## Posts Tagged ‘Computers’

January 25, 2017

I mostly have liked the course management software I have used (Moodle and Canvas), but both are pretty terrible when it comes to keeping track of grades in an Standards-Based Grading system. I have mostly kept the my grades in a spreadsheet, which does all of the calculations that I want it to, but the students then do not have access to their grades. I tried using Canvas to report grades in Spring 2016 and Fall 2016, but Canvas will not do the calculations I need it to (I just posted the raw scores to Canvas, and I gave the students the logic to figure it out); I had to keep a separate spreadsheet to do everything I needed.

Neither of these made me happy, because I want my students to have access to their grades (if only to check for mistakes I have made), but I also want a single place to put my grades. My solution was inspired by Drew Lewis, who created a PERL script to send his students email updates of their grades directly off his spreadsheet. If I were more computer-savvy, this probably should have been an obvious solution, but I am very grateful that Drew pointed out what I could not recognize on my own.

I am more familiar with Python, so I wrote my own script (included below). Once I have the code written, I go to a command line (I use Linux), type “crontab -e” to edit my crontab, and type (without the quotation marks) “14 3 * * 2 /usr/bin/python 118-S17/Grades/118EmailGrades.py” to send an email at 3:14 am (the 14 3) every Tuesday morning (the “2” in “14 3 * * 2”). The “/usr/bin/python” says to run the program “python” and input the file “118-S17/Grades/118EmailGrades.py.”

Below is the code. It seems to work, but there is one issue that I am ironing out: I am only allowed to send five emails at a time when I tested it. I am pretty sure that this is a limitation on the server’s end, since I am sending the messages to only a couple of email addresses (all mine for the test runs). My (ugly) hack, which worked on Tuesday, is that I broke up my code so that each program only emails 5 students. I welcome troubleshooting ideas from those who know about this stuff, although I suspect that I could just try the single program and it would work, since I am not actually going to email to the same email address more than once for my class.

Here is the code. Note that indentation matters A LOT in Python, so be careful if you cut-and-paste.

import openpyxl
import smtplib
import email
import time

#Here I am getting each 'sheet' of the spreadsheet.
rosterSheet=wb.get_sheet_by_name('Roster')
summarySheet=wb.get_sheet_by_name('Summary')
quizSummarySheet=wb.get_sheet_by_name('QuizSummary')
quizLogicSheet=wb.get_sheet_by_name('QuizLogic')

#I put my password in my spreadsheet, since that is supposed to be more secret than this code is.  I put it in Cell AA1 of the "Roster" sheet, and this gets it out.
pw=rosterSheet['AA1'].value

#I am logging into my email server here.
smtpObj=smtplib.SMTP('exchange.csbsju.edu',587)
smtpObj.ehlo()
smtpObj.starttls()

#I want to put the date in the email, so I am getting it here.
todaysDate=str(time.strftime("%m/%d/%y"))

#The From email address and Subject of the email will be the same for every student; I put today's date in the Subject for the students' convenience.
fromVar="bbenesh@MYSCHOOL.edu"
subject="Math 118: Grade Update for "+todaysDate

#Put the last row you want to check prior to the +1
NUMBEROFROWS=54+1

#Put the rows you do not want to check (because they are blank or because the student dropped) in the list below.
EXCEPTIONS=[28]

#I have to hardcode the range, and I skip rows 28 and 29 because they do not contain student data.
#The commented out for loop is just to test so that I am not flooded with emails.
for rowVar in range(2,NUMBEROFROWS):
&amp;nbsp#This just skips the blank rows that I hard-coded into the exceptions.
if rowVar in EXCEPTIONS:
continue
#This gets the student's first name and email, and I print the first name so that I can see who received an email (I get an email update once this program runs).
firstName=rosterSheet.cell(row=rowVar, column=3).value
print firstName
toEmail=rosterSheet.cell(row=rowVar, column=4).value
#I am going to put together the body of the message in several steps, storing it in the 'text' variable each time.  This is just the saluation of the email.
text="Dear %s,\n\nBelow is your weekly grade update for %s.  If the semester ended today, you would receive a grade of %s.  Of course, I fully expect your grade to go up, since the semester is not yet over."   % (firstName,todaysDate,todaysGrade)

#Here I am getting the summaries of their grade components and putting it in the text.

