intertext: (miss jean brodie)
Monday, November 7th, 2011 06:28 pm
I have awesome students.

This morning, I prepared my class, went downstairs to my 10:30 class at about 10:25, ready to set up some web things. I got to the door, and the whole class was there (all but one or two, itself quite remarkable at this time in the term), lights dimmed, watching the student scheduled for one of the presentations that day _doing_ his presentation. Everyone was listening intently, laughing in all the right places.

It was all a bit "wtf" but I thought, oh, maybe he's been telling them about his play (this is the scriptwriting class) and they wanted to hear it (I know, that doesn't make a lot of sense, but...). Anyway, when he was finished, I walked in, took my place at the computer terminal and started setting up. I looked at them, looked at the clock, and said "I'm not late... ?"

Uh. Yeah. I was. The class started at 10:00. I don't even have the excuse that I was an HOUR late because of the time change. I just got muddled, because all my other classes start on the half hour, and I think I conflated this one with another one later in the week. And this one has a silly schedule that's different on Mondays than it is on Wednesdays. And I'm tired, and a bit depressed, and my brain is fuzzy.

But - HEY YOU GUYS!! They were carrying on the class without me! How cool is THAT! They were engaged, responsible, and participating. Wow.

They could have walked out. And if I'd walked in, 25 minutes late, to find one person there to tell me they'd done that, I think I would have gone and jumped off a bridge. Instead, they give me this gift.

Oh, and we're reading Firefly episode 5, "Out of Gas," and someone in the class was wearing a cunning hat. How cool is that?
intertext: (miss jean brodie)
Monday, November 15th, 2010 12:41 pm
The Chronicle of Higher Education recently published this article, written under a pseudonym, by someone who makes a (rather good) living writing papers for students who cheat.

He accuses us (we teachers) of being ignorant of how much of this goes on. In fact, I was perfectly well aware that such services exist; you only have to Google any vaguely academic topic and after Wikipedia usually a high percentage of the top ten entries are links directly to a term-paper factory.

What is more disturbing is the somewhat accusatory tone:

I live well on the desperation, misery, and incompetence that your educational system has created.


This is like the criminal blaming the system, and, as in many criminal cases, there is probably some truth to it. We create pressures and perhaps do not adequately provide means for students to meet and handle those pressures.

I liked the example he gave of the "rich kids," who are learning to do what they will spend their lives doing: pay someone else to provide a service for them.

This comment is perhaps a greater cause for concern:
Last summer The New York Times reported that 61 percent of undergraduates have admitted to some form of cheating on assignments and exams. Yet there is little discussion about custom papers and how they differ from more-detectable forms of plagiarism, or about why students cheat in the first place.


Custom papers do not make it impossible to detect cheating: of course we know that the student who can barely string two words together in an email did not write that smooth, coherent, intelligently argued paper. But how to prove it? Sometimes, if confronted, a student will break down and admit it. But often they do not. What are we to do?

Students hate in-class work, but often that is the only way to control whether or not the work is original.

I believe that we need to change our assignments, and to change the way we measure student success, but it feels like an endless problem. And cheating is not limited to colleges and universities: look at the Olympic athletes, already in the top of their field, already performing at a higher level than most mere mortals, who feel that they "have" to take performance-enhancing drugs in order to "compete."

Indeed, I believe it is "competition," and perhaps, at risk of sounding like a rampaging socialist, our market-driven society, that is pushing people to cheat. Colleges and universities are only the places that institutionalize the system. If the academic institutions were once again the places where people came to explore ideas, to learn, to express creativity, instead of credential factories, perhaps there would be fewer students willing to get those credentials by any means necessary.

crossposted at College English
intertext: (bujold teach)
Friday, September 7th, 2007 02:16 am
it's been a good week!

