Wednesday, January 09, 2008


The university bookstore has run out of our textbook, as has the nearby discount textbooks store. This may be because they know that a new edition will be used next year and don't want to get stuck with copies they can't sell. Or it may just be incompetence.

The classroom DVD player has epilepsy, or maybe it's Parkinson's disease. Now I recall, it was misbehaving last year too. I've emailed Classroom Services asking for a permanent solution - I suggested taping it shut, with a note telling instructors to use the computer's DVD player instead.

The only way to format short-answer answers to quiz questions in our Blackboard/Vista course management system is with Perl 'regular expressions'. But there is absolutely no support for using these. Not in my 800-plus page Vista manual, not from our part-time Faculty of Science Vista support person (she's doesn't know anything about them and in any case is swamped with other faculty's requests for help) and not from Blackboard, who just point vaguely to web sites offering support for Perl programmers. I do have a Perl for Beginners book, and it has a whole chapter introducing regular expressions, but nothing in there explains why Vista insists on giving students 2/1 for a correct answer. (Yes, it knows the question is only worth 1 point but nevertheless awards 2 points.)

But the students seem pretty good - they had interesting and thoughtful ideas about whether natural selection could happen to snowflakes! Today I gave them some very big ideas to chew on, about the origin of 'life' (of entities that naturals election could act on), and on Friday I'll reprise these to help the students fit them into their world-view.


Sneezy said...

2 correct answers = 2 points?

Rosie Redfield said...

The cocomartini site doesn't look very reliable, and they don't have much selection. Not even our first-year biology textbook, which is very widely used.