Canvas is bad and it should feel bad – March 19 – Quizzes are terrible.

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Quizzes aren’t exactly the most fun thing for students to do, but if they’re done well they can offer the student a way to practice and review topics and see what they’re getting wrong. Generally, I like to give my students multiple tries at a quiz, so that they can get certain ideas down.

Here’s the first problem: The user interface.

Here, I’ve made one quiz question. Notice how terrible the user interface is. How is it this bad? This one quiz question takes up such a large part of my screen. Why is vertical space hogged so much by each element? Why is there so much wasted horizontal space?

Next, I want to add a similar question. However, Canvas does not support duplicating questions. I’m going to have to create a new question, set up the question text and the answers all over again. In this case, the question is brief, so not a big deal. There are only three answers, so not a big deal. It is wasted time, however. It aggregates. It’s annoying. It breaks workflow.

So here, let’s create another problem with the same style. I’ll keep the original question open to reference it (even though it takes up SO MUCH DAMN SPACE), while I work on the new question. But the little widget that lets me upload images and files is gone!

It’s actually just stuck to the top of the page, which is stupid as hell when I get more than a few questions in my quiz. It just sits up there. I have to scroll up to even use it.

Scrolling up to use the damn widget.

Everything about Canvas is terrible. WHY IS IT SO BAD?

Here’s a video of me trying to make a set of randomly-selected questions that are similar:

Done with KU

My time at KU so far has been largely unproductive. I’ve completed a seminar course and an Intro to Operating Systems course (which I had at UMKC as well when I was an undergrad), and for the two grad courses I’ve attempted so far (this and last semester), I’ve had to drop each one. Just due to my schedule of having 20 credit hours to teach last semester and 17 credit hours this semester, it just is not doable – and that’s clear after this first homework assignment that I bombed.

Now, this semester is also my last full-time semester teaching, because the grant paying for my position ends, so I will be going back to part-time adjuncting. I will have more time then. But, KU doesn’t feel like a good fit. I hate the 40 minute commute out into the middle of nowhere (There is NOTHING between Overland Park, KS and Lawnrence, KS). I don’t have the time to thoroughly work on my homework, and while at first I felt like this was a personal failing, now I feel like this is more to do with my schedule than anything. I was envious of students who did better at the project than me, but then I also have to realize that if you’re not working 12 hours a day twice a week, and you live on campus, and you can walk to go see the instructor during their office hours, you just have more resources available to you than I do.

This has been my third attempt at Grad School. And yeah, that kind of stings. I’ve failed three times:

  1. I enrolled at UMKC for a Masters in Curriculum & Instruction, 2013
    I completed the semester, getting A’s in three classes, including Linear Algebra. However, for one class I had to shadow a high school teacher and, having been homeschooled, the concept of public school is so foreign to me. The dynamic is so foreign to me. I also sub taught this semester, once at an elementary and once at a jr high, and that solidified my fear of school even more. I love teaching at the college level, but I’m afraid I don’t understand the school system before that.
  2. I enrolled at MS&T for a Graduate Certificate in Computer Science, 2013
    With the intention of completing a certificate and then transferring to their grad program, I enrolled in the certificate for Computer Security – which I found out that I’m really just not that interested in. And this expensive lesson taught me that I need to work on topics I’m passionate about in grad school, because it’s hard to get through on mere lukewarmness.
  3. I enrolled at KU for a Masters in Computer Science, 2016
    I completed my first semester of taking an undergrad class and the graduate seminar, and the following semester I attempted to take Data Mining. However, the volume of work required was too much for me, when I was barely surviving my work schedule. I dropped out. This semester, I registered for Visualization. Both of these topics are interesting to me, but the amount of time you need to put into them is just time I do not have. This includes the time required to commute to school for special reasons (e.g., professor office hours).

Looking back, I actually enjoyed my work towards the Masters in Curriculum & Instruction. I miss it. I feel like the classes I took – about diversity in the classroom, and about students with special needs – taught me a lot. Computer Science is too focused on just computers, but I need some more of that knowledge around people, too.