And I only slightly exaggerate about the computer labs. I was in for one of my online course orientation sessions on Wednesday night, and two of my colleagues had sessions in the hallway around the corner from mine. I went in early to assist one of them, because we have a new Learning Management System this year (no more WebCt, but that's another story...). Suddenly, half the computers went dead in his class. So I went to find the tech assistant, and we discovered that the same thing had happened to my other colleague's class. There was a strong smell of burning electronics. The tech assistant investigated the circuit breaker panel and found it scorching hot. None of the actual breakers had popped, so it was impossible to tell which of the circuits had failed, and testing them would involve knocking out the existing circuits and all the other working computers.

Meanwhile the original colleague had returned to his lecture and was almost completely oblivious to the crisis. The whole thing was almost farcical.

The techie person assured me that it was safe for them to continue, so we made the executive decision to let them carry on with the remaining half of the computers and then shut the labs down afterwards. His guess was that there'd been a power surge or something that had burnt out one circuit. As there was no smoke and the panel was beginning to cool, we were probably okay. hahaha.

My own orientation was unaffected and went well.

Otherwise, no major crises, and for a first week it was amazingly stress free. Although I've been working all through July and August, I find myself full of enthusiasm and energy for my classes, and I'm also looking forward to working in my 25% secondment to the computer-assisted learning office (DE) (have I mentioned this before in here? can't remember). All three of my courses look good and I have a nice and enthusiastic group of students, including a few "fans" - ones who have followed me from other courses. I have one who I believe will have taken four of my classes over the last couple of terms!

I've been blogging up a storm, and have four - count them - four new blogs set up on WordPress, two for my classes, one to function as a kind of homepage for my students and one called College English, which I want to be a place to display links and things of interest to - you guessed it - college English teachers and students.

It's all good, as they say. Wonder how long this cheerful energy will last?
intertext: (bujold teach)
Tuesday, September 4th, 2007 02:19 am
Thanks to Carla Beard, The Web English Teacher for drawing my attention to this list of things we need to remember about the mindset of students entering college with year.

The majority of our first year students were born in 1989 (and if that doesn't make you feel old...). For them, the world has certain realities. I was particularly struck by a few:

  • What Berlin Wall?

  • They have never "rolled down" a car window

  • Nelson Mandela has always been free

  • Fava beans have always been a pop culture reference

  • U2 has always been more than a spy plane. (shows you how long they've been going!

  • Tiananmen Square is associated with an Olympics venue, not the scene of a massacre


  • Check out the whole list - it provides quite a bit of food for thought, and reminds us teachers to be careful about our cultural references. They might not be as "obvious" as we thought!

    Crossposted at RealToads (yes, yet another blog)
    intertext: (Default)
    Wednesday, June 20th, 2007 03:54 pm


    This is to test a new Web 2.0 tool called VoiceThread. For me, it has potential for my online courses, so I thought I'd try it out here. See what you think. You click on the facebox on the side to hear me speak. You can add comments right on it either audio or typed by clicking on the appropriate box; or, of course, you can comment on this post in the usual way, should you feel so inclined. Commenting on the voicethread would be nifty, though, because then I'd see how it works. I suppose you might have to sign up to comment - I don't know.
    intertext: (bujold teach)
    Saturday, March 31st, 2007 08:32 am
    In my Google homepage quotes of the day:

    I am returning this otherwise good typing paper to you because someone has printed gibberish all over it and put your name at the top.
    An English Professor, Ohio University
    intertext: (Default)
    Friday, September 8th, 2006 05:19 pm
    Oh my, what a busy week! But the first week of term is always so busy that you think you're going to die, then you remember that the first week of term is always like that... and you're not going to die and you get through. On the whole, I have felt really GOOD all week - it's a little bittersweet but true that this is the first time in several years that I've been able to do my job without being dead tired and stressed by my homelife, always worried and run ragged by the demands of an invalid. As well, this is the first time in several years that I haven't been in a great deal of pain a great deal of the time. Crap, it's no wonder I collapsed in a heap when my mum died... Anyway. It does feel wonderful to be back and to be myself and to be in control of things again.

