silly or cool as possible. It's horrible how distracting those gizmos can be!

If I can find the time I'll try and read some teachers' fora, see what how the pro's handle cellphones in class. If it were up to me I'd build an EMP box and just fry the lot.

Then again, I should also keep in mind that not every class is going to be like this. It's only the silly, annoying kids that pop up on YouTube :)


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A summary of maths didactics

2007-09-26 13:51:00

In my first year at Hogeschool Utrecht I will follow a few second year's courses, to speed up my studies. One of these second year courses is Project Vakdidactiek, which concerns the didactics behind teaching maths.

The final term for this project consists of a dozen reports and assignments, all of which should prove your comprehension of didactics. Materials used in this course include Effectief leren in de les by S. Ebbens e.a. and Wiskundeonderwijs in de basisvorming by APS Publishing.

A few of the assignments require us to make so-called BIT leesverslagen (reading reports). These reports include a summary of the relevant chapters, as well as a chapter covering reflection on the material. On this web page I'll publish the summary sections of these reports. I'll keep the other stuff to myself for now.

Currently, summaries for the following chapters are available.

BIT-report 1

This is part of dossieropdracht 2, which focuses on direct instruction (directe instructie).

You can download the summary as a PDF document.

BIT-report 2

This is part of dossieropdracht 11, which focuses on cooperative learning (samenwerkend leren).

You can download the summary as a PDF document.


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The Monty Hall problem

2007-09-22 11:46:00

My white board, with decision trees.

For one of my school assignments I was asked to write three class openings for the subject of statistics. The object of a class opening is to draw in the students, to capture their attention and to motivate them.

The opening I presented at school involved the McNuggets problem (aka the Frobenius problem). It was well received, though most of my class mates thought it better suitable for a class on analytical math. I tend to agree with them now.

One of the other openings I've designed involves the famous Monty Hall problem. The one that involves a gameshow, three doors, two goats and a car. Ring a bell?

Because this problem is so counter-intuitive it tends to throw a lot of people off. Their gut instinct tells them that the chance of winning a car (after revealing one of the goats) should be 50%. They are unfortunately incorrect.

Before we continue, some of you may enjoy a snippet from the TV show Numb3rs. The character of Charlie Eppes doesn't explain the solution very clearly, but does make a nice job of explaining the problem.

Numb3rs-MontyHall.mov

I tried to come to the proper solution by myself by using a decision tree (boom diagram in dutch). It took me a while, but I got there :) My tree looks a bit different from the one Wikipedia shows (linked above), but that's because I use two trees instead of combining them into one.

Going from left to right:

* The original tree, unconstrained, given that you get two choices.

* The gameshow host takes away one of the goats. He asks you whether you want to switch doors.

* The decision tree, should you stay with the door you chose.

* The decision tree, should you decide to switch doors.

The red X-es show the option taken away by the host. The purple X-es show the option taken away by your own choice.

Yes, it's counter-intuitive, but switching doors after having one goat revealed IMPROVES your chances. Instead of having a 1:3 chance, you now have 2:3! Nice!

And this is why I think this problem would make a nice opener for a high school course on statistics. It stumps the kids, makes them curious and them amazes them :)


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College curricula are -also- mixed bag

2007-09-19 07:35:00

About a week ago I remarked how college books are mixed bag. Some of them seem really good, though others are almost crap.

Well, the whole mixed bag deal also goes for the course curricula themselves apparently. On Monday a big discussion broke out during SLB1 about the courses' contents. Marjan thought there was too little theory, Karin though teaching by examples is great, Wouter though the maths was too easy, Badegul thought the maths were too complicated. And here I was, loving all of college, thinking everything's just right. (transcription)

The points me and Hans tried to make were these:

* College has to cater to the lowest, common denominator. During their first year they have to take a whole bunch of -very- different people and ready them for the following years. You simply can't be very specific in your teachings during the first year.

* Isn't college about going out and finding the answers for yourself? If an assignment uses terms that you don't understand, shouldn't you go investigate? Or at least talk to the docent?

At least it's good to know that I'm not the only one still adjusting to college :D


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Kilalapedia: A wiki for all my class notes

2007-09-18 14:19:00

I've made it a habbit to always take notes during class. All of these notes are taken on my laptop, because copying them from paper to my PC is very inefficient. Luckily, so far noone has object to the presence of my laptop in class.

I thought it'd be useful for both me and my class mates if I put up all these notes on my website. However, since making menu entries for each course would make a big mess, I've decided to put everything in a Wiki.

Please feel free to visit my schoolwork Wiki.


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Basic ICT skills: Powerpoint Presentation And Slidecast

2007-09-18 08:16:00

Every freshman at Hogeschool Utrecht is required to take a class in Basic ICT skills. The class teaches both young and old about the learning infrastructure in place at HU. Classes cover everything from using Powerpoint and Word, to using the online tools Sharepoint and Osiris.

