Welcome to Martin Buck’s blog.

photo of Martn Buck
Martin Buck

Here you will find postings I have made about different professional and schedule development activities I have been involved in over my recent time as a college math instructor at Camosun College. You will also find posts at my Google Plus account. See below for a link to that.

I have been an instructor at Camosun College since 1987. In that time I have been an active participant in and evaluator of the use of educational technology to help faculty, staff and students gain digital literacy skills.

In 1995 as an outcome of my master’s degree, I began Learning Webs, a project to develop and deliver online instructional materials for adult upgrading students. These are currently being delivered both online and in a blended mode in partnership with local community learning centres.

My passion is helping create a ” . . . world made transparent by true communications webs (Illich, Ivan. Deschooling Society, 1971, p. 157).”

In my spare time, I like to read fiction and biographies as well as restore vehicles. I recently built a shop to facilitate that passion. You can read about the summer 2011 project at http://www.carbucks.ca/?p=11. Next up is an 83 Honda Magna V65. At the time it was claimed to be the world’s fastest production motorcycle. While I still have a need for speed, that bike is now up for sale, as I has been sold so I can focus on more practical machines. In that vein, I also have two Triumph TR8s, an ’80 that needs a new water pump and paint job and an ’82 that is in ‘collector plate’ condition.

Online Math Training Event

Wednesday Aug 27, 2014
10:00 am to noon
Ewing 110
Lansdowne Campus
With Morgan Sargent, Brenda Proctor, Karen Lightbody
Regrets from Marc Bissley and Ramona Scott.


I. A little bit of history
Our reactions to technologies — Douglas Adams
   In the beginning

II. Current Thinking
Innovations 2014 Report
   William Rankin – Director of Learning Apple Inc.
   LA Community Colleges Hybrid Lab Courses for Core Mathematics
   Essential Online Instructor

III. My Current Practice
The task of updating and improving my online math system at http://mathxl.com continues throughout the year.
Details are available at my faculty website, my Google Plus site and YouTube Channel as well as in my online classroom 

This is also a 52 week a year task. Pearson Ed, our math textbook publisher who provides the site, regularly makes changes to its site that I need to keep up on.  There are two MathXL updates in the month of July that I will need to master and then implement in my online classrooms in time for the Fall 2014 term.
I begin my orientation to the online classroom by welcoming Fall 2014 student in mid-August. 

IV. MathXL from the Student Perspective

V. MathXL from the Instructor Perspective


MathXL Adaptive Learning

The Study Plan Manager allows the instructor to customize the assignments the system will assign. With the newest version of our textbook, Pearson has added an adaptive learning tool. This is not new idea. Thirty years ago Camosun ABE instructor Jack Crane had a similar paper-based system for teaching math. The computer connected to the Internet makes it far easier to create an adaptive, mastery based learning system.

When a student completes a pre-test it analyses their responses and assigns homework, not just on what they got wrong, but also on the concepts that underpin a particular concept. For example, if they have trouble adding fractions with different denominators, it will suggest they need to also do work on finding lowest common multiples.

Click on the Study Plan Manager menu item to access the settings for this tool.  The Adaptive Study Plan button allows you to turn this feature on or off.

Mastery Settings allows you to select which which assignments you want the system to use and what the mastery level for each should be. The Assigned Homework option is turned off by default. I set Assigned Tests to 75& and Assigned Quizzes to 80%. The default for the Quiz Mes is set at 100%. The animator of today’s session, Donna Densmore, recommended allowing the student to get a least one wrong here, so I have set mine to 80%.

Coverage and Scoring allows you to choose which objectives of the course to include in the Study Plan as well as what questions to make available for practice. You can drill right down to the question level to decide which question to include. Donna recommends making all of the textbook content available to students, but then exclude the objectives that are not covered in the course. That way if a student want to practice concepts that are not directly covered in the course for review or personal interest, they are available to them.

We then saw a demonstration of how to create assignments mastery levels set as prerequisites before a student can attempt then. This is an area I am already familiar with. However, there looks to be a learning curve to properly implementing the new features described above. Looks like my summer is going to be busy getting my new classroom ready to accept student in mid-August.


Summer 2014 Upgrade to MathXL – New Features

Pearson, our textbook publisher, upgrades their MathXL system twice a year. Today I attended one of their Webinar animated by Donna Densmore. She showcased the new features that are part of the Summer 2014 upgrade for MyMathLab, MyStatLab, MathXL, and MyMathTest. 

In addition to new support for tablets, there was an upgrades to the Study Plan Manager and the addition of a new Reporting Dashboard in the Gradebook area. Click on the News link at the bottom of the page at http://mathxl.com for a summary of all the new features.

MathXL uses Adobe Flash for its assignments. Flash does not work on most tablets. They now are making the assignments available with HTML 5 which does work. I have tested this out on my iPad and it works well.

A new feature allows you to assign Study Plan exercises before a student attempts a quiz or test. This would be particularly useful as a review before a major test. The student could be prevented from writing the test until they had completed the assigned Study Plan exercises.

The Reporting Dashboard, available in the Gradebook area, provided detailed graphical reports on progress in your online classroom. These reports can be shared with any colleagues who have a MathXL login id.

Tomorrow I attend a session on Strategies for Adaptive Learning. The old version of MathXL already allows me to pre and post-test students and then assign Study Plan assignments based on their results. I will be interested in seeing how the upgraded MathXL system improves on this.

2014 SD Year Report


I have strived to be an educational innovator throughout my career at Camosun. As I enter the last few months of my post-retirement contract, I want to share with my colleagues lessons I have learned in promoting student success in online math.

