Our lucky “volunteer”

I’m reasonably satisfied with the level of classroom participation in most of my classes, but sometimes getting a volunteer to raise a hand can be a little bit of a chore. At the same time, I’m not too eager to call on students by name — or rather, I should say I’m not too eager to be blamed for picking the student to call on. So as is my wont, I wrote a little script (as part of an Alfred workflow) to get what I want, but also to not look like the bad guy.

I haven’t had to use this too much this semester, but when I need it, here’s the procedure:

  1. Fire up Alfred (I set my keyboard shortcut to “double-tap ⌘”) and enter the three-digit code of the course (in this example, “220” for IST 220 – tweak as needed if there are multiple sections of the same course):

    Alfred window

    Alfred window

  2. Press Return.

  3. See a cool notification with the randomly-selected student’s name (which is also shown on the classroom projector):

    Our lucky volunteer

    Our lucky volunteer

If you’re looking to use something like this yourself, it’s pretty easy to set up:

  1. Get yourself Alfred, of course.
  2. Create a plain-text file which contains one student name per line (ANGEL or eLion can help you export this pretty quickly).
  3. Download my workflow and modify it by updating:
    • the pointer to the text file (see the line beginning “set nameFile” in the image below)
    • the keyboard shortcut
    • whatever else you want
The script

The script