So now what I’m thinking about is going back to UMKC, where I went for my undergrad. In my time at different colleges, I’ve learned that I’m really just not a fan of the university format. My experience at Longview, when working on my Associates Degree, was so enjoyable. I think the teachers at JCCC are wonderful and we all put a lot of work into the education aspect of what we do. But at university, it’s a different dynamic, a different feel. The teachers don’t feel invested in me, personally, the way I feel invested in my own students. I feel like the attitude towards me is “sink or swim”, while for my students I want them to do the best they can, and if they do poorly on a specific topic, I want them to learn from what they did wrong, and not have it doom their grade in my class. A second chance.

So if I’m unhappy with the university format everywhere, and if I haven’t found a fit at these other schools, why not just go back to UMKC instead? I know the faculty there and they know me, they like me. I’ve worked beside them as an adjunct as well as learning from them as a student for my undergrad. I feel like the faculty at UMKC want to see me succeed.

UMKC is also in the middle of Kansas City. Even if I have to commute 40 minutes to UMKC (which I wouldn’t have to), there’s at least stuff on the way. I can do errands on the way to/from school. I can visit my sister in Westport after class. It’s a central location close to a lot in Kansas City. And Kansas City is much more interesting than Lawnrence, Kansas.

And, I’m pretty sure I could get a Teaching Assistantship at UMKC. I’ve taught there before, I’m going to teach there this fall as an adjunct. For KU, I’ve been paying out of pocket, $1600 per one class per semester. They may have TA positions, too, but I don’t want to make that commute.

I think in the long run, I might try to get two masters degrees at UMKC – the Computer Science, and the Curriculum & Instruction.

UMKC is home, and after exploring other environments here and there, I think this is where I will be most likely to succeed.

Flarsheim Hall / Haag Hall at UMKC

Canvas is bad and it should feel bad – Feb 22nd – Keyboard shortcuts??

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Um, just curious, Canvas, but…

j : Next Student
k : Previous Student
c : Leave Comment
g : Change Grade
r : Use Rubric

… Why is “next” assigned to “J” and “previous” assigned to “K”?

It’s not even vim keys, which I thought it might be at first; that would be

This makes no sense.

Canvas is bad and it should feel bad – Feb 22nd – Grading programming assignments

Every time I use Canvas, I find that it makes me less productive and more frustrated. There’s too much to catalog all at once, so I’m just going to update this blog post as I become annoyed.

View: Canvas LMS is bad and it should feel bad >>


February 22nd: Grading programming assignments

Let’s go to SpeedGradertm and do some speedy grading of some programming assignments.

Yes, it lets me view the source code from the web browser, albeit without any syntax highlighting. This can be good for small programming assignments, I suppose.

However, I certainly do not see a “Download all student’s files in a zip” link.

I guess that I’m supposed to just download each file manually?

OK, well, maybe I’ll just download all the student files at once with the link on the assignment page.

Clicking the link to download all submissions.

And unzip, and…

A screenshot of the unzipped directory, where all files are lose and have been renamed with the student name and some rumbers.

… Oh.

That’s…

… That’s not useful at all!

I can’t open up a .cpp file and build it because all the headers have been renamed. I can’t use the Makefiles that I made them attach with their assignment because all source files have been renamed.

WHO THOUGHT THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA?


From my experiences with Canvas this semester, it is quite clear that:

  • The makers of Canvas don’t eat their own dog food.
  • Canvas doesn’t hire UX people. I’ve worked at startups with better UX than this service.

University and “Non-traditional Students”

My bilinear interpolation isn’t right. I’ve spent hours and hours on the project, sent emails to the teacher, but I still feel confused and like I lack the resources I need to do well.

I’m a non-traditional student, I guess. I would be a traditional grad student if I had started working on my masters right after my bachelors degree, but I was ready to get out of university. I worked in the industry, and then found I enjoy teaching computer science at the college level, and have returned to university at several places at several times pursuing several different types of degrees.

I will be 30 next month, I live 30 miles away from the university I’m currently attending, I’m teaching 17 credit hours this semester (and 20 last semester). I don’t spend time on campus for funsies; I park, attend my class, pay the $1.75 for an hour of parking, and head home. I have more focuses in my life than just my education – my husband, my day job, and my startup. I really only have the weekends to work on homework and studying.

