The Calculus Tweetwars
I wanted to wait until I was SURE that this was going to happen before I mentioned it here. My Honors Calculus II students have decided to “tweet” The Calculus Wars for modern times.
Their assignment was to read “The Calculus Wars” by Jason Socrates Bardi, and then come up with a project (individually or collectively) that requires them to further explore something from the book. A few years ago, I had one student in this course and he build the Leibniz Calculating Machine the animation software Blender (you can see it here).
Anyways, this year, there are three students. During our discussion of the book, we observed that the scientists involved were like the bloggers and tweeters of their time, sending and publishing an incredible amount of correspondence (some anonymous) via really old-fashioned mail (i.e. SLOW). Then we wandered into what it would look like if the Calculus Wars happened today and all the characters were in Facebook (friending, unfriending, fan pages, wall posting, etc.). Ultimately, the students decided to work together to create a modern-day recreation of The Calculus Wars. Facebook turned out to be too difficult (each follower would have to “friend” each character in order to see the storyline play out).
The students have written a rather lengthy script that includes a rather large cast of characters. In order to get the twitter accounts, they had to first get email addresses for each character. Let’s just say we now know how many email or twitter accounts you can set up on one IP address before you get blocked for the day.
We originally tried to use Google Wave to build the script (since it allows for simultaneous collaboration), but it proved to be too glitchy and clunky to get the job done. About two weeks ago we began transferring the entire script to a Google Doc instead (which, surprise! Also allows simultaneous multi-user collaboration now). The script is now built as a table so that we could map out the years (1661-1726) against the dates of tweeting, tweets, and who is responsible for putting up the tweets. There are just a few tweets per year in these early years, but when the Calculus Wars heat up, it will be a lot of work to get all the tweets up properly.
The Calculus Tweetwars started yesterday, and you don’t need a twitter account to follow it. Just visit the CalcWars Twitter List several times a day to see what’s happened in the lives of Newton, Leibniz, and others. If you DO have a twitter list, you can just follow the list, and you’ll see all the characters show up in your tweetstream. Please feel free to interact with the characters as if they were members of your own PLN (personal learning network).
This might seem like a strange academic project to you, but the purpose was to increase awareness of what the Calculus Wars were, and help students see math as something that has not always been so static. Given that they already have 67 followers after 24 hours, I’d say that the students will be successful with their mission to educate others.
Again, you can follow the project (for the next two weeks) here: http://twitter.com/#list/busynessgirl/calcwars