Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Settling In With My Honors Class

I think that I've found the secret to teaching my cryptology seminar: I must continue to remind myself that it is not a math class. Probably I should put a sign in the back of the room, "Put down the marker, sit down, and shut up."

Unlike my usual classes, where the only reasonable assumption is that no one has read a single word of the book, I am pretending that at least some of the students have done at least some of the reading outside of class. Also, without an external mandate of how much material I need to cover during the semester, there is no pressure to lecture as an efficient way to transmit information to students who haven't done any reading.

And since there is well more than one semester's worth of stuff to do in an inter-disciplinary course in cryptology, I'm letting my students pick the topics and to suggest changes in direction. As long as we do something worthwhile and somewhat topical each day, it hardly matters what it is. If I could learn how to effectively run a discussion, I'd be all set.