To that end, I attended the 2014 League for Innovations in the Community College conference. I wanted to determine if I have been on the right path with my innovations in encouraging student success in online math learning as well as learn about new initiatives and trends in this area. I have also prepared a training workshop for my colleagues on teaching math online.

At the moment, I am the only math instructor at Camosun teaching online. It is my hope that the result of this SD activity will be to encourage colleagues to make use of the knowledge and resources I am sharing.

Report on Outcomes

I attended the League for Innovations in the Community Colleges Innovations 2014 conference (http://www.league.org/i2014/) to learn what other colleagues across North America are doing to enhance the community college experience. I have shared the insights I have gained at my faculty website at http://legacy.lwebs.ca/index.php/category/professional-development/innovations-2014/

The task of updating and improving my online math system at http://mathxl.com continues throughout the year. Details are available at my faculty website, my Google Plus site and YouTube Channel as well as in my online classroom  This is also a 52 week a year task. Pearson Ed, our math textbook publisher who provides the site, regularly makes changes to its site that I need to keep up on.  There are two MathXL updates in the month of July that I will need to master and then implement in my online classrooms in time for the Fall 2014 term. I begin my orientation to the online classroom by welcoming Fall 2014 student in mid-August. 

My chair and I had originally planned to deliver the online math training workshop in May. However, that will now happen the end of August when faculty and staff return from holidays. It is my hope that my colleagues will be willing to make use of this knowledge and these resources in their own practice, either as a supplement to their current face-to-face practice or in a fully online environment.

Encouraging colleagues to make use of the Internet in service of our students has been a goal of mine for over 20 years. See http://legacy.lwebs.camosun.bc.ca/lwebs/session1.htm for a report of a workshop I helped facilitate in 1996. It was also a goal when I was founding chair of the Community Learning Partnerships Department. Perhaps the time is right for faculty to finally cross Roger’s innovation chasm. See Technology adoption lifecycle for more information.


Keynote Speaker William Rankin

This keynote was a highlight of the conference for me. It picks up a number of themes I wrote about in my masters’ project almost 20 years ago.

Dr. Rankin is the Director of Learning on the educational team at Apple Inc, with special responsibility for promoting and enhancing innovative teaching and learning. Before that he was a professor of English at Abilene Christian University.  His keynote was on New Dimensions in Learning and Sustainability in Education

He presented a graph of student brain activity of students in various contexts. Students are least active when watching TV and when in class. Both are passive activities. If our goal is to engage students, then lecture is not the way to do it. Other educational activities like labs and homework engage learners. He challenged us by asking, “Does your school offer opportunities to engage learners?”

To illustrate active, engaged learning he showed a YouTube video of Fun Two (aka Jeong-Hyun Lim) playing Pachelbel’s Canon on his electrical guitar. He had taught himself to play guitar. You can see him playing the piece at this link.  This New York Time article tells his story.

Students can do astonishing things because, thanks to the Web, they have astonishing access to recording studios and printing presses. Taps into the value of doing something real. Participatory culture, as opposed to consumer culture is the term that describes what Fun Two and other 21st Century learners are doing.

In participatory culture “young people creatively respond to a plethora of electronic signals and cultural commodities in ways that surprise their makers, finding meanings and identities never meant to be there and defying simple nostrums that bewail the manipulation or passivity of “consumers.”[1]  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Participatory_culture

In a participatory classroom our task as professors is to design is a plan for arranging instructional elements in such a way as best to accomplish a particular purpose . If we want to make a sustainable and creative learning environment, how do we do that? Key elements are structure, orientation, flexibility, equipment and infrastructure.

What does the classroom space we’re in communicate? The lecturer is in charge. We need to turn the traditional classroom structure on its head.

Another illustration . . . Dr. Rankin asked us who Sugata Mtra was. He gave us a few minutes to query our smart phones and tablets and we had the answer. He is famous for the ‘hole in the wall‘ experiment. He realized kids can teach themselves. Learning happens when you give access and community. The students in his project figured out how to use a PC on their own and then taught other kids. You do not need a teacher. They emerge naturally out of the group. This is particularly true for the younger generations. How many of us professors have had an Internet connected device in our pocket for half of our lives? Mitra has taking this to the next level with his call to help him design the School in the Cloud where children can use resources and mentoring from cloud computing to explore and learn from each other.

Control & Isolation

r + c / x time t = learning over teaching.

Seth Godin

Maria Montessori seeking reles of human potentials

Considering engagement

Edgar Dale Cone of experience The richer the experience the richer the learning. Imagining least rich. Seeing is a richer experience. Richest is when I actually do something.

Lev Vgotsky — How do you learn things you don’t already know? Really about conecting to other people. The distance betwee the actual developmental level as determined by independ problem
Ability to perform. Zone of proximal development.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi — Flow where you become so engaged you forget about your own physical needs. Function of challenge and skill.

Learing dimensions Content and community. Other dimension not done in school is context. To design new and sustainable learning exerpences we need all three dimensions. Add ZPD. Keep adding. Content becomes a commodity. Instructor provides challenging context. Content is no longer a problem. Context – creating
content – curation What is still relevant?
community – collaboration

Right now we are mostly burning off student energy.

2009 Half a Zetabyte. of internet cntent
2016 8 zetabye
2020 Internet will be doubling every two years.

We have to work together. The last thing we need to do to our students is to create a mono culture. Don’t turn students in standardized items. Douglas Adams Anything invented after youre 35 is against the natural order of things.

Fractals — itneratiwe design

Our task to to transform the future of learning by making it sustainable.