While I fully agree that this course is an important one, I do feel it's a bit wasted on me. I've been in IT for seven years now! ^_^ I've worked with Sharepoint on at least two occasions before and Osiris is really quite simple if you RTFM.

Since the Basic ICT skills class interferes with two of my other classes, I'm trying to get a Get out of jail free! card. I've spoken with my mentor at school and she asked me to do one of the bigger assignments: a Powerpoint presentation introducing myself. Naturally I complied, seeing as how I'll have to give presentations later on in the school year as well. Might as well create the master slides and templates now, right? ;)

And here it is! Sorry 'bout the dutch, all you USAdians...

Click here for the introduction.

EDIT:
Hmm... The text is quite illegible in the clip that's shown on this page. Things are much better if you download the clip and watch it on its own. You can download it from here, by grabbing IntroThomas.mov.


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Course books: they're a mixed bag

2007-09-11 19:33:00

How is it possible for one book to be both highly educational and (IMNSHO) absolutely craptacular at the same time? Case in point: Lesgeven en zelfstandig leren by Geerlings and Van Der Veen.

This course book covers basic didactics of teaching at the high school level. It covers all kinds of interesting subjects and I feel that there's a lot for me to learn.

Unfortunately the book's laced with three things that irk me.

1. To me it seems that the authors often skim over stuff that could be very interesting. Instead of taking an analytical, or academic approach, they fill chapters with examples and stories. There's nothing wrong with examples, but neither is there with pure psychology.

2. The book feels outdated and like it was written by cuddly-fluffy psychologists. The kind who want to pamper kids and feel that they should be let free to explore their youth and possibilities. *cue Care Bear song* Seriously, I'm all for letting kids discover what they can and can't do, but I believe that in the end kids also need structure and hierarchy. Besides, the original print was written in the eighties D:

3. Their writing is atrocious at times. At the beginning of chapter five there's a sentence that runs for a full -ten- lines! It runs a hundred and thirty words in length! What the fsck were they thinking?

And then there's pure genius like this:

In reality, assessing the beginning situation [of a student] is done based on 'experience'. This is a conglomerate of pedagogic-didactical knowledge and intuition.

/me shakes head

/me goes back to studying


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Tips and tricks for Microsoft Sharepoint

2007-09-11 14:42:00

Like many other companies and organizations, Hogeschool Utrecht uses specialized software for to facilitate collaboration between students and faculty. HU makes use of Microsoft Sharepoint, which is a web based toolset. Sharepoint is pretty damn versatile in what it can do for you, though we'll only used the most rudimentary functions.

Unfortunately, all those functions tend to make Sharepoint a little bit unwieldy. Kind of like how MS Office is bloated as well. On this page I'll gather tips and tricks that should make using Sharepoint just little bit easier.

Securing your shared folders

You will be storing a lot of your school work in the Shared Documents folders on Sharepoint. That way teachers and faculty will be able to read and download your work. However, it's only natural that you don't want all of your fellow students to rifle through your stuff. That's why setting access permissions is important.

Here's how you can secure a folder that holds your school work.

  1. Create a new folder. Do this by clicking the arrow on the Create button and selecting New folder.
  2. A new window appears. Enter a name for the new directory and confirm.
  3. The directory has been created!
  4. Hold your mouse over the name of the directory, but don't click. You should see an arrow appear next to the name. Click it.
  5. From the list, select Manage Permissions.
  6. A new window appears. It shows four classes of people who can get access to the directory. To secure the directory you should have the following permissions in place:
    • HVU Medewerkers: Read
    • HVU Studenten: Limited access
    • System Account: Limited access
    • <You>: Full Control
  7. You can change the permissions for one class by clicking on its name. You can then modify the settings in a new screen.
  8. Once all permissions are set as you want, you're done. You won't have to click anything because the permissions are already active.

Copying multiple files at the same time

Sharepoint is great because it lets you access all your files and information through a web browser. Unfortunately this interface sucks when you want to copy a lot of files and directories at the same time. Luckily, there -is- a way to do it easily. The downside is that this requires Windows 2000 (or higher) and Internet Explorer 6 (or higher).

The method we'll use to copy loads of files is called the Explorer View. It allows you to open your Sharepoint directories in Windows Explorer. That's the same piece of software you use to work with files and directories on your PC.

  1. Open your Sharepoint page.
  2. Go into the directory where you want to upload files.
  3. In the menu bar of this folder select Actions -> Open with Windows Explorer, or Open in Explorer View.
  4. A new window will open up that gives you Explorer access to your directory.

If that doesn't work, try it as follows.

  1. Open your Sharepoint page.
  2. Go into the directory where you want to upload files.
  3. In the menu bar of this folder select Settings -> Document Library Settings.
  4. Scroll down until you find the heading Views. Below that header you'll see a link called Explorer View. Click it.
  5. On the next screen, don't change anything. Just click OK.
  6. Wait a moment while Internet Explorer is processing the Explorer View.
  7. Your IE window now contains the Windows Explorer view of your document directory.

