Autumn Quarter @ Stanford

Mathematically, what’s wrong with this schedule? I mean, it trips me up every time I look at it.

So in case you were wondering:

  • CS 106A – Programming Methodology. Mehran Sahami. Introductory Java, basically. My program requires me to do a minor and I’d like to get something under my belt to help me articulate theory to classroom teachers who may not have the means or interest to pick up a journal. Incidentally, everything about this class is available online, even to non-students. [Video. Coursework.]
  • EDUC 200C – Introduction to Statistics in Education. Kenji Hakuta.
  • EDUC 250A – Inquiry and Assessment in Education. Mitchell Stevens, Susanna Loeb. Towards a research proposal.
  • EDUC 325A – Proseminar. John Willinsky, Martin Carnoy. Part one of three classes required of all doctoral candidates. They’re trying to get us up to speed on the entire history of schooling, basically. First-week reading included the LA Times value-added kerfuffle. Next week we’re into Adam Smith and Rousseau.
  • EDUC 329X – Teacher Professional Development. Hilda Borko. What works and doesn’t work in professional development? How do you move a professional development program from “boutique” (where the person who developed the program also facilitates it) to a scalable, sustainable program that is effective for non-volunteers and can be facilitated by anybody?
  • EDUC 465 – Pedagogy of Teacher Education. Pamela Grossman. How do other professions — nurses, rabbis, pilots, etc. — induct new members and what can teacher developers learn from them?

Strays:

  1. Maybe my expectations were soft going in but I love every class. We’re doing three-hour blocks and all of the professors, many of whom are known more for publishing than teaching, know what to do with that time.
  2. I’m also a big fan of my cohort: fifty-ish people, none of whom seem particularly interested in comparing resumes, undergraduate GPAs, Feedburner subscription numbers, that sort of thing, which is great. Everyone seems well aware of what one of the professors said day one, that “we’re all here by accident.”
  3. The iPad is chewing its way through grad school and, with printing fees running ten cents per page, it may well pay for itself before this is over. I’m doing Papers for cataloging PDFs, SimpleNote for notetaking [BTW: SimpleNote scarfed two of my essays, reverting them back to their first saved state. I don’t recommend SimpleNote.], Google Calendar for storing assignments.
  4. If the only outcome of these four or five years is a paper and a few letters after my name, somebody please punch me.

Any advice from those who have been here, any questions from those who haven’t yet, you know where to put them.

About 
I'm Dan and this is my blog. I'm a former high school teacher, former graduate student, and current head of teaching at Desmos. More here.

33 Comments

  1. Jerrid Kruse

    September 27, 2010 - 8:55 am

    Go back and teach a real classroom. Or at least stay connected to one and actually teach (don’t just observe). I completed my PhD coursework and went back and taught 8th grade science for two years while I finished my dissertation. This experience was awesome! I plan to take any sabbaticals I get to teach k-12 students. For god’s sake more professors of education need to climb out of the ivory tower and work with kids!

    That is my main advice. That, and when you get an assignment that is about collecting/analyzing data use some real data related to your research interests. As you practice analyzing/collecting data, might as well set yourself up for success in the publishing game (if you are planning for a professor-type position).

  2. Z. Shiner

    September 27, 2010 - 9:13 am

    Cautionary Advice: the bathrooms in CERAS are misleading. They alternate by floor and side of the building and the signs tell you who is not supposed to use them.

  3. gasstationwithoutpumps

    September 27, 2010 - 9:45 am

    The biggest problem with the schedule that I see is that CS 106A is not scheduled. If you are relying on doing the course when you have time, you’ll end up not doing it.

  4. Darren Draper

    September 27, 2010 - 10:26 am

    329x looks like a class I could really use. I’d love to know how to take OpenPD from boutique to scalable solution. Maybe you can help me take the class vicariously.

    As for advice, get in good with your fellow cohorters. Good friends now in my cohort carried me through stats and every other hard thing about grad school. I still haven’t finished the paper (in IRB now) or received the letters yet, but cherish the relationships we built through all of those boring night classes together.

  5. RudeDude

    September 27, 2010 - 10:29 am

    When you come to the part where you are cataloging journal articles and research papers in general… which then need to be regurgitated in MS-Word (or PDF) documents in a bizarre array of formats… you should turn to http://www.zotero.org/ but it may not help you with mis-use and general abuse of elipses (elipsi?).

