More on Moodle Quiz

After playing around with the quiz module on Moodle I think I’ve decided to try the Calculated question type. In this type of question you can enter variables into the question and then the formula for determining the correct answer. For example this is the quiz question for mission 1:

Radar imaging shows that the cargo jet is heading east at {x} km/h. The agency jet has a top speed of {y} km/h. There is a wind from the north east at {z} km/h. What direction should you head to intercept the hijacked plane?

Moodle then asks me for a range for each variable (ie {y} is between 400 and 600 while {z} is between 25 and 45. Moodle will then enter a random number into the question. This way the student can retry the quiz without memorizing the answer.

For the solution I entered the following into Moodle:

rad2deg(asin(sin(2.356)*({z}/{y})))

One issue is that Moodle works in radians rather than degrees so I had to enter the angle in radians and then have Moodle convert its solution to degrees using the rad2deg command.

I think ideally I want to create a set of questions for each mission so that the question itself can change rather than just the numbers, but for now this appears to be a quick method of creating a random quiz.

12×12 Photo Marathon

This past weekend I took part in the 12×12 photo marathon for the second time. The concept goes as follows; each hour from 10am to 9pm the organizers announce a theme, take a photo that represents that theme, photos must be taken in order, photos are taken on one roll of 12 exposure 35mm film. This year they added a twist in that the film was black and white. There are prizes for the best photo for each theme as well as a prize for best series of photos. Last year I noticed that a lot of people tried to tie each of their photos together and these were the ones that were nominated for best series. For example, the winner last year had an apple in each photo, another photographer did self portraits and another did double exposures. Getting twelve photos for each theme seemed hard enough last year so I wasn’t sure if I wanted to try and add this extra condition but since they announced the prize was free entry into the marathon next year I kept it in mind.

Theme 1: Your entry number + Colour

Some variation of “my entry number” seems to always be the first theme. This year my entry number was 18. I didn’t really have any ideas during the first hour so I decided to wait and see what theme number two was.

Theme 2: Through the looking glass

I new that Through the Looking Glass was the sequel to Alice in Wonderland and when I looked it up on wikipedia it mentioned a recurring theme of Chess. Ah….now I had an idea. What if I incorporated a game into each photo? Since I’m redesigning my class as a game this seemed like a great idea. I even knew the photo I wanted to take for this theme. Earlier I had walked past an antique store that had a magnifying glass and some old chess sets. So I set up a piece and took the photo of it looking through the glass. This was of course after I went back and took the photo for theme 1, I bought a deck of cards and some poker chips from a dollar store and took a photo of a hand of blackjack scoring 18.

I’m not going to go through the other 10 photos here. Needless to say it was a long day and I’m still sore from all the walking I did but I enjoyed every minute of it. The film is hopefully on its way to be developed and I won’t know how each shot turned out until September 22.

How to Play Angry Birds

There has been an ongoing critique of Khan Academy and the use of his video lectures as a replacement for traditional classrooms. One set of teachers even produced a video parody of Mystery Science Theater called Mystery Teacher Theater where they point out a few problems with one of the videos. Personally I don’t think the videos are that bad if they are used in conjunction with other learning strategies. In essence that’s what I am doing with my course. How should online videos be used? Is it better to be told how to do something then set off to practice that method or is it better to be given time to experiment and then given the theory? Dan Meyer has a great Mystery Teacher Theater entry on this topic:

Khan Academy Does Angry Birds from Dan Meyer on Vimeo.

Laptop Woes

The school district has been pretty supportive of this project. When I first brought it up they asked me what resources I would need. So I created a list that included one very expensive item, a new MacBook Pro. Well not one of the new retina displays but still it was a $1200 bill and for a teacher that only teaches one class at continuing education I half expected them to say no. I was pleasantly surprised when they said yes. It took a while for it to get ordered but it arrived….over a month ago. Since then it sat with the district tech services group while they set it up. Why it took so long I don’t know but this week I was notified that I could pick it up. When I got it home however I found that I couldn’t sign into the computer using the initial password they supplied. I tried every combination of username and password I could think without success. I called tech services and left them a message explaining my problem. The next day they called back following their instructions over the phone I still wasn’t able to login. So I drove over there and had them login as the administrator to fix the problem. Then I came home excited to try making my first screencast.

I should have checked the computer when I was at tech services. Most of the software that I asked for wasn’t installed. Tracker, Omnidazzle and Screenflow are all missing. So I drove back to tech services to get them to install them. I was told however that they knew nothing about this request and were not allowed to install any software that wasn’t included in the basic setup for a teacher.

I didn’t think that software was going to be the issue with this project. I understand that it’s not my computer and the reasons that the school district has for wanting to control what is installed on it but not being allowed to install software that I will use for my class and that students will use for doing experiments is very frustrating.

At this point I wish I had gone out a month ago and bought myself a new MacBook and set it up myself. I may still go this route. I need a new computer at home anyway.

Moodle Equation Editor

After a lot of struggles I’ve finally managed to figure out the Moodle equation editor. The editor relies on a TeX filter to convert TeX notation into gif images. However just simply enabling the filter wasn’t enough to get the editor to work. It did however enable the DragMath editor which has been written in Java. Once enabled the editor was rather strange to use. Mathematical expressions are grouped together into tabs which then have to be dragged and dropped into the workspace. Personally I find it difficult to use. However when the equation is inserted into the Moodle page it gets converted into TeX notation. For example: $$d=v_{0}t+ \frac{1}{2}at^2$$. I actually find it easier to just edit this directly.

The problem was that Moodle wasn’t converting this notation into a gif image. After searching the forums I realized that although the filter was enabled I didn’t actually have the LaTeX binaries installed. After trying unsuccessfully to get these binaries installed I tried contacting my hosting company and was informed that because I’m on a shared rather than a dedicated server this won’t be possible.

Fortunately there was a section on the DragMath page about decoupling it from the TeX filter. Following this process lead to success in getting the equations displayed property but created some other problems with how the Moodle site was being displayed. The menu bar ended up being shifted to the right resulting in it being impossible to click on some items. I solved this by not pasting the css style sheet line when setting up the display mechanism.

Only one issue remains, the gifs are not displayed when viewing the Moodle site from my iphone and the mobile theme.

When Pigs Fly!

I was walking through the local mall yesterday and these in a store:

That video was taken in my class this year. I ordered two of these flying pigs from Boreal and the students loved them. When I ordered them I thought they were going to be quite small and probably powered by a propeller, but as you can see their wings do flap and propel them at quite a quick pace.

I have the students take data on the radius and period of the motion in order to determine the speed, the tension in the string and the angle that it is flying at. I think this year with more time being spent doing labs I will also have the students experiment with the length of the string the pig is attached to so that they can see how this affects these quantities.