You can now drag files from your computer into this view. You can also create new directories much easier. And if you want you can copy a whole directory tree in there!

Attention Mac OS X people!

You -can- use Firefox or Safari to access Sharepoint. However, many of the advanced features will not work, like the MS Office integration. Luckily, most of those features are crap anyway so you won't use them ^_^ Sadly, the Explorer View does -not- work in these browsers, since it requires Internet Explorer 6+. For that feature, you'll need to use Windows. Or just live without the EV.

If you happen to be using Windows inside a Parallels virtual machine, then there's one nasty glitch with the Explorer View. Mac OS X automatically creates hidden files inside each directory, called .DStore. When you're copying a whole directory, these files will cause your copy to fail. It's better to create the directory and then copy all files in it to the Sharepoint directory manually.

Freeing up storage space

Over at the HU each student is assigned 100 MB of storage space for their files on Sharepoint. Once your space runs out you won't be able to add any new stuff. That would be bad, because you'll need to be able to upload new schoolwork. Right?

One tricky part about Sharepoint is that, if you erase a file, it isn't really gone yet. Just like on your PC, Sharepoint keeps your trash in a trashcan that needs to be empty. And unfortunately the size of the trashcan also weighs in against your storage space.

So if you start getting e-mails from Sharepoint, warning you about your space usage, click on the link in the mail. That will take you to your usage report page. On that page you will also find a link to your trashcan. Click it and remove all of the files in the trash. And presto! Your Sharepoint site can breathe again!


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What? I've already got school results and grades?

2007-09-11 12:49:00

A modded screenshot of Osiris

Well, that was a surprise! I was dicking around in Osiris, the online student management toolset at HU. Enrolling in a few classes, signing up for tests and term papers, just generally looking around and exploring.

After clicking the Results button I was greeted with a big list. But how is it possible that I already have grades?! I just started school a week ago!

Then I took a closer look at the dates. Apparently my student number isn't the only thing that carried over to my new college enrollment ^_^


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Slugging through my homework

2007-09-08 19:10:00

Wow, this is a lot of work :)

Yesterday I raced through a large part of my first dossier assignment for Statistics 1. The didactical part of the course, that is. I'm about halfway through that assignment, though what remains will take more effort than what I did yesterday.

How do I know this? Because the second part of that assignment requires that I work through each maths assignment that I picked for my report. And judging by today's progress through the other part of Statistics 1 (the real maths), I'm going to need a long while.

My homework for Monday said that I'd need to study paragraphs 1.0-1.3 and 1.4-1.6. Sounds rather simple right? Well, it looks it too, since each paragraph is only two pages. However, looks can be deceiving since so far I've needed about an hour-and-a-half per paragraph! Ouch!

Talk about underestimating the workload! Tonight's gonna be an all-nighter.

Luckily, productivity blog LifeHacker provided me with something useful today! They posted about the why and how behind power naps. I took one this afternoon before studying and I'll take another one around 20:00.

EDIT:

Meanwhile, the cat's asleep on her pillow. She's actually snoring! That's so cute! <3


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Holy shit! That's a lot of work!

2007-09-04 22:14:00

A screenshot from Schoolhouse 2

Holy crap! I just entered all of my homework and such for the following few weeks. The screenshot to the left is my current ToDo list in Schoolhouse 2. You probably can't see it very clearly, but it boils down to the following.

Due in one week -> Read about five chapters, make all relevant assignments.

Due in two weeks -> Read about six chapters, make all relevant assingments. WRITE FIVE REPORTS!

Crickey!

Now I'm off to bed. For now I'll stick to a regimen where I do schoolwork both before and after my normal, sysadmin work. So there's a bit in the early morning and the rest is between 1900 and 2200.

Like I said earlier today: I've good reason to be nervous!


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What a day! My first day at school

2007-09-04 10:34:00

Satelite view of my school

Wow! I'm feeling exhilarated! This whole going-back-to-school thing rocks ^_^

Yesterday was my first day at Instituut Archimedes, following classes from 12:00 until 21:45. As I mentioned earlier, this semester's roster entails four classes: Statistics 1 (math and didactics), Study Guidance and Math didactics 2. I'm very lucky to have a break between 18:00 and 20:00, giving me time to get started on homework and have some dinner.

The folks at school all seem quite nice. The teachers are cool and usually in their thirties. My classmates range between 21 and 56, though there's one daunting thing about them: over 80% of them are already in education. O_O

So yea, that's a little intimidating. Being one of the few who have no teaching experience whatsoever and who don't currently hold a teaching position. That second part is really important for classes that need me to do project in a teaching environment. Where the heck am I going to find a bunch of thirteen year olds, just to try some teaching methods on them?!

