York professor teaches Edmonton students via broadband


Above: Martin Muldoon, right, as seen through an ABEL videoconference by students in Edmonton, Alberta

In May, York mathematics Professor Martin Muldoon, of the Department of Mathematics & Statistics, gave a talk with an intriguing title – “Peace, War and Mathematics” – when he connected by broadband with Grade 12 students in Edmonton, Alberta.

Muldoon delivered his talk through advanced videoconferencing from the University’s Advanced Broadband Enabled Learning (ABEL) office in the TEL Building, to students in Centre High Campus.

In order to explore questions such as, “Can math be used to explain social events?” and “How can math be used to measure peace?”, Muldoon used Macromedia Breeze Live to share PowerPoint across the network. In addition, interactive chat was used to facilitate discussion between the two sites.

Drawing on experts and theorists in the field such as Albert Einstein and J. Robert Oppenheimer, Muldoon looked at mathematical models, cryptography, quadratic equations and trigonometry to help explore and illuminate connections between mathematics, peace and war.

“For the distance presentation to work well, ABEL personnel felt it was essential to have abundant advance contact with the teacher in Edmonton and to give an indication of what the talk was about. This gave an opportunity for students to do some preparation and, in particular, to prepare questions,” said Muldoon.

Right: Some of the students listening to Muldoon’s talk via broadband

Rohit Kapoor, the lead teacher from Centre High who organized the event, said afterwards that the students were very interested in Muldoon’s talk. In their  strong, positive feedback on the presentation, the students said they not only enjoyed the process, said Kapoor, but also found it very interesting to see the relevance of math in modern issues.

In addition, many students really liked being able to ask questions, and felt that Muldoon was very knowledgeable and enjoyed hearing his answers. They also said their interaction with Muldoon made them think further about issues related to mathematics, such as math’s effects on warfare. One student stated that this was their second videoconference and said, “I enjoyed the thought of speaking to someone far away, but having them in the same room.”

“Personally, I feel that there are advantages in a live talk which can never be duplicated by the technology. It has the potential to serve audiences – including several audiences simultaneously – which could never be served in the traditional way,” said Muldoon, as he spoke about the ABEL presentation and the potential for using this type of technology to connect students with university faculty members.

Kapoor looks forward to arranging and conducting another presentation with Muldoon to build on what was started in this session.

Muldoon is a member of the Science Speakers Bureau. For information about his courses, publications and community involvement, click here.

More about ABEL

ABEL is an e-learning program housed at York and supported by the Office of Research & Innovation. An interactive, collaborative learning model for teacher and faulty professional development and education delivery, ABEL is currently used in Ontario and Alberta. It interconnects the faculties of education at York University and the University of Alberta with schools in Toronto and Edmonton.

For more information on ABEL visit www.abelearn.ca or contact Janet Murphy at ext. 20022 or e-mail janetm@yorku.ca. You can also visit the Sept. 18, 2003 and April 16, 2004 editions of YFile.

The information in the above article is from Dara Forberg, ABEL Communications.

Below: A student in Edmonton (centre screen) steps up to the microphone to ask Muldoon a question