for hundreds of years, and isn't fully understood to this day," Hawkins said. "However, software programs such as Mathematica, with relatively intuitive command languages, allow a student who will never take calculus and never do mathematics professionally to understand the problem, set up a method for guessing the solution and observing something that is as close to a solution as we know. "The only thing a student can't do is prove that this is the long-term behavior of prime numbers. And he or she can't prove that because they don't have the tools. But they're not very far from the state of the art in mathematics." Hawkins not only has used software to assist in teaching math- phobic freshman but also in mathematics for educators and for math majors themselves. The success of her computer-assisted math classes has led the journalism school to approach Hawkins, mathematics Professor Sue Goodman and some of their colleagues about creating a mathematics class geared to the needs of practicing journalists. Instead of planetary orbits or prime numbers, they would address more practical problems. "We would discuss things like population, exponential growth and decay; how you could use a computer to visualize certain aspects of numbers that float around in society. For example, what does it mean to say someone got 63 percent of the vote when 23 percent of the population voted?"
COLLAPSING DISTANCE IN FOREIGN LANGUAGES
But she quickly discovered that it provided access to resources
and information that could motivate her Spanish students.
"It allows you to tailor the material you produce to what
has happened in the outside world that very day," she said.
If the lessons in a Spanish class on a given day are related to
Julia Cordona Mack sends her Spanish students to Mexico via the Internet.
Mexico, she can send her students to the Web and read what
Mexican newspapers have to say about current events.
'The Web allows each student to look at the other cultures
they are studying in light of what he or she is interested in. And
it has the potential to be a really effective resource for teaching
cultural sensitivity-because there is so much material that is
so eaSily accessible."
Of course, it's not as if the Web brought foreign newspapers
to UNC for the first time. Like many of us, some of her students
prefer to read from paper rather than from a screen.
"There are some students who prefer getting foreign news-
papers at Davis [Library], having something made in another
country they can hold in their hand," she noted.
"However, what's on the Web is breaking news as opposed to
newspapers delivered to Davis which might be a week old. Also,
it's off limits to other students while they are using it. The Web
makes materials more accessible to large numbers of students;'
In an Honors Sociolinguistics class, Mack discovered another
way the Internet could make class richer for her students: It
makes it easier to bring guest speakers to class.
She aSSigned several articles as background for the online
class discussion forum - and then she contacted the authors.
"I wrote [to tell them] my students are going to be discussing
your work on a discussion forum, would you mind responding
to some of their comments and questions?"
Richard Rodriguez, a Mexican-American author with highly
controversial views on affirmative action, and who is therefore
reluctant to visit other campuses, read her students' comments
on his work and posted responses.
"With this forum I could expand the classroom teaching space
enormously, guest teachers who could never have come to class
physically came to class in a virtual sense:' she said.
Her students seem to agree on the benefits of"expanding
the teaching space."
"In the case of Richard Rodriguez, we'd misinterpreted some
of the things he'd written:' said Anna-Lisa Munson
of Chapel Hill. "He was able to clarify them for us
and further the depth of our discussion.
"It was also neat to get some responses from peo-
ple in the community at large who'd stumbled across
our Web site and were intrigued by our discussion,"
Munson added."That kept the class from being too
insular and the discussions from being too abstract?'
The experience has made Mack reflect on the
nature of Internet discussion.
"You wonder if this isn't a sort of protected space;
because we share a space with other people, a commu-
nity is formed that is conducive to sharing ideas:' lin
KEVIN O'KELLY ' 92 (MA)
Hill N ews .
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