  6. Joe Henderson

    September 27, 2010 - 10:43 am

    Four big pieces of advice (some already mentioned above):

    1. I agree with Jerrid. Mingle with kids as much as possible. The best research I see bridges the gap between the theoretical and the practical along the lines of Pasteur’s Quadrant.

    2. I agree with Jerrid again. Try to focus everything you do towards your dissertation. Time is precious and I suspect that you will want to finish this thing eventually. A laser-like focus at the beginning helps sharpen the final product, I think.

    2a. Having said that, read outside the focus area as much as you can (and this will be a struggle). But do it. Some of the most germane literature comes from unexpected places.

    3. Plan study/reading/writing sessions with your cohort. Chances are they will be struggling with similar things. I have learned a ton from my own cohort. Fight the creeping isolation of academic life.

    4. Last, but definitely nerdiest. Hammer out your ontological and epistemological assumptions about the world. Understanding these will shape the types of questions that you ask, or don’t ask. Again, the best research I see continually pushes and critiques these philosophical boundaries.

    4a. Oh yeah, good luck:

    http://matt.might.net/articles/phd-school-in-pictures/

  7. kevin

    September 27, 2010 - 11:19 am

    your Friday class is 50 minutes long but due to how it fills out the calendar looks as though you have 2 hours of class time. Similarly, because your 1:15 spills over to 2:05 on MW, it looks as though you have 2 classes from 2-3. I think that’s what you meant by what’s wrong with this picture?

  8. Joe Henderson

    September 27, 2010 - 11:21 am

    Oh yeah, one more: Get Endnote or Refworks. Get either one now. It will save you days of your life.

  9. @thescamdog

    September 27, 2010 - 12:35 pm

    I use Quickoffice on my iPad for notetaking in class. It edits word, Excel and Google Docs. The Word and Excel documents can be saved directly to my dropbox account, and then I can access them from any computer. It was $15, but well worth the price.

  10. Karim @ Mathalicious

    September 27, 2010 - 12:55 pm

    Biggest Issues:

    1. All the classes are indoors
    2. You have class on Friday

    I don’t know whether you can pull this off as a PhD candidate, but you gotta see if Marsh McCall is teaching a class this semester. Classics. Greek Mythology. Whatever. He’s the posterchild for the advice, “Don’t take the class; take the teacher.” It’s 50/50 that he’s the reincarnated combination of Homer + Billie Mays, and will do as much as any Ed school class to keep you fired up about the art that is teaching.

    @GasStation: great call re: CS 106A. Better call: Jamba Juice 107.

  11. Avery

    September 27, 2010 - 1:01 pm

    Glad you’re enjoying your classes so far.

    Piggy backing on what a few others have said, I’d spend the first month or so cateloging everything of any interest in the trial versions of Endnote, Refworks, Papers, AND Zotero (the first three have already been mentioned…the last is what I use. It’s free, lives online, and I think it’s great). At the beginning of November, pick the one that works best for you.

    May be obvious, but be good about writing annotated bibliographies about any reading you do that you think might be pertinent. This is something I struggle to keep up with even after being done with classes.

    If you read something that you think will be especially useful, kill a tree and print it out.

    Other people have suggested zeroing in on a dissertation question(s) asap…I’ll be contrary and advise not to be afraid to change. It’s too much work to be doing something you’re sort of interested in.

    Keep a “random thoughts” file. This can include metaphors, authors you hear about, possible dissertation questions you think of in the shower, etc.

    Talk to people in your cohort about their working research questions. Talk to other grad students in other fields about heir working research questions. This might be surprising, but I found this immensely helpful. Talk to friends and family about your own research questions. Keep an evolving list.

    Use your “nonstandard” schedule (I won’t say free time) to visit some classrooms. And sure, you can take this as an invite. I’m real close.

    And what may be my most controversial piece of advice: don’t let yourself get caught up in writing and topics that “sound” academic. Write about things you are passionate about and that you think will effect change. Write in ways that are as inclusive as possible so that they have the greatest chance of actually being read by anyone with the actual ability to effect change.