#Here I am giving them the next two things they should be studying to improve their grade; the logic in the spreadsheet figures this out.
firstMissingQuiz=quizLogicSheet.cell(row=rowVar,column=2).value
secondMissingQuiz=quizLogicSheet.cell(row=rowVar,column=3).value
text+="The two Learning Outcomes you should focus on next are %s and %s.  At the bottom of this email is a list of the number of times you have demonstrated each of the Learning Outcomes.  Please check this over to see that it is correct, and be sure to email me if you find a mistake.\n\nHave a great day!\nBret\n\n\n" % (firstMissingQuiz,secondMissingQuiz)

#Next, I am just going to loop over the raw data for each Standard and print it out at the end of the email.  This is so they can check to make sure that their records agree with mine.
#Put the number of the column corresponding to your last learning outcome prior to the +1
NUMBEROFCOLUMNS=23+1
#Again, I am hardcoding the column range for my spreadsheet.
for columnVar in range(2,NUMBEROFCOLUMNS):
labelCode=quizSummarySheet.cell(row=1,column=columnVar).value
numberOfMarks=quizSummarySheet.cell(row=rowVar,column=columnVar).value
text+="%s:  %s\n" % (labelCode,numberOfMarks)

#Here I just format the final message, addding a subject header to my 'text' variable.  Then I send the email.
message='Subject: %s\n\n%s' % (subject,text)
smtpObj.sendmail(fromVar,toEmail,message)

#I log out of the email server.
smtpObj.quit()

### Chromebook!

November 26, 2013

I live on a Windows campus. I came from a Mac campus, and I really wanted a Mac, but I was unable to get one. Rather than get a Windows machine, I opted for a Linux machine. I am not really a member of the Linux community (I don’t have the skills to belong), but I have been really happy with my machine. The main drawback is that it is not portable; there are many times that I wish I had a laptop.

In fact, portability actually makes me more productive. I work at a very social campus (both students and faculty), which is nice exactly up until the point where you need to get a lot of work done. If I had a laptop, I could leave my office to work at a place where no one can find me.

I briefly considered last year switching from my Linux machine to a Windows laptop. This would be portable, and it would also make it easier to create screencasts. However, I am loathe to give up the dual monitors that come with my Linux machine, which seem to triple my production.

I would consider buying a MacBook, but I do not have a lot of money available to me. So, instead, I bought a Chromebook. It was used, it was \$160, and does 95% of what I want a computer to do (even though it is basically just a web browser). In order to save money, I opted for an old Samsung from Amazon Marketplace, rather than the newest version.

I am very happy with my purchase so far. The reason for this—and I wouldn’t have bought a Chromebook if this hadn’t happened—is that William Stein and friend created a ridiculously useful service that allows me to create $\LaTeX$ documents online, do all of my calculations online, and gives me a fully functional shell with which I can ssh into my work computer. Without Sage Math Cloud, I would not have gotten a Chromebook. With it, I get all of the benefits of dual monitors and portability for only \$160.

(I have received nothing from Google, Samsung, or the Sage Project for writing this post).

### Area professor introduces students to Python

February 25, 2011

After a couple of years of building up the courage to try, I finally attempted to incorporate computer programming in my mathematics classes. The reasons for doing so are two-fold:

1. Computers are everywhere, and it seems like an educated person should have some experience in programming them.
2. Programming is a fantastic tool for getting students to understand algorithms.

In particular, I am teaching elementary education majors this semester, and I am starting by having them code the standard addition algorithm for base six numbers. Here is how I set up the exercise:

1. I reserved a classroom set of laptop computers for the day.
2. I decided to use Python. This is because it is a useful language, the syntax is relatively minimal, and it is relatively easy to read.
3. My students were to input numbers as lists; furthermore, I made the requirement that their program only work with four digit numbers. That is, $1234+45$ would be inputted as $[1,2,3,4]+[0,0,4,5]$. These were both done to eliminate the coding that would not help them understand the algorithm better.
4. I coded up a similar base six subtraction algorithm. I gave them a copy of my code to help them get started on the addition algorithm (the addition algorithm is substantially easier to code). (I also gave them a copy of a program that will take a sum of numbers of arbitrary length—not just four-digit numbers. I still, however, kept the inputs as lists).
5. My school does not have a Python interpreter on its network, and I cannot request one until the summer (there are only two times per year that I can request software—before each semester). Instead, I decided to use Sage Online as my interpreter.

I explained this plan to my students, and they seemed game. However, there was a serious problem with using Sage Online. For some reason—perhaps because all of the computers were being funnelled through the same wireless router—one student could see everyone else’s worksheets on Sage, and no one else could see any worksheet.

At this point, I decided to delay the programming project until Monday. Then, I will attempt the same process, only using codepage instead of Sage Online.

Does anyone have a suggestion for how to improve this?