Aside from the exhilaration, there's also nervousness. I'd already mentioned it before, but it's still there. The feeling that I -know- that I can fail at what I'm doing here. The feeling that I'm treading completely new ground. The feeling that I'm getting in over my head. Mind you, I'm still loving it, but that doesn't mean I don't feel the fear :)

About the workload... I was prepared for (and expected) a lot of work. However, it seems that I underestimated things a little. Aside from working 32 hours a week for Snow I will also need to spend about 40 hours per week to earn my ten credits this semester. The basic math: 1 ECT equals about 28 hours of work. Three of my courses are good for hard credits: 10 ECTS in total. So in about seven weeks I'll have to shift 280 hours of work. Ouch! Goodbye social life! :)

Ah well... First, let's see how hard things really are.

In the meantime Marli is a great value to me, giving me loadses of support! The fact that she's so proud of me and has faith in me really means a lot!


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Using Moderne Wiskunde Helpdesk with Mac OS X or Linux

2007-09-04 07:01:00

A lot of students, both high school and college, use the Moderne Wiskunde books to study maths. These books include CD-ROMs that should aid the student in comprehending the new material. The contain various Flash animations per subject, as well as a number of tests and assignments.

Sounds good right? Were it not for the fact that these CD-ROMs only work properly in Windows. I've verified it this morning: while all of the contents are web apps, they are written purely for Windows XP and Internet Explorer.

Not even the combination Windows + Firefox works, since apparently Wolters Noordhoff only use specific IE commands to work with Flash. If there is such a thing. The software wouldn't work in my Firefox, complaining about the Flash version.

As one can expect I also tried to run the CD in Mac OS X. This can be done by inserting the CD and then directing Safari to open $CD/dlo/index.htm. This part of the procedure works as expected, as can be seen from the screenshot above. However, when you attempt to start an animation it all goes to dust. No dice. I just get a blank screen.

Seriously, how hard could it be to re-write a fricking web application to work with non-Windows, non-IE systems? *sigh* I've e-mailed W-N for comments. Let's see if they'll react. Their website also sucks in Safari, clearly written for Windows-folks as well. :(

For now the only way to run this software properly on a Mac is either by installing Bootcamp, Parallels, or VMWare. You can then run Windows in a secured and tucked away place.



Follow-up: W-N answer my question

Updated on the 6th of september, 2007.

I've received an e-mail from the Wolters Noordhoff helpdesk. They inform me that they are aware of the compatibility issues when using anything but Internet Explorer on Windows.

They also inform me that they -are- indeed working on making all their software and websites W3c standards-compliant. However, this process will take a lot of time, since there's just so much code to go through. So unfortunately, for the next few years I guess, we'll be stuck with IE.

One tip they gave me: the first thing they'll start reworking so it fits all the standards are the online study resources. Getal en ruimte makes use of a bunch of online aids and tools and these will be recoded ASAP. These tools can be found at the method's website.



Follow-up 2: W-N publish their new I-Clips

Updated on the 9th of october, 2007.

This year, Wolters-Noordhoff published the latest edition of the Moderne Wiskunde series: version 9. A new feature for this method is the inclusion of additional, online resources called I-Clips. These can be accessed through the W-N site, or through Schoolwise.nl

Ironically, even these new ICT features only work properly on a Windows system. On Mac OS X, in Safari the screen stay mostly empty while Firefox does show me some images, but goes run-away on the processor :(

Naturally I've sent N-W another e-mail about this.


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Well, today's the first day of school!

2007-09-03 07:27:00

Wow! Today's the first day of school and it already feels rather different! I went to bed around 2130, read for an hour, then slept like a brick. And I woke around 0700, instead of the usual 0600 on workdays. This actually feels rather nice! Combine that with yesterday and I'm feeling rather relaxed!

You see, yesterday I was feeling really worked up because I hadn't studied yet, nor done any of my maths revision like I said I would. Too much time had gone into this site's redesign and after that I was just too busy socially. Of course, getting worked up in this case was counter productive: how much could I do in just a few hours?

So instead I decided to follow the sage advice of my wiffums and some of my friends: I relaxed. After taking Marli to work I went back to bed, read a lot, slept a bit and chomped away half a tube of Pringles. So yea, it may have been a "horrible" evening, but IMHO it was "great".

I'm sorry that I had to blow of Peter's invitation for a walk though. He was reaching out to me, but I didn't go. I'll go and visit them this week...


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Tips from Stef Heinsman, our director

2007-08-31 11:40:00

On the 30th of August 2007, Stef Heinsman opened the new academic year at Instituut Archimedes. All freshmen for the tweedegraads docent course attended an introductory meeting, welcoming them to their new school.

Surprisingly, our director/rector Stef Heinsman had some interesting tidbits for the crowd. It wasn't the expected, useless ramble :)

The three most important lessons from his own past:

  1. Always attend lectures and sessions.
  2. Don't postpone your work.
  3. Be stubborn when you can afford it.

By attending lectures you build a solid relationship, both with your teachers and your fellow students. You will also remain emerged into the whole spirit of school and teaching, ensuring your continued enthusiasm.