  12. Avery

    September 27, 2010 - 1:10 pm

    Oh, I almost forgot. What’s mathematically wrong? Well there aren’t any math classes for one. *sigh*

  13. Jimmy

    September 27, 2010 - 2:01 pm

    Mathematically, what is wrong?

    We’ve lost another good math teacher, that’s what’s wrong.

    I look back through your archives and think how much fun it was watching you work and think your way through this incredibly difficult task. I think about reading more and more posts like this one, or even worse, posts about theory disconnected from DAILY practice, and I’m sad. I think about a class of students this year with a math teacher who is less than you were and I’m sadder.

    I know everybody wants to be the big cheese and be the big hero. But what we need is teachers, not more professors, advocates, rabble-rousers, or whatever.

  14. gasstationwithoutpumps

    September 27, 2010 - 3:20 pm

    For citations, I much prefer BibTeX and LaTeX to EndNote and Word, but I have to do math in my papers, and LaTeX is still the only system that does math decently. (It also has the advantage of being free and stable, unlike almost every commercial package I’ve seen.)

  15. Scott McLeod

    September 27, 2010 - 5:43 pm

    Think ahead to what you plan to do with this degree when you’re done. If you have any inkling at all of being a faculty member at a postsecondary institution, you need to get started on the publication/presentation hamster wheel immediately due to 1) the length of time between submission and acceptance (particularly for academic journals), and 2) the expectations of hiring institutions that you’ll have several academic publications AND several academic presentations by the time you’re on the market (which is typically your dissertation year). If this is even a glimmer in your eye, start talking to your profs about this now…

    I’ll also echo the comments about starting to master reference software. Pay now or pay later!

  16. Jessica

    September 28, 2010 - 5:18 am

    This Saturday is my big day to finally submit all of my supporting documents for grad school applications. My plan is to spend the next year watching and learning from your experience. So here’s my first question: Why the ipad over a laptop for reading and cataloging?

  17. Nico

    September 28, 2010 - 8:49 am

    What’s wrong…the time!

    1:00pm is not a block, it’s a moment.

    The time on the left should match with the lines…not the blocks.

    I guess I’m kind of agreeing with one of the above messages but essentially that’s how I see it.

    EX:

    EDU200C – 01 seems to be in the block of 1:00pm. So it starts 1:00pm and ends…at ummm…the end of 1:00pm? It looks horrible… especially since it’s actually 1:15 to 2:05.

    Good luck with the courses.

  18. Julie R

    September 28, 2010 - 10:34 am

    Jimmy,

    As sad as I am that Dan’s children have lost their teacher, I try to focus on the bigger picture. If, once Dan and other amazing educators like him, earn their PhD’s and then work to train other teachers how to effectively teach, he will impact many more student lives in the end. I think that this is especially needed in mathematics education, where the subject is often not presented in the most interesting matter. There is a reason that so many students “hate” math class.

  19. Elizabeth S

    September 28, 2010 - 11:06 am

    Karim hits the two most important problems with graduate courses at Stanford.

    Most important piece of advice for anyone entering a Ph.D. program: Schedule in time to spend with your partner/spouse/significant other. Write it in using permanent marker.

    Don’t let your partner/spouse/significant other get lost in the shuffle of new relationships.

  20. Dan Meyer

    September 28, 2010 - 12:49 pm

    Jerrid: Go back and teach a real classroom. Or at least stay connected to one and actually teach (don’t just observe).

    Okay. This got me to make good on one of my resolutions. I just e-mailed a local math department head to see if I could hang out in a classroom this semester.

    Darren: As for advice, get in good with your fellow cohorters. Good friends now in my cohort carried me through stats and every other hard thing about grad school.

    Yeah, this has been the unexpectedly pleasant part of grad school, how much fun the other grad students are. They’re effortlessly cool.

    kevin: your Friday class is 50 minutes long but due to how it fills out the calendar looks as though you have 2 hours of class time. Similarly, because your 1:15 spills over to 2:05 on MW, it looks as though you have 2 classes from 2-3. I think that’s what you meant by what’s wrong with this picture?

    Right. The proportions are completely wacky.

    Scott: If you have any inkling at all of being a faculty member at a postsecondary institution, you need to get started on the publication/presentation hamster wheel immediately.

    It’d be a real big bummer (because of the length of your timeline there) to reach my third year and then decide I want to make a run for the tenure track. At the moment, that’s pretty low on the list, though.