I remember my pain-points while I was an undergrad, and that makes me the teacher that I am. I understand that my students have a life, I understand that students learn in different ways. Sure, access services will provide you a note taker, but I’ve always wondered how you can rely on the quality of a peer note-taker? When you’re new to a topic, how do you know what is important to highlight, and what’s ok to miss? How do you even take notes fast enough to keep up with a teacher lecturing? (That’s always something I’ve had trouble with.)

Honestly, I’m sitting in class right now and I cannot read all of the teacher’s hand-writing. There is glare on the board coming from the cracked windows, his scrawl is sometimes messy and hard to make out.

I’m frustrated, and I’m unengaged, and while a few days ago I was questioning my own intelligence and self-discipline and abilities, I’m now feeling that university just isn’t accessible to a student like me.

Part of it is the schedule – all of these classes, even grad classes, are mid-day. I’m not working a traditional 8-to-5 job, but if I were it would be impossible for me to attend this college.

Part of it is distance – all classes are in-person, and it’s a 40 minute drive each way. I’m not on campus enough to justify a parking permit, and by paying-per-hour, there is a financial penalty if I need to come on campus more often than I need, such as for office hours.

Another thing is the traditional teaching style – teacher lectures, scribbles on the board, and generally doesn’t refer back to the book or any external data. You’d better show up to class, and you’d better be good at taking notes because there sure as hell aren’t any recorded lectures to refer back to, no slides to look at (and if it is, it’s full of pictures and header text but none of the content.)

And it’s so striking how much different I try to make the experience in my classes, and how shitty I feel in other peoples’ classes.

And part of me wonders if this is part of the whole “toughen up” culture around college and tech – stop whining and “get gud”; if I can’t take it, then I’m just not good enough.

Or if the teachers don’t think about the inaccessible nature of their classes? Or think it isn’t their problem; “There’s an access services! Students can get a note taker and extra time on exams, what more is needed?”

Or maybe they’re more interested in their research than their teaching?

I remember the pain-points of when I was an undergrad, and the same pain-points crop up when I’m a grad. In my classes I make sure that anything I go over in class is also accessible outside of class: My slides or notes are very detailed with all the steps needed. I have video lectures for some of my classes (when I’ve had time). I write exercises that focus on building up the students’ understanding of new topics, starting easy and working their way up. In class we work on things together, because I know that something can seem understandable in lecture, but once you begin trying it yourself that’s where the confusion crops up. I want to make sure students recognize what they’re not understanding, so that we can get through it together and build their foundations and understandings.

And while some students have reviewed me as “worst teacher ever” (Maybe 4 in total have given me that distinction), I feel that so many more honestly find my classes engaging, fun, and instructive. And hopefully they feel secure – they know I’m not trying to write tricky reverse-psychology questions, or throw them in the deep end to sink or swim. They’re here to learn, I’m here to give them resources and help them explore and practice and learn.

And then it’s frustrating when I’ve had so many classes that are all the same “lecture-lecture-lecture, now 3 2 1 go do it hope you’re good at taking notes”. And for the most part, that’s how I’ve taught myself to teach myself. But now in gradschool I’m running into scenarios where there is less information out there, and sometimes (often) the teachers use only themselves as the only resource in the class, which leaves me feeling dumb – at first – and then frustrated because I know I could do better if things were just a little different.

2017

When 2017 began, I was very depressed.

My boyfriend, Rai, was rolled off his project at work and had to return to India a few months prior – shortly after we had began living together. I now had to return home from work to nobody. I cried after getting home from work until I managed to numb myself.

My hopes for the first woman president were dashed and anger and fear and dread were my feelings as the new year came around. If Clinton were president, I would at least have had some optimism about the future. The double whammy of losing my love and no longer having faith in anything as basic as are we going to fight climate change and have a future was hard.

But, one has to keep living. I threw myself into my work and attended protests and sent postcards to the president and called my representatives.

A big stress in 2017 was trying to think of some way that I, as an independent programmer, could make something to improve the world in some small way. I committed to letting my students know that my classroom is a safe place, and that I am there for them if they need an advocate, but I also wanted to know what more I could do.

While I don’t think I achieved anything big, programming-wise, in 2017, I at least have been experimenting and trying. I’ve also achieved things not programming related – because I’m not a robot.

