Thursday, January 03, 2008

My Obsessiveness and My Geekiness Collide

Instead of knitting, hand-washing the rest of the sweaters, writing a thank-you note for the four wonderful books that arrived yesterday, or thinking about packing for a very rainy time in California, the back of my mind was thinking about my new computer and the instructional technology that I use in class.

I use clickers to see what the students are learning in the big calculus class -- in real time. I also use them as a way to make them think that I'm enforcing the attendance policy.

Unfortunately, the clicker software is a hacked mess written by some crazy software outfit in the Ukraine. And instead of using the high level tools of Apple's Software Development Kit, the clicker software does all sorts of weird low-level stuff. As a result, it does not work with Leopard. Now, as the arrival of Leopard had been long awaited and because Apple gave developers pre-release copies to make sure their software would be ready for Leopard, there really is no excuse for this. But, you know, those wacky Ukrainians.

So, I was thinking about my new computer, about how it's likely to be a Revision D MacBook (unless they give me a reconditioned Revision C machine). I was excited by the possiblity of shoving 4 GB of RAM into its slots (thanks to the Santa Rosa chipset). I read about a new and improved video chip.

And then I realized: The Revision D MacBook was released in early November. After the release of Leopard (late October). Probably this means that Apple didn't bother to make this machine run under Tiger. Probably Tiger doesn't know that you can have a Santa Rosa MacBook. Most likely no one wrote Tiger drivers for the GMA X3100. There are decent odds that I am going to have a Leopard-only MacBook. No option to run Tiger, even if I wanted to.

This means no clickers.

Tomorrow I'll be in the office writing a syllabus addendum reallocating the clicker points to other parts of the grade. I need to make the decision now since I'm leaving for San Diego on Saturday morning and returning home about 13 hours before I teach my first class of the semester. I need to have everything ready to go, and I need to make a definitive decision. I can't hope for a reconditioned machine of the correct flavor to run the crazy clicker software, so I'm going to have to do without the clickers. This will save my students some bucks, as the clickers run them about $20 for the device and an additional $14 or so to register them.

I emailed the instructional tech people on campus to tell them why I'm not using the clickers in the spring. I made sure the cc the clicker sales rep and to mention how many students are in the class so he can calculate how much money they're losing because their software is not Leopard compatible.