The world’s best mathematics lecturer

etienne ghysNo, this is not my claim, but that of other more informed persons. I found it in Cedric Villani’s wonderful book (p. 16, if you’re interested). To whom was he referring? His colleague at the École Normale Supérieure in Lyons, Étienne Ghys, who counts among his fans the (probably) best mathematician in the world, Terence Tao (he’s up there, with a Fields Medal, and he’s Australian – good enough for me). Terry writes about

a particularly beautiful plenary lecture given by Étienne Ghys on “Knots and dynamics“. His talk was not only very clear and fascinating, but he also made a superb use of the computer, in particular using well-timed videos and images (developed in collaboration with Jos Leys) to illustrate key ideas and concepts very effectively. … To give you some idea of how good the talk was, Étienne ended up running over time by about fifteen minutes or so; and yet, in an audience of over a thousand, only a handful of people actually left before the end. … I of course cannot replicate Étienne’s remarkable lecture style, but I can at least present the beautiful mathematics he discussed.

Now I haven’t been able to locate this particular lecture for you, but I have found at least a couple of lectures that Étienne has delivered in English (there’s many more in French, of course!). Here’s an eminently engaging one, for both mathematicians and non-mathematicians, on ‘Inner Simplicity vs. Outer Simplicity':

If you want more, there’s another on ‘When Mathematicians Use Geometry to Cut Cloth‘, though you’ll have to get past the interminable introductions to get to the lecture!

So if you’re interested in teaching, mathematics and technology (or any one of these three), investigate Étienne yourself through his website, or go direct to one of the remarkable online resources he’s developed (with able collaborators). With my long-term interest in chaos and complexity, my favourite is Chaos: A Mathematical Adventure: “a math movie with nine 13-minute chapters. It is a film about dynamical systems, the butterfly effect and chaos theory, intended for a wide audience.” Go on watch it – it’s wonderful!

Chaos link



Teaching with technology: the grim reality

The US has the Ivy League universities (Harvard, Yale, Princeton, etc.), and in the UK it’s the Russell Group (Oxford, Cambridge, LSE, etc.). In Australia we have the yawningly-titled Group of Eight, deemed as the top research universities.

So it was that the medical faculty of one of these esteemed institutions invited my daughter to give a lecture on aspects of her medical specialty, oncology. Continue reading

Gazing again at the Horizon Report

I don’t mention it every year, but it seems time to remind you of the annual Horizon Report, as the 2015 edition is available. As ever, it provides solid and sensible reading concerning:

… the five-year horizon for the impact of emerging technologies in learning communities across the globe. With more than 13 years of research and publications, it can be regarded as the world’s longest-running exploration of emerging technology trends and uptake in education.

Continue reading

Put this book in your digital library RIGHT NOW!

Somewhere in the programme for pretty-well every workshop I’ve run in the past decade and more has been an activity for participants on analysing educational technologies, using Tony Bates’ SECTIONS model. It’s an update on his previous ACTIONS model, which I unsurprisingly also used in the dim and distant past. The model is useful, it engages participants and leads to fruitful discussion and debate. Continue reading

Weller on winning … sort of

Martin Weller makes me tired. He does so much, writes so well, is an encouraging and supporting professional colleague (even at a distance – I’ve never met him in person), and runs great distances (1008 miles in 2014). We knew he’d been writing a new book, as he’d been providing updates and ideas on his blog site, but it’s still exciting to see the finished product: The Battle for Open: How openness won and why it doesn’t feel like a victory. Continue reading