JSM 2011

The Joint Statistical Meeting was held in beautiful Miami Beach in early August. A few folks from the OpenIntro team attended and had a blast!

Early in the program Chris Barr gave a talk titled “Beyond the Textbook: Dynamic Approaches in Statistics Education”, in which he highlighted the importance and potential for new technologies in statistics education and beyond. Blogs, free software, social networks, videos, and (of course) OpenIntro were all on the list. Above all, Chris stressed the importance of integrating resources. As he put it: “The future is coming from all directions. Our greatest opportunity is harnessing and unifying the amazing potential of these resources.” Chris’ presentation was part of a panel discussion with other innovators in textbooks and teaching: Webster West from Texas A&M and Rebekah Isaak from the University of Minnesota each presented on alternatives. Webster described the potential for e-books to bring together resources in an interactive way, and Rebekah discussed efforts from her team to help students as they gradually build their own books throughout the semester. These are two great ideas!  The last speaker was our friend Rob Gould. He highlighted the importance of traditional books, and the opportunities for new approaches. At one point he remarked “I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many authors of introductory statistics textbooks in one room… I support diversity. I wish I could see more authors!” With ample opportunities for contributions from everyone in the community, we couldn’t agree more!

On the last day of the conference Mine Cetinkaya-Rundel gave a talk titled “Getting involved with OpenIntro” where she gave a brief demonstration of how to use and contribute to the online tools such as the question bank and quizzes. The audience was excited about the opportunity to be able to share questions amongst themselves via the online question bank, which is a perk other course management systems with a quiz feature do not provide. This presentation was a part of a session on online and open source teaching. Anna Helga Jonsdottir from University of Iceland talked about another free and open source web-based application called tutor-web. This application allows for a dynamic online quiz where the questions are randomly selected based on the student’s performance. If the student is doing well, the questions on the quiz get progressively more difficult. If not, simpler questions are selected until the system points the student to review certain topics. Both the back-end and the user experience of this application are rather impressive, and we were happy to see that researchers all over the world are contributing to open source education.

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