So here is a reflection on things I’ve done in 2017, because it’s so easy to forget what we’ve achieved. It’s really easy for me to slip into a feeling of uselessness and start beating myself up for not meeting my own standards, and part of that is learning to accept myself for being myself (not just doing stuff), it’s also good to put things into perspective; not the warped, exaggerated perspective that anxiety and depression-glasses make you see through.

What I did

I got married

Rai and Rachel at the marriage ceremony

Rai finally arrived back in the K.C. on November 15th, after having been gone since November 1st of the previous year. We made it!

We had a small ceremony at the Olathe courthouse, and poof! Married! We did it in our own way – low stress, simple, etc. Though we still need to plan our reception party for 2018!

I went to India

Rachel and Rai in front of the Taj Mahal

We submitted our fiancé paperwork in April, but a 6-to-9 month wait would have been too much time to go without seeing each other. During the semester break (a couple weeks between Spring and Summer semesters), I flew to India and spent time with Rai, where we became “officially” engaged.

We spent time in New Delhi, where Rai was living, in Agra, and in his parents’ village in Uttarakhand.

Rai and I worked on the fiancé-visa paperwork

Rai was sent back to India in November 2016, and at that time neither of us were sure if we (as individuals) were ready for marriage. But after the time apart, and after eventually getting his father’s approval, we started on the fiancé visa paperwork.

I’ve spent time with my sister

After a couple of years in Seattle, my sister moved back to Kansas City and I’ve had the opportunity to spend time with her multiple times per week.

I completed an easy-reader comic

Rachel’s Reader preview

I finished the first in a series of comics I’d like to make – an easy-reader meant for language learners. It is available on Itch.io here, and as of writing has versions in English, Esperanto, Finnish, French, and Hindi.

I began taking Hindi classes

Me in Hindi class

It was serendipity that I learned about the Hindi class at our local temple – I had taken my friend Aishwarya to the temple and there was a board there with the information. I signed up and, even though I’m the only adult in the class, I’ve been learning a lot and really enjoying having a Sunday tradition! I love language learning and taking the class has really helped me build a good foundation.

I’ve aggregated the Hindi learning resources I’ve made here on GitHub.

I started gradschool

Although I only completed one semester and dropped out of the Fall semester due to work, I did effectively start gradschool. Even though I’m overall underwhelmed by my experience so far, at least the momentum is going. Even though being a teacher isn’t my be-all-end-all career goal, having a Master’s Degree will at least keep doors open to me no matter where I move to.

I also vlogged!

I taught a new class

After an emergency at work, one instructor’s classes were split up between the other teachers. I landed with Discrete Math II, which I had been wanting to teach for a while. Before, I had only taught Discrete Math I. While I got some really nasty (and some good) reviews on the end-of-semester anonymous surveys, I feel like I did an alright job… especially considering that I was teaching 6 classes… 20 credit hours. I survived.

I reclaimed my YouTube channel

My original, humble rise on YouTube (8000 subscribers) was due to my game programming and educational gamedev content. For the longest time I felt like I couldn’t post about other interests or parts of my life because of “my subscribers”. But the

controversy showed us that not all gamers are good people. So fuck ’em. I’ll post what I want, I don’t care about losing subscribers (and I did lose subscribers). It’s more important to visibly show your support for a cause than cater to assholes on the internet.

Some of the videos I posted that made people mad were:

I protested, called, and donated

I invested what I could of myself to trying to make political changes in the only way I know how. I protested, I contacted my representatives, and I donated to various causes and activists.

I did some coding

Random magical girl generator

Random comic generator

I did take time to explore code, even though it was small. Just little experiments here and there. I made the visualization of how many people could die if Obamacare is repealed, I worked on things to procedurally generate characters and dialog, I made a couple of Twitter bots, a painting app for toddlers, and so on.

I made some YouTube videos

I did manage to publish some YouTube videos this year. In addition to the ones posted above, I also did a Robot Let’s Play, a video about Cyrus the Dog, some of my lectures from my classes, vlogs about gradschool and going to India, and some videos for my Conlang-oriented channel.

