Thursday, February 02, 2006

Paperless Classrooms

I know people have been talking about and experiementing with paperless environments in composition for a long time, but this is the first time I've actually tried it myself. I'd be interested in hearing from people who have more experience with these sorts of electronic tricks (or treats?) in the classroom.

I'm using an online program that comes with our textbook. The students upload papers for peer reviews and for instructor comments and grades. There are drop down menus that allow the instructor to insert automatic comments in the papers along with pointers to the handbook and to exercises on particular errors. McGrading, I suppose.

As with anything, this has its ups and downs. I think it will work well for me in that I have big class loads and limited time for individual attention to the students. I also have students who need extra help with grammar, and I work in a place that does not have a writing center. The online classroom does give students the opportunity to seek more help on their own should they so desire.

The downside, I think, is that the students who "don't get it" and tend to fall by the digital wayside are the ones who are in greatest need of the extra pointers and exercises and online resources.

Thoughts, anyone?


B. Ray said...

I have tried variations on this theme, and still do actually. I have found, somewhat surprisingly, that there is a significant percentage of my students who are too unfamiliar with the rudimentary technology used in these sorts of applications. I'm surprised, because I feel overwhelmed with the sense that this generation of students is so much more technically savvy than mine is. Administration folks tell me that all the time. That's generally bunk.

Students know how to text message at the speed of light, but they don't know how to set margins on a word processor. They can take and download pictures, music, or "ringtones" (whatever they are - I assume they are those incredibly noisesome jingles that play from the omnipresent obnoxious cell phones), but they can't double space, save a file in anything except a default format, or attach a file to an email. Some, admittedly, claim ignorance to mask or accentuate laziness. Others, and the number is significant at the 2-year level, have limited experience with any sort of computer applications beyond being able to pick one out of a lineup.

I have grown weary of trying to teach computer skills (beyond basics necessary to word process), and have fallen back to making most "paperless" ideas a voluntary element of my classes.

My school requires a computer basics course, but it isn't always taken before a composition course. What they learn there isn't always very useful in the classroom though. I am working with the coordinators of that program in an effort to improve the course content, but it is an uphill battle.

I don't know what anything I have said might have to do with your posting, but at least, thank you for letting me vent.

Sharon Gerald said...

To a degree, I subscribe to the theory that teaching computer literacy is teaching literacy in "society today." But I feel your pain. Sometimes I wonder when I'm ever going to find the time to teach them how to write.

sharon said...

I sure agree. My students, too can download like the wind, but I am often surprised at their questions. Just today one student asked me how to make an essay double spaced without just hitting the enter key twice......

We're at midtern, so this student has already turned in three papers without knowing how to format on the computer. The poor soul has been going back in and adjust every line by hand with every change in phrasing.