By not postponing your work, Stef is convinced that you will build confidence in your own competences. By taking the same tests and projects as your fellow students, at the same time, you will realize that they're in the same boat. Things may be hard for you, but there are other people in the exact same situation.

At times you'll be convinced that your own approach to a certain situation is the best one. Don't feel forced to take the teacher's approach and verify your own opinions. Become autonomous, allowing you to do your own work when you need to.

Combining these three factors will help you with your motivation. It's what you're going to need when things get a little rough around the edges.

In conclusion, Stef also asks us to take care of our selves. Don't lose your health, don't burn out and make sure that things are fine at home. Because the people at home are your strongest foundations.

He also suggested that you should teach something that you enjoy. By doing that you'll not only convey knowledge, but also enthusiasm!


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Saving money as a student

2007-08-31 10:29:00

A money tree

Most of us students aren't rich. Part-time students like me timeshare between their job and their education, trying to find a balance. Freshmen straight out of high school usually have it even harder, getting by on crappy jobs instead of a real job. Most of us rely on government grants, or support from family. All in all, we don't have it easy getting by.

Unfortunately, once you've paid your tuition, you're not done yet! There's books, study supplies, software and hardware that you'll need. And all of that stuff costs money as well! Luckily there are some nice ways to get discounts or even free stuff!

Saving on books and syllabi

School books are, in general, pretty damn expensive. One of the maths books I need for my first semester rings in at around forty euros! I'm glad to say that it's possible to get better deals online. The Netherlands' largest, online bookstore Bol.com has gotten into a new market: second hand books.

In their 2eHANDS section they mediate between seller and buyer. People wanting to sell books can open an ad and name their price. Mind you, not all books on 2eHANDS are in pristine condition, some being down-right ragged. Buying books from 2eHANDS couldn't be easier since it uses the normal Bol.com ordering process. You add books to your shopping cart, you proceed to checkout and you pay Bol.com in the preferred manner. You won't have to worry about shipping, or talking to the seller: Bol.com takes care of all that.

I managed to save about seventy euros on an order that would've otherwise cost me almost three hundred euros. Result!

When it comes to syllabi (dictaten in dutch) things will be a little bit harder. These books are usually created, printed and published by the school itself and thus much harder to find. In a lot of cases the syllabi are a waste of paper, since you'll only use them a couple of times.

Thankfully, some syllabi are available digitally and for free! Search your school's Intranet or ask your teachers if they are aware of any digital copies.

Saving on software

As a student you'll be using a lot of different software to get through school. You'll be typing reports, researching new materials, trying to prove theorems, and so on. What a lot of people don't know is that a lot of software can be found very cheaply or even for free.

Saving on Microsoft Office

Most notable among the software you will use are the various Microsoft Office tools, like Word, Excel and Powerpoint. Of course, Microsoft's software is famously expensive! Paying through the nose, just to type up your reports is a bad idea. So here are a few alternatives!

First off, Surfspot.nl offers discounted software to most of the Netherlands' students. This way you can get an official and completely legal license for MS Office at around thirty euros! Absolutely amazing! Aside from Office, Surfspot also offers huge amount of other software, like Photoshop, web design tools and security software. It's really neat!

If you have a hearty dislike for all things Microsoft and want to use an office suite other than MS Office, take a look at the following. Apple's iWork rings in at around eighty euros and is very slick. It may not have all the thousands of features that Office does, but most of us won't even need them. If you're looking for something that's completely free, take a look at Open Office. As I said it's completely free and it's available for most modern operating systems!

If you're looking for a smaller and simpler editor for your reports, take a look at Mellel. This cheap piece of software was originally created for students, authors and researchers, so they could create reports in an orderly fashion. Apparently it's rather easy to use, yet it remains powerful.

Saving on other software

A lot of commercial software has either shareware or free, open source alternatives. Try using Google to search for some software. Or dig around websites like Version Tracker or Apple Downloads.

Saving on hardware

Since I'm of the Mac-persuasion, I'll open with Apple's deals. By shopping at the Apple education store you'll get a 10% discount off all hardware acquisitions. In my opinion the Macbook makes a great companion to any student. Getting a 10% discount makes it even better!

Some colleges and universities have laptop projects, where they strike a deal with a laptop vendor to get stuff on the cheap. For instance, Hogeschool Utrecht takes part in Notebookprojecten.nl. Those guys offer laptops and various peripherals at low prices. For instance, I just noticed an external LaCie hard drive (160gb, bus powered, usb2) for a hundred euros. That's pretty damn good!

So ask around your school, or check its Intranet. Maybe you're lucky as well!

The Money Tree image was borrowed from Thinkquest.org.


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Teaching is popular. Maths even more so.

