In which I need to figure this out

Right now this is my new Facebook profile picture, but I felt like it was necessary to share it here too. Sushi hates me so much, it’s adorable.

The kids appear to be having massive difficulties with the assignment I gave them today. I’ve tried to move on a bit from endless review into new material (effectively the entire fourth quarter has been distance learning, so none of the stuff that is supposed to be covered in the last 25% of the year has been taught yet) and something that probably should have occurred to me earlier occurred to me today.

When I’m teaching in a regular classroom setting, if I notice my first couple of groups having trouble with a specific aspect of something or simply not understanding the way I’m teaching it, or a common mistake I wasn’t expecting, I can adjust throughout the day. If kids in 3rd and 4th hour are frequently making the same kind of error, you can bet that 6th and 7th hour are going to hear me specifically address that type of mistake before I turn the kids loose on whatever their assignment was for that day. And in e-learning, not only do I not really have a way to adjust from class to class, but the vast majority of the time I can’t even tell what mistakes they’re making. This could be fixed somewhat if I adjusted how I was instructing– I’ve been defaulting to mostly multiple-choice assignments in a Google form that can grade itself– but it’s difficult to imagine what I could be doing that would let me see their thinking as they’re making mistakes. I mean, sure, I could ask— I could give them a problem, then they answer it, and then maybe explain in a text box how they solved it, but I know my kids well enough to know that that’s not actually going to be as helpful as it sounds like it could be. I’ve only got about 30-40% of my kids even doing the work on a day-to-day basis, it’s tough enough to get them to watch the instructional videos that are showing them how to do the stuff in the first place, and I have no way of telling whether a kid who got a terrible score on an assignment got a terrible score because he doesn’t understand what he’s doing or because he simply logged on and answered “C” for everything– which I suspect at least a couple of my kids are doing.

I need to figure out a way to get this material to teach itself, effectively– because while there’s less than a month of school left, and maybe only 15 days of actual instruction, there is no way that we don’t lose a substantial chunk of next year to this as well, and when that happens I want to be prepared.


If you’re wondering what I mean by “teach itself,” read this excellent article about how– this is not a joke– the first level of Nintendo’s Super Mario Brothers teaches you how to play it. That game is a masterclass of tutorial design; I just need to figure out a way to apply that style of learning to math.

It’ll be easy, I’m sure.


6:52 PM, Wednesday (God, is it Wednesday? Is that right?) April 22nd: 837,947 confirmed cases and 46,560 Americans dead. That is a pretty staggering increase in the 31 hours since I last posted.

#MyFave4GamesEVER, overkill edition

So there’s a hashtag trending on Twitter right now. And I can’t do it. Four games? FOUR GAMES?? I’m fucking 43 on Friday and I’ve been playing video games since I was sentient. That’s impossible. So, yeah, pick four of these, literally uploaded in random order and probably presented that way as well. I am also absolutely 100% certain that I’m forgetting several important ones. There are stories behind a couple of them; I may add some details later:

Okay that’s enough thank you

I ride around on a giant stone serpent I have named Tiny Snek now. I have played approximately five hundred hours of Pokemon Let’s Go: Pikachu since yesterday’s post, which does not count the twelve thousand hours my son has put into the game, and as of this exact moment I have not yet Caught Them All. I have Caught perhaps A Third Of Them, and I think perhaps I have played just a little too much Pokémon this weekend. I mean, my eyes are bleeding. That’s not normal, right? I don’t remember what my life was like before we bought this game but I don’t think eye-bleeding was ever really a prominent part of it.

This game has dick jokes in it, by the way. They are at least moderately subtle most of the time, but Jesus Christ the Boulder gym, the first one? Everything in there was a horrifying sex joke that my seven-year-old, currently perched on the arm of the recliner I’m writing this in and reading over my shoulder, did not understand. Also, all of the human character models, even the male ones, have at least a-cup breasts, which I’m really confused about. About half the time I can’t tell if I’m supposed to be talking to a male or female character until they give me a name. These are not things I was expecting to be thinking about while playing this.

Tomorrow is Martin Luther King Day, so the boy and I have the day off and my wife has to go to work. I may have to accidentally break the TV at seven in the morning to save my sanity. Pray for me.

In which I relive someone else’s childhood

I’ve said this before, on more than one occasion: forget about what year you were born; the clearest delineating line between those of us commonly assigned Generation X and the Millennials is the answer to the question Did Pokémon play any role in your childhood? If no: Gen X. If yes: Millennial. Now, that falls apart when talking to people younger than the Millennials, but it’s a pretty damn good rule of thumb for the “currently middle-aged or approaching same” generations.

