During the semester we will discuss many new ideas and issues. Your participation in these discussions will help you in learning to express these concepts and help your classmates by showing them your viewpoint and questions. I will expect you to be ready to take part, and honestly, it is to your advantage.
If I were talking to you one on one and said something you did not understand, you would ask me about it. But if I put 135 people in a room where the same thing happens, few if any would raise a question. I'm sure social psychologists have studied why this happens, but I encourage you to resist this very natural tendency to keep quiet. If you don't understand something, speak out; no harm can come of it. Your questions help me teach more effectively and help other students who have similar questions. Your question need not be a model of eloquence nor does it need to be based on some clever insight. Any question is a valid one if you have it. Speak out. If you have bigger questions about the material, come to office hours so that we can help. Formulating questions is an effective strategy for good learning; take advantage of the opportunity to apply it.
This class is designed to incorporate different teaching approaches, including lectures, laboratory work, office hour session and homework that matches the lecture and lab. These various approaches foster different views of the material and different modes of interaction among the students that improves learning markedly. They involve engagement on the part of the student and also a lot of effort on the part of the instructor. Yet, some students underestimate the value for learning of these various course components and thus do not attend. ("I can always do that later on my own time, right?") That is a mistake. These students have lost critical opportunities for learning, and it shows in their exam performance. Don't let this happen to you.
After carefully thinking about an assignment, if you still are unsure what is being asked, or what approach to take, you may e-mail me with your question. Often other students have the same question, so I will usually e-mail my response to the entire class. Do not try this at the last moment before the homework is due!
Many of you are actively involved in research in your field of interest. As you proceed with the material this semester, try to connect what we do to examples that interest you. This can help you understand the course material and also give you insight into your research.
Although it may not seem so, it is far more efficient and effective to start homework early and work on it regularly through the week than it is to begin the homework the night before it is due and work at it in one session. The former allows you to ask questions as you encounter difficulties and allows you think more carefully about what you are doing. Starting at the last minute puts pressure on you to rush, which in turn means you will get less out of the work; moreover, should any unforeseen circumstances occur you would not be able to finish. In general, late homework will not be accepted; see the Syllabus for a discussion of this.
The Syllabus and other on-line documents have a wealth of information about course logistics, software procedures, and other useful stuff. Read them. You should go through all of these at least once and check back on those documents that are updated. Important updates are flagged on the home page as appropriate.
During lab activities in the cluster, it often will be very helpful for you to be able to refer to class and review notes, previous homework, and so forth. Try to make a habit of bringing them with you. Even though you can use the Windows/Accessories/Calculator, it may also be convenient to have a hand-held calculator for quick computations.
Last modified on 31 Jul 2006