Tag Archives: education

On online homework services

I understand the value to teachers of not having to spend time grading homework, but when I have a class where (math or science problem) homework is administered via a third party online service where you have to type in answers, I often spend at least as much time wrestling with the software than I spend actually completing the homework. So like, 2 hours of homework is actually 4 hours, where half that time isn’t actually about studying. It increases the likelihood that I am going to search online for help with a problem as soon as it starts to look complicated, rather than puzzle over it for a while and experiment (good for learning!), like I would do if I actually had all 4 of those hours available for doing homework.

I can’t speak strongly enough for what so many teachers have done over the ages: assign a selection of problems from the book whose answers are listed at the back, then give a checkmark or whatever to students if they at least make an attempt at a majority of the problems. The teacher doesn’t have to evaluate if the student is doing things right: that’s up to the student to ask for help if they are getting answers that don’t match the book. For classes where the homework counts for like 10% of the grade, this isn’t unreasonable and takes a minimal amount of time for the teacher: for an unreasonably large 40 student class in which all of the students actually turned something in, this should take no more than 10 minutes. Alphabetize the stack, then go through the gradebook and add a mark for each one that looks like work was done.

And it means the student isn’t stuck shelling out for the cost of this routinely crappy online service.

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Asking gender on surveys

Frequently, when people set up surveys, they ask for gender. This question is often included out of habit, but it still is often a relevant question, even if the only contribution of the question is to show that gender doesn’t have a significant influence on other responses. In modern efforts to be more friendly to gender minorities, the gender question is often updated. And it’s often updated in silly ways.

Here’s the two most common “inclusive” ways I have seen the gender question presented over the last few years:

a) What is your gender?
* Male
* Female
* Transgender
* Prefer not to say

b) What is your gender?
* Male
* Female
* Other

There are minor language variations, such as sometimes using “transgendered” instead of “transgender”, but this is the gist. So, what’s wrong with these? Continue reading

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Disney gets the measles: on not getting vaccinated

I’ve seen a few people suggesting that the solution is for people who are not vaccinated to never leave their homes, etc. Probably (hopefully!) a tongue-in-cheek suggestion, but here’s a reminder anyway: not all people who are not vaccinated are of the mind that vaccines cause autism or cancer or bad vibes or whatever.

For one, there are numerous good-science reasons for why certain people should not get specific vaccines. These are the US guidelines on who should not receive each vaccine. Coming from the federal government doesn’t guarantee good science (see: climate change) but aside from having a much better hit rate than Natural News, these are the guidelines doctors use to provide exemptions. They of course change over time due to a variety of factors, not just new scientific research but also changing studies of things like cost effectiveness.

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Gender Pokey: a companion to the Gender Gumby

A friend remembered that I had issues with the Gender Gumby (PDF link), a teaching tool that SMYRC‘s Bridge 13 community education program has been using for some 10 years, since well before the Q Center even existed. The Gumby is good for people who have never questioned these things before, but for the rest of us it can be alienating, boring, etc (this video is a great demonstration). This friend asked if I knew anything better, and I realized I still haven’t seen an improvement I liked, so I made this Gender Pokey (PDF link).
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