Wednesday, February 25, 2009

If they can put a person on the moon...


It's embarrassing when you can't assume that the computer technology in your classroom will be error-free enough to allow you to ask your students to (1) download a file from your website, (2) open it using software that's already installed on the computer and easily accessible from the desktop, and (3) use the software to solve a few simple under half an hour.

My students took Team Quiz 2 in Calc I just now, and there were glitches galore, none foreseeable, all technology related. Of the 18 five-plus-year-old Macs in the room intended for student use, 3 were powered down, 3 were frozen, and 1 was (and has been for as long as I can remember) rendered useless by having no mouse.

That left 11, to be used by 8 groups of students. So far, so good.

Another froze soon after the students managed to download the file they needed from the course website.

Three more performed so...damned...slowly as to render them unusable for the Mathematica computations I was asking the students to perform. One poor team had to hop from one computer to a second, to a third in order to find a machine that would actually carry out the incredibly simple command they'd given it without stalling for several minutes. Since completing the quiz required at least six such computations, there's no way they could have finished on the first two machines.

Keeping score? With the aforementioned 4 of the 11 remaining machines by now out of commission, there were 7 student computers left for 8 teams, and fortunately the instructor's terminal at the front of the room proved functional, so the eighth team could hop over to it.

To my Calc I students: I humbly (and I do mean humbly) apologize for today's technology woes. I'm not sure if it's even fair to grade the quizzes, given the way at least two teams were stalled by recalcitrant computer behavior.

Argh. That really was pathetic.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

no worries Patrick! Its not your fault! Your students don't blame you. In fact, I think its great that you incorporate the software in our class to illustrate what we are working on. One of the main techniques that I have learned in your class is graphing problems even if the questions don't directly ask you to. Many times when I am having trouble with a problem, whoever is helping me (often times its you) starts by graphing it. You can really see what is going on then. I seem to have forgotten the advice from my high school math teachers.."draw a picture" lol