If you are seven, Pokémon has a good chance of being your life, especially if you are a seven-year-old boy. Which my son is. He has hundreds of Pokémon cards (he has never actually played the game, at least not correctly) a wide variety of Pokémon-themed clothing, Pokémon stuffed animals, Pokémon pajamas, books, you name it.

I don’t know shit about this stuff. I am 42. I think in a lot of ways I have more in common with Millennials than my own generation (I have never really identified with Gen X; if pushed, I’ll claim the Star Wars or Oregon Trail generations) but I am totally in the cold on this Pokémon thing. I think it started hitting when I was in high school, too old to notice it, but I’m not really sure. My younger brother was never into it either so I missed it by a good several years.

Point is, we bought Pokémon Let’s Go: Pikachu for the Switch yesterday and the whole goddamn family has been playing the game all day today. It was my idea; I am bound and determined to understand something about this weird-ass bullshit and if a roleplaying game can’t pull me into Pokémon on at least a superficial level then nothing can. I gotta say, other than the standard garbage control scheme that comes with every single Switch game (motion controls can die in a fire; I don’t ever want them again in anything I play, ever again) it’s actually a pretty good time; the boy was ecstatic about it, and the Switch has owned the TV all day. Under ordinary circumstances I might look askance upon the idea of literally spending the entire day playing video games; it’s snowy as hell outside and a three-day weekend and right now Daddy don’t care. I’m gonna find out what the fuck a Machamp is this weekend if it kills me, and I swear to God I just looked over and told him to go find some “ground types” to fight in a “gym” so he can earn a “badge.” I think I might have even used the terms correctly.

So, yeah. Weather outside is frightful and all that. What are y’all doing?

Both directions, uphill

logoThey say– well, I don’t know if I’ve ever heard anyone say this specifically, but I assume someone has– that you never really understand your parents until you’re a parent yourself.  And I feel like there’s a lot of truth to that, right?  I feel like I understand my mom and dad a lot more now that I’ve got a son of my own, and there are things I have in common with my parents now that only became things in common once I became a dad.  I got raised right, as near as I can tell, or at least as right as my parents were capable, and for the most part I’m trying to raise my son the same way my mom and dad raised me.

Mostly, anyway.

Anyone who is around my age will remember the vaguely patronizing way most if not all of our parents treated video games.  When I was growing up I couldn’t name a single parent of one of my friends who was into games.  I remember my mom playing Pitfall! and Pac-Man on our Atari and that’s it.  My dad, to the absolute best of my recollection, never touched a game controller once.  Nobody’s dad played video games.  Absolutely nobody’s.  And games were treated as something that was For Kids and always would be For Kids; it was assumed we were all going to grow out of gaming eventually and put down the controllers forever sooner or later.  The idea that anyone could ever make a career out of video games was openly laughed at.

That idea may be the single most incorrect thing our parents thought about my generation, right?  Some of us stopped playing eventually, but the idea that I’m 41 and still playing video games isn’t even a little bit odd, and there are tons of careers connected to games.  You can even make good money literally just playing games with the right Twitch stream or YouTube channel.

So I used part of our tax refund to buy a Nintendo Switch.  I came home with the new Zelda game (which turned out to be terrible) and the new Mario game, which … didn’t.  And for the first time, my son is not only allowed to play a video game system that we have (I haven’t let him touch the PS4, for obvious reasons) but he also wants to.  He’s literally playing right now, next to me, while I’m writing this.

And any minute now, he’s going to hit a patch that he has trouble with, and do you know what he’s going to do?  He’s going to hand me the controller and ask me to beat it for him.

And I will ask him if he tried, and I won’t do it unless I feel like he tried hard enough before asking me to jump in for him.

I cannot even imagine what my dad might have done if I’d tried to have him help me beat a stage or a boss in a game.  The entire idea is completely ludicrous.  And for my son, the idea that Daddy is better at video games than he is is perfectly normal, and eventually he’s going to beat me at some fighting game and it’ll be like the first time I beat my dad at basketball.

(I’ve never beaten my dad at basketball.  I don’t play basketball.  Neither does my dad.  We’ve never once played basketball together.  This is not a criticism of my upbringing.  Substitute “beat him at euchre” if you want something more directly salient to my family if you’d like.)

(My uncle David taught me to play chess.  I don’t think I’ve ever beaten him.)

And sooner or later this kid is gonna get mad at me for not wanting to beat something for him, and he’s gonna hear about how when was a kid, we had these things called lives in video games, and passwords, and nobody to help us because not only could nobody older than us play the games, but there wasn’t any Internet to look up clues, unless you had your parents’ permission to call the Nintendo hint line, which cost money, so sometimes you just had to stop playing something basically forever because you couldn’t figure out what to do next.)

Yeah.  Uphill, in the snow, both ways, that’s how I played Nintendo as a kid.