I delegated

One of my goals in Moosader is to learn to delegate, and to offer opportunities for others to do some commission work that I pay them for. I did have a friend, Kuĉjo, work on conlang videos,

I freelanced

Did some freelancing, met a deadline, mentored Shawnee in working on the game as well.

I made a board game

The board game I worked on

As a joke Christmas gift, I made a board game for my cousin based around one of her biggest pet peeves – people not changing the toilet paper. It was a lot of fun to come up with pieces and the board, and test out the rules with my sister.

I explored business ideas

I like to make different types of things, and I’m trying to find a way to funnel my creativity into different business ideas. This has included making educational videos, language apps, punny Esperanto t-shirts, a web-portal for conlang games, and more.

I saw John Carmack give a talk at UMKC

John Carmack giving a talk

Ever since I read Masters of Doom as a tween, John Carmack had always been one of my biggest role models in the programming world. This year, he came to give a talk at UMKC – a university that he briefly attended, and where I got my B.S. from – and I went to see him. <3

I crafted

A purse I made for Rai’s mom prior to going to India

Cute nails that I painted

I’ve always been a crafty person but I made some cool crocheted things this year, as well as painted, drawing, and even doing nail art.

Other notes

I lost my dog

Rachel and Cyrus the dog

I’ve made a blog post about this already, but our childhood dog passed away this year, which was very hard. He’s been in my life for more than half of it, and now I still tear up to think about how I won’t get to hang out with him anymore.

Winter break goals

It is finals week. I’ve finished giving 2 finals, and there are 4 more to go. I’m teaching 20 credit hours this semester, and I’ve been much too busy to do other things like “pursue hobbies” and “cook food” and “socialize”. But, soon I’ll have a break, and next semester will be much more manageable. My anxiety is building, however, at being concerned about using my break time productively, for things that I’ve wanted to work on all semester but haven’t had the time to do so. What should I do? I need to write out a list.

Things I’d like to spend time on

Game development

I definitely want to work on a game over the break, but I have several ideas so it can be hard to figure out what to concentrate on. I want to continue working on language learning apps, and make new versions of the Language Fantasy games that I have out there. I’d also like to update some of the reference apps, such as for Toki Pona and Láadan.

I want to work on some Visual Novels, or at least games using the RenPy engine but in a unique way. I want to work on some microgames about silly things. One day I want to remake Rawr Rinth and Lenxion and improve them.

Book writing

I have started writing a book about PyGame and I was thinking of also writing a book about RenPy to help my Moosader team members ramp up on the engine so we can build more Visual Novels, without ME being the bottleneck.

I also want to spend time on making an easy-reader comic, which I can self-publish via itch.io.

Video making

I want to make some short films, as well as possibly just do other random YouTube stuff during the break. I like making language learning videos, cartoons, and so on.

Freelancing

I have one freelance project I’d like to get moving on again.

Celebrating

My husband and I had a small wedding and essentially no reception, so for January we need to plan some kind of party for our friends and family to celebrate with us. I’m just not sure what to plan!!

Not working

At the same time, I’d like to spend time away from a computer, too. Maybe traveling or other non-computer activities. Spending time with my husband and all that. 🙂

Cleaning

I want to make our apartment more organized and get rid of stuff we don’t use. Cut down on clutter!

Married!

Rai and I got married!

Parties for Introverts

I want to plan an introvert-friendly wedding reception party (for sometime in January?)…

So for instance, somebody on Mastodon suggested “drinks and live music”. This is not a party I would enjoy, because I would just stand around not knowing what to do with myself – I’m awkward like that.

It is better when there’s something else to focus on, and interacting with people via that activity. For example: Watching a movie together, playing card / board games together, playing video games together, etc.

But, there should also be activities that everybody can enjoy – not everybody is a gamer.

I’d like to plan something where there’s a space, and people can arrive whenever they’d like, stay as long as they want, and leave when they want (rather than waiting for a specific thing to happen), and I’d like self-serve food to be available.

 

Why does it feel so hard to come up with activities? I can barely find anything online… It’s almost as if introverts rarely throw parties. T_T

Thanksgiving day

My fiancé has finally returned and we will be getting married soon. On Thanksgiving, we had my sister Rose help us with a photo shoot. I am so lucky to have this guy in my life!!

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