2007-08-31 07:00:00

Last night was the school year's official opening at Hogeschool Utrecht. Around 17:00 all aspiring tweedegraads teachers gathered in the cafeteria for a speech from the rector. It was interesting to see that the group was both large and varied. I reckon there were about a hundred people there, maybe one-twenty. Aged between twenty and somewhere in their fifties I saw a lot of caucasians, mixed in with a few turks and moroccans.

One startling realization was the fact that almost 50% of the group were there for the same degree I was after: tweedegraads maths teacher. I guess either it's a popular passtime, or people have caught on to the fact that maths teachers are sought after. All in all there's sixty people starting the maths course this year. Wow!

After the whole introduction and a tour of the school building (which we'll be leaving come January, to move to a new one) there were drinks. I finally got the chance to meet some of my fellow students. It's slightly daunting to know that a whole bunch of them are already in education, but I'm not going to let that get in my way :)

So far they seem like a nice bunch of people! There's the strong-and-silent guys, the rowdy drinking-after-playing-footbal guys, the silent-and-mousy women and so on. There was also this one woman (I think she's in her forties though I'm horrible at guessing ages) who's great! She's absolutely bubbling with enthusiasm for the course! Kind of like how I felt after my intake with the coordinator :)

Yes. This is going to be an interesting year!


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How cool is this? I'm still me!

2007-08-30 15:52:00

The letter that confirms my enrollment.

Heheh, this is so sweet. Not a few weeks ago was I wishing out loud that I'd get my old student number back, now that I'm returning to Hogeschool Utrecht

Lo and behold, today I get a letter that's part of my enrollment process. And what does it tell me? That my student number is good ol' 1018808. Sweet! I'm back to being me! ^_^


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Tips and tools: Schoolhouse 2

2007-08-23 21:11:00

Studying is hectic business

As a student, especially as a freshman, things can become very chaotic. You will need to juggle your courses, your projects, your work and your social life. There's teachers and fellow students and there are all kinds of things you need to do.

In order to survive you'll need to keep a clear head and get your act together. Keeping track of all your work and having it all at your fingertips is crucial.

There are all kinds of tools and tricks that will help you get along. There's methodologies like PEP and GTD. And there's online tools like Gmail/Gcalender and MyQuire.

A lot of the modern operating systems also help you out by providing useful features. Mac OS X for example, features software like Spotlight, Time Machine, Address Book and iCal. I'm sure Windows comes with useful stuff too, but I'm just not familiar with that stuff ~_^

Getting organised: Schoolhouse 2

Recently I read an article on Life Hacker (a productivity blog) about Schoolhouse 2. The author lauded Schoolhouse as an innovative piece of software that has great potential.

SH lets you organize all your notes, files, project, tasks and assignments. The interface is quite similar to that of iTunes, so one should get quickly used to it. On the left hand side we can create folders and subfolders to symbolize years, terms and courses. (Smart) notebooks are the analogue of playlists, allowing you to sort assignments irrespective of their course.

Courses can be assigned a number of credits, so you'll know exactly what you're up against. Each course may also contain any number of notes, assignments, labs, midterms, exams, etc. All of these can be assigned grades, so you can track your progress throughout the term. In a nice twist of things, you can also assign each course teachers, project members, attachments and To Do lists.

The interface sports a number of useful buttons, like Ask teacher which automatically opens a new e-mail to your teach. The grade and calendar views are also pretty damn useful.

I've discovered a few downsides to Schoolhouse 2. For one the interface is still far from consistent and knows its instabilities. Also, all your notes and SH objects are stored in a proprietary database. The only exception being your attachments. As far as I know, the database doesn't hook into Spotlight, so you can't search SH from the operating system. Shame.

One of the most clamoured over features for SH is integration with iCal. Apparently the developer is looking into this, but he's only a student himself. Finding time to make a new version of Schoolhouse can be hard :)

Get Schoolhouse 2.

Also, please don't be stingy. Good software deserves a bit of a reward. If you find yourself using Schoolhouse for your daily work, please consider making a donation to Logan Collins. I'm sure he can use the dough for his software development.


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Saving money as a college student

2007-08-22 11:57:00

Recently I discovered that the Netherlands' largest online bookstore Bol deals in secondhand books. Or more precisely: it works as an intermediary between seller and buyer. I guess you could compare it to the Amazon Marketplace.

Study books are notoriously expensive, often ranging between forty and a hundred euros a piece. Of course I wasn't looking forward to paying such a huge sum now that I'm starting college. Lo and behold! Bol's secondhand section listed six out of the eight books I need for the first semester. By buying these books I managed to save seventy euros, bringing the total down to a little over two hundred. Nice!

Another nice way of saving a few bucks is the fact that Hogeschool Utrecht allows spread payment of my fees. This year's college fee is about a thousand euros, give or take a few. Instead of paying this whole sum up front, I can now pay in six terms. Even better, these terms are spread all over the whole year. This means that we can easily save up a little money and still have ample breathing room.


