This is the fourth in a fifteen part, weekly journal on my experience teaching a web class. Each post explores how things are going in the current week and ideas for future revisions of the course. For my first post, see Week 1 (Why do it, My class, Moodle, Message Board Worries and Drops). For my second post, see Week 2: Failures in Communication. For my third post, see Week 3: A comedy of Errors and a Silver Lining? To see entries posted after this one you’re reading now, you can also just pull down the categories menu on the right and select the Web Teaching Journals category.
Technically, I’m in week 5, but due to inclement weather and power outages, I am posting a bit late. The class has settled into a routine. Students know how to use the message board and use it regularly. They have gotten the hang of how the course works and have settled down. The professor, that would be me, has also settled down, which is a big help. Sometimes fussing too much, and unecessarily, amps up emotion and sets up unrealistic expectations. Emotion and frustration then can lead to mistakes that can make your students crazy. So everyone’s calmed down.
My students turned in their first assignment in week 4 and I was sorry to see several of them doing the ole unattributed cut and paste from the course readings in their writing. It’s technically plagiarism but I don’t see a case that looks and feels like a total dereliction of duty on their part with regards to thinking on their own. We’re talking one sentence or two, tops, where students clearly feel unable to synthesize a particular theory on their own. They’re not pretending that a concept is their own, they just don’t want to bother to come up with their own phrasing for one pesky idea. In other words, they are borrowing from the author without quotation marks, while signalling that they are speaking about his theory.
One of the things that I don’t like about teaching web classes is that it necessarily, by definition, caters to certain practices that are fostered by our current web culture:
(1) Misattribution, no attribution, and outright, ‘malicious’ plagiarism. AKA “Cut and paste.”
(2) Short attention spans.
(3) Reading screens rather than books, see #2 above.
It is what it is, no need to make grandilocuent pronouncements about these things. They are not inherently good or bad, or set in stone. My job as a teacher is to work against the current of a lot of things in a person’s upbringing or at any given moment in a culture or at a point in history. If it were easy to teach, I’d find it less interesting.