Die computer die

May 13, 2010

I’m having a love-hate relationship with technology I confess. I’m pleased I set forth on this mission and have had the chance to explore a few innovative ideas. And I know what I have come across is just the tip of the iceberg. I’m excited about the possibilities it has presented and would like to do more – but I also have some reticence – which I’ll explain.

As is obvious from my previous post, I’m in the midst of marking assignments. I thought I’d be super clever and use the Turn-it-in function on Blackboard, which enables students to upload an electronic copy of their assignment. It’s incredibly handy: I can instantly verify date of submission, check word length, I have a copy saved in a central place and I don’t have to manage files, it checks for plagiarism and it means students don’t have to take half a day off work just to drive in to uni and lodge an assignment.  It also allows you to mark online which the Greenie in me celebrates. Imagine a completely paperless process. We dreamed about such things. Previously I have had students email assignments in – but there’s always the inevitable “I swear I sent it”  excuse – or in my case the day lost hunting for my student essays among the gazillion of other emails I receive and don’t get to attend to. This turn-it-in thing seemed like the answer to my prayers.

So I did all the right things : I went to the training course, practiced in advance on fake essays, ran my marking criteria past TEDI for feedback, I set up rubrics for easy marking, and trialled the process on a smaller assessment piece. I thought I was being so clever. And students seemed to cope OK overall once I ironed out a few kinks in the process.

But when it came to marking a 3500 word assignment: it was DISASTROUS! It was a really clunky process, I couldn’t just flip pages – I had to keep scrolling – I seemed to forever be searching for items. I couldn’t approach marking the way I normally would: flip to the back to check out reference lists, see if there are any appendices or attachments, get a sense of the overall layout – instead it commands a very linear process. By the end of one day hunched over my keyboard, staring at a screen and tapping comments, I had managed to get through a mere seven assignments. My back hurt, my eyes stung and I was in a foul mood from being stuck in front of a computer. And I found it wouldn’t support my marking sheet anyway. It can only handle simple rubrics – I must have spent two hours trying to think up ways to get around the system. So that was a day wasted.

So I went to work and printed off all 50 assignments, one by one. Double checking I had them all – writing down word length and submission dates etc. So that was day 2.

Day 3 borrowed a flat from a friend up on the Sunshine Coast, I jumped in a car, marked the remaining essays in a much better frame of mind, sitting on a sunny balcony overlooking the sea. I managed 14 essays that day and found I provided twice as much feedback. Clearly I’m never going to be a true Geek-Girl. All of which leaves me unsure what to do in the future.

It’s not just Turn-it-in. I went to a presentation recently on alternative technologies – and I was originally going to a do a whole blog rave afterwards – I was so inspired by the possibilities. However in the meantime I’ve had a chance to try them out. I have spent hours trying to get them to work for me. They seem so very slow on my machine and I can’t get them to do what I want them to. I want a computer program that will let me do everything I can on a piece of butcher’s paper with some coloured pens and a bunch of post-it notes. Until I can do that I think I’ll remain unsatisfied. I can see the potential – I love the collaborative tools and I’m excited by the possibilities – but I don’t find the programs particularly intuitive or user-friendly. Maybe I’m impatient, but if I can’t get them up and running within an hour I’m not inclined to keep playing. Maybe it’s my old lap-top.

I think it was Mark Twain who once said to beware of enterprises requiring new clothes. I feel similarly about the IT world: beware of programs that require a whole new computer!

Image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kmevans/399406599/ (creative commons license)


2 Responses to “Die computer die”

  1. Hisayo Says:

    Dear Lynda

    Hello, I really like your title and picture
    although it’s about struggle.

    I truely appriciate your feedback for project plan!! When I got it back from office and looked at it, I was so surprised to see all the comments you wrote for me. Just imagining marking 50 assignments already make me tired so it must have been really painful to mark them all in fact…

    You are one of the most wonderful lecturer I’ve met at UQ. I can see that why you are chosen to be a student mentor advisor 🙂

    Smile & Love


    • Thank you Hisayo for your generous words. I lose spirit around this time of year (just like students, eh?). In my role I hear a lot about struggle. As a mentor very few students come bursting into my room to tell me what a great time they’re having, how much they love learning, how they’ve just been to the best tutorial ever or to ask how to nominate their favourite lecturer for the UQ Teacher of the Year Award! Which makes comments like yours all the more valuable. Thank you so much for your generous spirit. lynda

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