Dramatis persona*

helenhead Helen Chick

I've always wanted a bumper sticker that said "I'm a female, LDS/Mormon, Scout leading, geocaching, piano-playing, bicycling, mathematics educator with a PhD in maths ... and I VOTE"!

I think this makes me a minority group of cardinality 1!

* Since there's only one of me and "personae" is plural (I think), I've gone with dramatis persona.
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12 of 12, February 2015

I’ve been in Launceston this week for meetings and a three-day conference. The 12th was the second day of the conference and, having arisen and tried — unsuccessfully — to do some work on a slow internet connection, I headed downstairs for breakfast for the house special muesli and a freshly squeezed orange juice (I managed to forgo bacon and eggs — the great temptation when I am travelling — for the whole week).


I had been rather anxious in the preceding days as I was going to be one of the keynote speakers for this conference and I wasn’t entirely sure I understood the topic about which I had been asked to speak. I’d had various ideas and done bits of reading, trying to conceptualise the analogs between the work of doctors and the work of teachers, but I was struggling to get my thoughts consolidated. At 10:30 last night I finally thought I had some concepts that made sense and the slides in the PowerPoint presentation were finished and shuffled into position, with me hoping that it would still seem reasonable in the morning and that I’d be able to speak coherently.


Fortunately it all went very well indeed, with lots of positive feedback. There were very rich discussions in the “round table” session which followed, as the conference participants attempted to explore the ideas and test them in their own contexts (yes, we all recognised that the round tables were, in fact, square!). There were round table sessions after each of the keynotes, with everyone mixing up to create different groups each time, which allowed us to experience a good mix of perspectives.


The other kinds of sessions were our parallel theme sessions, where we were with the same group of participants focusing on one of the five themes of the conference. Each theme had its own keynote presentation which everyone got to see, and was discussed by all in the round tables; the parallel theme sessions allowed an extended focus for a group on just one of the themes with very brief presentations from the group members followed by detailed discussion of the theme (this format seemed to work really well). The group I was in focused on what was initially called “clinical acumen”, but was later called “pedagogical acumen” and we had some very rich conversations teasing out the ideas (indeed, the first day’s discussion helped me sort out my thoughts for the keynote).

Once the day’s sessions had finished I went for a rapid half-hour walk along the banks of the North and then South Esk rivers, and a little way up the gorge. The next five photos show some of the things I saw in the afternoon light.






The day concluded with the conference dinner (good food, and more conversations).


Many of the participants were from the mathematics education community and there is a tradition at the annual Australian maths ed conference to dance at the conference dinner. Someone had the wherewithal to get some music going and to encourage some folk to come out the front, and pretty soon there were quite a few people dancing (there were more people than this for much of the evening, and, yes, there is a curious gender bias in that the women outnumber the men (at the conference, while dancing, and in maths education)). Quite a few people had “step counting” devices, and there was at least one humorous moment when someone’s Fitbit hit the requisite 10000 steps for the day on the dance floor!


And on the way back to the hotel I stopped to take this rather ordinary photo of the boats in the little marina not far from where we’d had the dinner.


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