Fission Mailed

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?

LEARNING TECHNOLOGY.

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 ILearning 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

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3 thoughts on “Fission Mailed

  1. Excellent, Noah! Loved the ‘tripartite…trident…sternum’ bit – very funny! All sounds jolly frustrating, but you explained it all most elegantly and humorously. Loved the title and the witty little aside in parenthesis at the end of paragraph two! xxx

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