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It'll be a grand year!

2007-08-22 08:58:00

My roster for this school year

There you have it: my school roster for this year. It may be a bit hard to read the first time around, but let me break it down for you.

The table shows all courses for both the first and second years of my study (english math teacher). All course are given on Monday and the appropriate times are shown on the left. The four columns to the right indicate each semester: there's four in a year and most courses are only given once a year.

Due to my prior experience and BCS in electronics I get to skip on approximately 100 - 130 ECTS out of the 240 ECTS required for the whole study. ECTS are the pan-European equivalent of America's credits. Because of that I can manage to squeeze in some of my second year courses in the first year. W00t! /o/

SEMESTER 1:

* Statistiek 1. I'll need to study both the math and the didactics behind statistics and the calculation of changes.

* SLB. This roughly translates as Study career guidance. We'll discuss my progress, the school itself, the materials. It's a bit of a meta-course.

* Vakdidactiek 2. A second year project on didactics and the interaction with students. I'll need to find out whether I can take this in the first semester without any big problems.

SEMESTER 2:

* Analyse 1. I can skip the math behind analytical math (differentials, integrals, logarithms), but I'll need to study the didactics.

* SLB. The same as the first semester.

* WER. Preparing for my internships, later in the year.

* Kijk op leerlingen. A project on the psychology and behaviour of students.

One challenge that I'm going to have to tackle is this. In my first two years I'll have the course WER, which stands for Work, Experience, Reflection. The second-year WER requires me to teach ten consecutive classes, one a week. This would mean that I'd have to convince Snow to allow me to take ten three-day work weeks. Ouch. So far I don't know how or when all of this will take place, but I'd better prepare a good story for Snow :)


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College applications take time

2007-08-16 10:28:00

Damn. I should've seen this coming.

I just phoned the IBG to check up on my college application. The school coordinator'd told me that my application would come through in time, but I decided to check up on it anyway. Nope. No sign of any application or registration yet. Apparently they take three to four weeks to process. Ugh!

Now I'm going to have to make arrangements with school to either study there unregistered, or to do some other red-tape trickery. It'll work itself out, but it still feels a little stressful.


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Math revision

2007-08-14 21:36:00

Seven math books.

Since school starts in about three weeks I thought it was about damn time to start getting prepared! It's one thing to make all arrangements with the school, taking care of paperwork and talking to people. But it's another thing entirely to actually be prepared for the course material!

I graduated from college a little over seven years ago. For about half of my college years I was very busy with maths, learning all kinds of new tricks. All the other time was spent programming, doing web design and learning about Unix. Since my career progressed with the latter half of what I just described, it's only natural for my maths to be a little rusty.

Well, rusty would be an understatement. Consider if you will one of the original, iron nails that Noah had used in his arc. Having been exposed to tremendous amounts of sea water and ages upon ages of time it's sure to be a bit rusty. Now, let's assume that ever since that flood the nail had been exposed to corrosives, acid rain and various other nasties. Not much would be left of it, right? A nasty, little chunk of iron would be all that's left.

Well, that's where my current grasp of maths is.

Thankfully I am confident that I can at least completely revive my high school math skills, considering this blog post. Back in 2005 I prepped Marlijne for an exam that consisted of all my HS maths in only a few hours.

Also thankfully, unlike what I wrote in that blog post, I did -not- throw away my math books! /o/

The picture above shows all of the books that I want to go through before school starts. The bottom row (plus the b/w book at the top left) are all high school books from my final two years. They cover everything from functions and equations, through trigonometry, to differentials and logarithms.

The top row is the stuff I went through in college. It's also the stuff that currently gives me a dread feeling in my stomach because it is way beyond me. They start out by repeating a little bit of HS stuff (differentials, functions), but then quickly move on to limits, logarithms, partial differentials, integrals, multiple variable equations and vectors. Zounds! I won't even mention the two other books that cover Laplace transforms and Fourier strains. Although I doubt whether I'll need to know any of that stuff.

Unfortunately I -have- thrown out all of my syllabi, meaning that I'm out of materials on chance calculation and on matrices. Luckily my friend The Saint is willing to lend me his copies. Apparently his storage space is larger than mine and he's hung onto most of the stuff from our college years ^_^

Well! Here I go! Study study study!


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Big career changes: submitting my enrollment

2007-08-07 07:55:00

An envelope lying on a table.

Well, now there's absolutely no way back: I've sent in my application form for the local college. Hopefully I'll receive more information in a few days time.

I have to say that I rather dislike the application process though. In the Netherlands, there's one big organisation that handles 99% of the college and uni applications: Informatie Beheer Groep. They also take care of all student loans and grants and the resulting debts. As they are a governmental organisation, they allow one to log in using one's national DigID. This DigID is tied to one's social security number and allows one to get a lot of stuff done through the web. Thus one will not have to fill out endless forms, or to wait for hours at city hall.