    But it's been non-stop all week, getting started and meeting students and having orientations for my online courses (not to mention doing last minute throwing up of material in the new course). My two face-to-face literature courses seem really good; I have a nice bunch of students who are responding well, and all technology went off without a hitch. It is a little wierd going from Beowulf to Swift with an hour in between - for the students, too, as about a third of them are in both classes, and one poor child is in my online comp class as well. She's going to know me well by the end of the term!

    I have to figure out whether to work at home or at work. I thought to work at work, then spent a lot of time being interrupted by one of my neighbours who wanted to tell me all about his latest research project or his enthusiasm for his new online course or to enlist my help in uploading files or operating the email system... And the doggies are showing signs of not liking to be left for long periods - this is one disadvantage of my mum no longer being here. I may have to consider daycare for dogs if I'm going to be out for long hours.

    Oh well, I have my latest installment of Buffy to watch tonight, and a nice easy supper, so I think I'm going to go and relax now!
    Tags:
    intertext: (Default)
    Friday, April 7th, 2006 05:19 am
    Gardner Campbell writes with stunning eloquence about those moments in class when teaching becomes what he calls (quoting CS Lewis) a "solemn romp." Thanks to Brian Lamb at UBC for the link. I can't hope to match his words; here's a sample:
    Read more... )
    intertext: (little my)
    Saturday, March 4th, 2006 05:55 pm
    The alliterative quality of the header is the only good thing about this post, which mostly consists of venting about technology. I shouldn't complain about marking, as I'm only teaching one course, but why is it that it's ONLY when I've spent about half an hour finding and annotating an enormous number of errors in an absolutely hopeless online essay and have just got to the end that Firefox decides to do the "have just encountered a fatal error and have to close, sorry for the inconvenience..."? And now I'm going to have to go back and do the whole damn thing again, because of course I'm never clever enough to save every two minutes as I should... Blah blah blah. That, of course, is why I'm in here bitching instead of being a good little teacher and marking my midterms.
    intertext: (Default)
    Tuesday, September 27th, 2005 08:20 pm
    It's amazing how many people have asked me whether "wiki" had anything to do with witchcraft! I was talking up my wiki project with the Dean yesterday - at my "performance review" - and even she did something of a double take, having never even heard of the wikipedia. I soon set her straight, though. I'm so thrilled with how well this project is going in my lit class - they are moving in and taking ownership of it. Someone said in class today that it was "awesome" - high praise! When I looked in on the weekend, they had put their names on it: "this wiki is being built and maintained by students of Camosun College, Victoria, B.C. Canada"
    Tags:
    intertext: (Default)
    Thursday, September 8th, 2005 11:29 am
    GOD I hate the first week of class. There's no place to park and the cafeteria's crowded and I have sad-eyed students begging to be let into the class that they need desperately or they won't finish their program... And it doesn't help that the students in my section of my online composition class got loaded into the _other_ section of the online composition class... Thank all the gods that I had retained "designer access" to said section (this being in the charge of a newbie) and was thus able with a certain level of aplomb simply to do my orientation in his section instead of mine. That was after jumping up and down going "fuckity fuckity fuck" in front of the class. I hope they didn't mind. And I should really be preparing a class on Beowulf and not writing in here, but I felt it necessary to vent.
    intertext: (Default)
    Tuesday, September 14th, 2004 08:23 am
    I discovered this site while doing other things, and it seems have some interesting possibilities for teaching.
    http://www.cs.rice.edu/~ssiyer/minstrels/

    This appears to be a kind of poetry "blog". They post a new poem every day, and include thoughtful comments about it and invite comments from visitors. It's a truly interactive site and one that really does celebrate poetry. I found it by chance when doing a Google search on Auden's "Villanelle" for my dissertation... I love the serendipity of research :)
    In case you were wondering, "Villanelle" is a character in Jeanette Winterson's _The Passion_, upon which I'm writing a chapter in my dissertation on Winterson. The themes of this poem - our feeling of helplessness in the face of the passing of time, bewilderment about the instability of the world, in contrast to the permanence of art - are echoed to some extent in the novel. One of the other main characters in the novel grows roses, by the way.