The JOMA Applet Project: Applet Support for the Undergraduate Mathematics Curriculum

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Introduction

This project will produce a digital library of high-quality interactive World Wide Web-based mathematics instructional material for the undergraduate mathematics curriculum. Three steps are involved:

a) we will search out, classify, test, and evaluate the many existing applets and other small electronic teaching tools, both alone and embedded in useful pedagogical text;
b) we will address mathematical, software, and pedagogical standards for applets and related material, and focus development on curricular gaps;
c) we will attack remaining pockets of the curriculum that are not well covered.

Many faculty have used computer algebra systems and other technology to craft insightful mathematical examples for use in and out of class. Teachers usually work alone on these activities, resulting in gross duplication of efforts (thousands of secant lines becoming tangent lines), but little improvement in the quality of their endeavors. A digital library can make such teaching materials broadly available for students and other faculty, and its construction can also be used to encourage sharing and community-building. We propose to construct such a library in order to disseminate good teaching materials, improve the general quality of the software, and form a set of shared resources for faculty, focused on facilitating their use of technology in the undergraduate mathematics curriculum.

Collaborating Groups

The digital library will be housed in a new electronic journal, the Journal of Online Mathematics and its Applications (JOMA); the library and journal will strengthen each other. The Math Forum will be publishing the new journal and will provide the technical Web expertise for the project. The project will be undertaken in conjunction with:

ESCOT: Educational Software Components of Tomorrow [1], a project investigating how software innovations can accumulate, integrate, and scale up to meet the needs of mathematics and science education. We are proposing a subcontract with ESCOT. They will help us achieve greater interoperability and reusability of our software collection by such means as writing a regular JOMA column on that topic, with recommendations for developers, and which investigates various strategies for open source software. ESCOT will also provide an annual "State of Reuse and Interoperability" report. They will work with faculty who wish to make pedagogical contributions, helping them to achieve their goals through reuse and interoperability of the software. ESCOT will evaluate the overall effectiveness of our efforts to increase reuse and interoperability within the scope of this Digital Library effort, and develop recommendations as to how the community could achieve constant incremental improvements in a sustainable way. (See their attached statement of work in Section I.)

EOE: Educational Object Economy [2] is a global community for Web-based learning tools in Java. EOE has the largest Web repository for applets of all sorts. They have offered to make available information and advisement in areas that include intellectual property, metadata, and development models, as well as technical advice. They are currently expanding their exploration of Open Source Development issues, both in terms of the database tools provide and in terms of the creation and sharing of software components, which could be valuable for us. We plan to build on EOE's classification and to set up our first-phase search so that we add to their catalog all relevant applets not in their database. (See the letter of commitment from Edmond Gaible in Section I.)

NEEDS: National Engineering Education Delivery System is a digital library for the engineering education community. They are also submitting a proposal to the Digital Library II Initiative. Together we will work toward developing a federated search, the possibility of searching either site from the other site's search engine. We will also talk with them as we develop review criteria; they have a thoughtful set in place, but in a somewhat different direction. In order to better integrate our work, we will host a workshop to be attended by NEEDS personnel and persons from related digital library projects (or project possibilities) in other science, mathematics, engineering and technology education (SMETE) areas, such as BioQuest and the Physics Info Mall. An important subject for joint work will be understanding user needs across disciplines.

The NEEDS collaboration will help us to explore the possible development of an on-line SMETE journal. Also, using NEED's experiences with their Premier Award we will evaluate the prospects for expanding the Premier Award in Engineering to include an applet-based category and evaluate the development of jointly sponsoring a Premier Award in Mathematics.

St. Olaf Applet Testing Center: A group of faculty and students will subject reviewed applets to a test suite. They have faculty and students interested in integrating applets into the curriculum. (See the letter of commitment from Matthew Richey in Section I.)

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