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Setting up class (#1278)

Topics/tags: Teaching

Recently, I’ve mused on writing labs and writing assignments. Today, I thought I’d reflect on the last few minutes before I teach class, which I’d call setup time. Far in advance of those minutes, I’ve prepared the lab, set up the submission on Gradescope, made an outline of what I want to discuss, and read through student responses.

To be honest, in reality, I haven’t done all of those things. The lab is ready. The autograder is ready. But I often forget to post it to Gradescope [1]. And I usually have some last minute changes to make to the class outline [2]. I’ve often read only half the reading responses the previous evening, not least because most students submit them after I go to bed. There are times I’ve read none. So I try to use the few minutes before the few minutes before class to quickly skim those and add notes and questions to the outline.

But let’s pretend that I’ve done all that. What’s left? It may be more complicated for me than for others because of the extra tasks I set for myself, many of which persist from our return to classes after the pandemic.

First, on my laptop [3], I push the eboard and updated link to GitHub. Why? Because I develop class on my laptop, but I prefer to teach on the same machine kind of machine that my students use during class.

After that, I start Teams on my laptop. Why do I run Teams on my laptop? Because I use Teams to record the class. Unfortunately, Linux Teams doesn’t seem to work as well to record sessions. Or perhaps it’s the configuration of our Linux workstations. Whatever. It works on my laptop, so I use my laptop. I also start a Teams meeting. I usually remember to enter a name for the meeting. Microsoft accepts the name about 2/3 of the time. I don’t understand why it doesn’t always accept it.

Teams puts up at least two dialog boxes. First, it asks me whether I want to share a link. Then, before I can answer the question, it pops up another dialog box that asks me what language people are speaking. I believe the second box is there because I have Teams auto-caption. In any case, I answer English and No (or something like that).

Next, I log in to the instructor workstation. That’s the machine I teach from. Once I’m on that machine, I pull those changes from GitHub. After that, I start Teams and connect to the Teams meeting. Why do I need a second instance of Teams? Because I’m going to share the screen from the instructor machine. Connecting to the Teams meeting also gives me a chance to ensure that it got the right name. If not, I go back and start a new recording.

There are more dialog boxes here. What are they? I’m not in front of that workstation, so I can’t remember them all. The first is This computer lacks a microphone. Do you want me to call you? I answer No. The second may be that What language? question. Whatever it is, I get through it.

Next up is sharing the screen. That’s always a bit of an adventure, because once I’ve clicked Share Screen, Microsoft keeps moving the place I’m supposed to click on what to share. Okay, it only moves it twice. But why move it at all? In any case, I find the right icon to click and click it.

Did I mention that I opened a new window to edit the eboard, which I’m now sharing? No? That’s because I often forget to open that window. But I’ve done so now, so I make sure that window is on top. Then I hit the start projector button on our friendly control panel [4].

As long as I’m on the instructor workstation, I also start my post eboard updates to the Web script. That script repeatedly builds the course Web site and then pushes it to the appropriate place. This process used to be easier when we used MathLAN as our Web server. Now that we have separate servers [5], it’s a bit more complicated. Nonetheless, the script I wrote seems to work.

Back to my laptop. I start recording on Teams after making sure that I’m using the right camera and microphone. I also start and copy a link to the transcript to the Teams chat associated with the recording. Why do I record with both Teams and Force of habit, I suppose. In my experience, Otter makes better transcripts. Plus, Otter now writes these humorous summaries of what I’ve talked about [6].

Back to the instructor workstation. It’s usually about one minute after I was supposed to start the class. So I stand up and say, Good morning! [7] Welcome to class N of course. Class has started.

Note that the steps above are what I hope to happen. Unfortunately, the projector system doesn’t always work [8]. The instructor workstation doesn’t always work[9]. I don’t always remember all of the steps. I think I said that already. And I don’t always give myself enough time to do everything; sometimes other events don’t give me enough time to do everything. In any case, setting up class takes time. I wonder if I can make it more efficient (other than by dropping the recordings).

Postscript: Why do I record class? As I said, it’s a post-pandemic habit. Recordings help students who miss class. Some students who can’t make it to class in person sometimes join on Teams. Plus, I find the summaries amusing.

Postscript: I hope this musing explains to students why I’m not very talkative (and not particularly enthusiastic about answering questions) in the few minutes before class.

[1] Since another faculty member is copying my Gradescope assignments, I’m doing better at remembering this semester.

[2] The outline is my eboard, a live blackboard that I then post to the Web.

[3] It’s really the College’s laptop. But you know what I mean.

[4] It’s more of a Start the projector for the Linux workstation button. And no, the control panel isn’t always friendly.

[5] An appropriate decision.

[6] They aren’t intentionally humorous. I just find it amusing to see what it has identified as key topics.

[7] I try to remember to say Good afternoon for my afternoon classes. It usually ends up as Good morning no matter what time of day it is.

[8] It’s been much better in Science 3813 than it was in Science 3815.

[9] That happens much less frequently.

Version 1.0 of 2024-03-19.