Theoretically speaking that is. Because for some reason the IB Groep doesn't allow you to any applications online. Oh sure, they've made a very nice web app that'll walk you through the process of filling out the form with all the requisite data. Sure! But once the whole process is done, you're still going to have to print the form, sign it and send it in. :(

I thought we were getting that DigID (which includes SMS verificatin) to sign crap like this?

Anywho: the application is on its way! /o/


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Big career changes: talking to the college

2007-07-11 09:16:00

So far I've talked to the people in the field, the folks I should end up working with. Now, in order to get there I've started talking with the college I'm eyeing.

First off, here's the pages for the two courses that I need to decide between:

* Second degree teacher in English

* Second degree teacher in Math

I've talked to the secretariate of the english course. They told me I'd be able to enroll until the end of August, so that seems fine to me. They also suggested that I e-mail the course's coorinator to pose specific questions and to arrange for an intake meeting. At said meeting we'd discuss my curricilum and how it can be adjusted to fit my prior experience.

So. Off to send an e-mail I am!


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Big career changes: talking to the experts

2007-07-10 23:47:00

I can heartily recommend anyone considering a career switch to go and have a chat with people who work in their aspired field.

I made a little visit to my old high school this morning, to talk to their HR guy. He gave me a lot of valuable tips and suggested that a part-time study would indeed be the best and safest option for me. He indicated that it would be nigh on impossible for me to get a zij-instroom position, due to my lack of experience.

He also suggested that I go have a talk with the CWI (Centrum voor Werk en Inkomen), the part of the dutch government charged with work and job security. He reckoned that I might strike a lucky deal with them, getting a subsidy for hours I didn't spend working for Snow. In order to make time for my education I'd need to cut back on my working hours (and thus my monthly wages) by about 40%. This grant might help cover for at least part of the money I'd miss out on.

Tomorrow I'll also make a phone call with the CO of another high school. His number was given to me by my father's girlfriend who happens to work with the fellow. I'm curious if he has some other useful tips for me :)


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Big career changes: where do we go from here?

2007-07-10 23:34:00

Now that I'd decided to become a teacher, it left me with even more questions (duh). Which subject would I teach? At what kind of school? What kind of education do I need? Where do I study? How will this fit in with my job? Will I even be able to keep my job? OMG, will we be able to pay our mortgage and still have food on the table?! ONOZ!

Stuff like that.

Well... I quickly decided that I'd like to teach english or math at a high school level. I can wax lyrically about both subjects and both fields offer me with loads of new stuff to learn and explore.

So... How do you go from having a completely unrelated job, to being a teacher? Here's how... (mind you, all of this applies to the Netherlands).

You start out with two options:

1. You take up a part-time or full-time college education. (deeltijd or voltijd in dutch).

2. You take up a part-time teaching position and follow additional classes to become a real teacher.

This second option is called zij-instroom in dutch and really is only an option if your ambitions lie in teaching the same field you worked in. So for example, I could get a zij-instroom position teaching Comp Sci at high schools, whereas a biologist could start teaching Biology. Zij-instroom however requires you to have real and provable experience in said field, including the degrees that come with it. You will also need to take an entrance exam because they won't let just everybody start teaching. Should you be accepted for zij-instroom, then you'll get a two-year teaching permit, which is directly connected to a contract between you and the school in question.

Anywho... What with zij-instroom not being an option for my two chosen fields (I have neither a degree, nor work experience in english or math) I have to opt for the longer path. Getting into a full-time education (voltijd) really isn't an option for me anymore: I wouldn't have any income, I'd be bored stiff and I'd be in a class full of eighteen year olds. Which automatically guides me towards a part-time education.

Luckily every college in the Netherlands offers deeltijd educations for professionals looking for a career switch, or an upgrade to their knowledge. The Hogeschool Utrecht offers teachers educations that are actually reputable and it's close to my home as well! Now all that remains is to convince my employer to let me work either three or four days a week. *gulp*


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Big career changes: prelude

2007-07-10 22:25:00

This blog post was made invisible initially. It has now been made available to the Internet at large. Sorry for breaking continuity :D

Back in April, I felt like crap. Then, in June, it came back. Now, with the start of July I've made my decision:

I'm getting out of IT.

That day in June something snapped inside of me and I decided that I could no longer carry on working as a sysadmin. The work no longer motivates me, nor does it offer me some shine of glamour. I know that, while there are still endless, uncharted seas for me to discover, this field no longer holds a challenge for me. I know that whatever I'll need to learn, I'll be able to do so in a few days. Lather, rinse, repeat, until I grow old.

No thank you.

No longer will I be shifting bits and bytes around, being a faceless peon in a huge corporation. No longer will I be burning midnight oil at the altar of Unix.

Instead I will make difference in this world and I will be of use to the general public. I will try to educate this world's children, nudging them into directions they might otherwise ignore.

I have decided to go into education and become a high school teacher.


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