After the last 24-ish hours, I felt that “Fission Mailed” was an appropriate name. It is a spoonerism of “Mission Failed,” and comes from a certain video game where you are designed to fail a certain mission. (In many video games, there are points where you are Designed To Fail.)
Additionally, a relatively recent blog post on spoonerisms that I read made this idea salient to me. So, let me talk about “Fission Mailed” as it applied to my last 24-ish hours. (No worries, I’m not a bioterrorist sending nuclear weapons through the Postal Service.)
So, what caused me to mail fission recently?
Last year, I used the MAA’s WeBWorK system to assign daily online homework to my students when at UW-Stout. Although the system was somewhat annoying to work with, it was very useful in giving students a certain number of attempts per problem, and for problems with multiple answer blanks, pinpointing which answers were correct or not.
Most of the problems that I chose from the national library worked well, other than a few which were much more difficult than what I thought. I also modified a few of the problems with minor changes (such as adding hints, cleaning up the diction, or changing the numbers).
This year, I am using LaunchPad for online homework, and it has given me a lot of trouble. Among other manners, here are the drawbacks that I have seen:
- Assignments cannot be edited after any student has started them. This includes the Instructor’s “View as Student” function!
- Therefore, a course-branching solution has been implemented, but using that tripartite is more often a trident to the sternum!
- There is no option for showing which parts are correct or incorrect in the homework assignments (to the best of my knowledge).
- The Homework function has been very spotty.
- The interface, in general, is not very friendly.
And then today, I was driving the Mathematica-New-And-Transcendental-Review train into my calculus lab class. And it got derailed many times, as I wanted the students to work along with me as I explained how to use plotting and function definition in Mathematica. Well… the students experienced these problems:
- Syntax errors and incorrect delimiters
- Mysterious errors about protected quantities
- Keyboard commands not being recognized
- The mechanics interfering with the concepts
- Discontinuity of my explanation due to the questions
Today was my first day trying to teach the use of a computer program, and I can certainly vouch for the fact that although I thought it was a train wreck, that it was really a First Attempt In Learning Under Revising Encouragement. Thanks, Perry, for the chin-up conversation after the lab!
North Shore Century: 4 days
NU vs NU: 10 days
High Holidays: 19 days