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Has anyone had their students (high school and beyond) put expositions of math problems/topics/projects on a class blog to be critiqued by other students and revised on-the-fly to provide some interactive feedback and social incentive/synergy?

If so, what are your assessments of the pros and cons of such a project?

(For example, for students at the appropriate level of undergraduate education, an exposition of the Dirac delta function and its applications could be a potentially interesting and rewarding exercise.)

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  • $\begingroup$ At a higher level, long before the Internet: table tops, the Scottish Cafe, and the Polish group of mathematicians en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lwow_School_of_Mathematics. $\endgroup$ – Tom Copeland Mar 4 '15 at 3:09
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    $\begingroup$ Related: I have done in-class activities with similar goals. I share excerpts of students' written solutions (in a "learn to write proofs" course) and we discuss them as a group. Students seem to love this and find it very helpful. Using an online platform (like a blog) for this might keep a better record of the discussion, but I think the in-person back-and-forth style is what the students actually like. $\endgroup$ – Brendan W. Sullivan Mar 4 '15 at 22:53
  • $\begingroup$ Some related thoughts on teaching and learning (and the Cafe) in Reflections of the Polish Masters by Feigenbaum. $\endgroup$ – Tom Copeland Jul 5 '17 at 1:08
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In some of my graduate courses, my professors tried to get a 'post your homework solutions and other thoughts' page going. It didn't work, which is surprising considering we are graduate students massively interested in the topic. Here are my thoughts in no particular order:

Pros:

  • Encourages students to practice mathematical typesetting (latex, etc)
  • Helps students to formulate their thoughts coherently
  • Hopefully encourages students who are interested to delve deeper into the subject with 'extra' work
  • Other students critiques and critiquing help stimulate their own thoughts on the problem

Cons:

  • Many students need to learn to do mathematical typesetting, which can be off-putting at first
  • Might be more time-consuming than working on homework, particularly for students lacking internet at home as they have to work elsewhere
  • Criticism is not prompt. If the assignment is due that evening and only one student is commenting, it isn't particularly useful
  • Need a strong, enthusiastic student base who is at their computer frequently
  • I personally would rather talk to another student in person than via computer
  • Lazy students can just copy other students work (if used for homework), which, in turn, decreases the good students motivation from helping (why should they carry the weight of those who are lazy?)
  • Disinterested students will likely fall behind as they are not willing to put in that extra time
  • The longevity of it being 'on the internet' is negligible in that it seems to me that you are looking for an alternative to a paper project or presentation
  • Many times the webpage format itself is clunky and hard to use

If instituted correctly with good, enthusiastic students, I think it could work. But for an average class, I would aim more at in-class presentation or turned in assignments/projects.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the heads-up on potential pitfalls. $\endgroup$ – Tom Copeland Mar 5 '15 at 0:16
  • $\begingroup$ @TomCopeland No problem. It's not a bad concept, just depends on your students. $\endgroup$ – Chris C Mar 5 '15 at 0:19
  • $\begingroup$ Paper projects don't allow for dynamic computer graphics or interactive demos. The feedback and revision processes are different among oral presentations, paper hardcopy, and blog expositions. The "blogging", as a team, should complement face-to-face interaction, not supplant it, and be focussed on distinct, team-tailored, longer-term projects as a complement to generic class homework. (Longevity is not an issue, in contrast with the Scottish Book). $\endgroup$ – Tom Copeland Mar 5 '15 at 0:51
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    $\begingroup$ The devil is in the implementation much more often than the concept or the students. $\endgroup$ – Tom Copeland Mar 5 '15 at 1:07

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