    Jessica: My plan is to spend the next year watching and learning from your experience. So here’s my first question: Why the ipad over a laptop for reading and cataloging?

    Okay, I’m not gonna lie: a huge part of it is the style factor.

    The other part is that I read off an iPad much easier than I do off a laptop. (I also find my laptop more distracting, but that’s a personal failing you might not share with me.) The other part is its form, which lends itself really well to the kind of quick, informal show-and-tell that takes place all the time between grad students.

    Elizabeth S: Most important piece of advice for anyone entering a Ph.D. program: Schedule in time to spend with your partner/spouse/significant other. Write it in using permanent marker.

    Good one.

  21. Stacey Strong

    September 28, 2010 - 6:24 pm

    If you haven’t met Prof. Shelley Goldman, get to know her quick! And her husband Prof Ray McDermott!

  22. GeekyProf

    September 28, 2010 - 10:55 pm

    That’s a pretty busy schedule! Do Phd students in your field take so many classes? In my field, that’d be a massive overload in courses.

    We tell our incoming Phd students, guess what, we just changed the rules on you. It used to be that your focus in school was on taking classes and doing great in them. Now that you are in a PhD program, classes are secondary; your main priority and main focus should be on your research and your dissertation. YThis one throws a lot of students for a while…

  23. Jessica

    September 29, 2010 - 4:22 am

    Thanks for the info on the ipad. I’ll have to play with one before I make a final decision.

  24. Rick Scheibner

    September 29, 2010 - 8:55 am

    Hey Dan, Evernote has a great iPad app and works across several platforms (web, mac, pc, mobile, etc…) Cataloging your .pdf’s would be no problem.

  25. Derek

    September 29, 2010 - 6:27 pm

    I would like to hear your thoughts on how a few select folks getting to spend every day talking, writing and reading about education are going to actually improve public education.

    Wouldn’t it be better for all of us if we worked out a system in which EVERY teacher were required to take a semester off every 2-3 years to experience some of what you have the luxury of experiencing.

    I’d LOVE to take some time to struggle, read, talk and think with like-minded individuals. I think most public educators would.

    Look at the medical field where doctors can both ‘practice’ medicine and do research. Why should we be so different? Wouldn’t it be a better use of resources?

  26. Jerrid Kruse

    September 29, 2010 - 6:36 pm

    What is preventing teachers from doing research? I presented and published while a classroom teacher. In many ways doing research as the classroom teacher is easier and more useful.

    Just because Dan has a very nice opportunity doesn’t mean we all don’t have options. Stop making excuses, go do what you want to do.

  27. Luke

    November 15, 2010 - 8:25 pm

    I want to elaborate on what gasstation and karim have already articulated:

    CS 106A is a substantive class that requires a *lot* of work. Some people are inherently good at programming and take less time, but the average student needs to stay on top of the assignments, which is tough to do if you don’t allocate time to it.

    I should know…I used to be a TA for the class!

  28. Dan Meyer

    November 15, 2010 - 8:40 pm

    Heh. Thanks for weighing in, Luke, especially in the second-to-last week of the quarter. For whatever it’s worth to the doubters, a) I only watch classes online and b) I programmed the hell out of hangman a week ago.

  29. Luke

    November 15, 2010 - 9:20 pm

    Ah, yes…sorry, I’ve been gone from the Farm too long to realize it’s that late in the quarter! I hope you had/are having fun in 106A, and that you continue the series…it actually gets more fun as you get to later courses.

    Also, my parents are retired math teachers who taught with Michael Serra, who told us you’re “pretty incredible”.

    Good luck at Stanford and thanks for sharing your experiences online.

  30. JimP

    December 23, 2010 - 11:31 am

    What are you using for note taking now on your iPad?

  31. Dan Meyer

    December 27, 2010 - 5:44 pm

    Now that Notes syncs up with Gmail, I use that. I’d rather something that uses Dropbox’s automated revision control, though. Any recommendations?

  32. Jessi

    April 10, 2012 - 5:16 pm

    I use Notability for my student’s notes which has some great features for what can be added, including PDF’s that can be written on directly and pictures that can be inserted in line. It connects with Dropbox and can sync automatically in formats of your choice. I particularly like that it has graph paper as an option for paper.