I meant to take a short break from writing… due to the busy time of the Holidays. I reread my last post and, apparently, my student’s question about Thanksgiving and Christmas being the same break was a prophesy for me. After I graded over Thanksgiving, I assigned another essay to be due before Christmas break. I encouraged students to turn it in early for some extra credit, and five students did. The rest, well, they validated the reason I do not give weeks to write an essay or create a project. We work in class for 2-4 days and then it is due two days later. This gives the kids a chance to turn it in early for some extra credit or ask me for help before the due date. But I digress…
Of course, I have Romeo and Juliet essays to grade right now, but procrastinating by writing can be more fun. See, I learn from the students every year. The essays were due on Friday by 7:30 a.m. and we did not have school. The busses would not start due to the extremely cold weather we are experiencing. Luckily for the students, our district began using Turnitin.com this year.
Little side story here: Eleven years ago several of us asked for the district to purchase a license to use the website. However, we were told the money would have to come out of the English Department’s budget of $500. Yes, you guessed it, the license cost more than that. Evidently, none of the administrators saw a use for checking the originality of science, history, foreign language, and every other subject’s writing assignments. Thus, while the English department was teaching proper citation of sources and how not to plagiarize, the rest of the school may have been fine with copying from Wikipedia, the bane of all researchers! Never fear, we asked again around year six, and were told there was no money, which was true. In fact, the district had to layoff dozens of teachers and two curriculum department administrators. Luckily, this year the Teaching and Learning Department, formally known as the Curriculum Department, has grown beyond pre-cuts days and saw the advantage to using Turnitin.com. (I guess it makes one sound more intelligent or more powerful if the department has two names.)
So far, only the English and Language Arts Department is using it, but I am sure the Math, Science, and the rest of the departments will learn how to use it during one of our weekly Professional Development meetings.
Back to the main topic (Procrastination): My favorite feature of Turnitin.com is the time stamp. I can have the submission deadline be midnight or 7:30 a.m. or whenever. I can then learn when the student turned it in. I also do not have to deal with using instructional time to have students staple papers together (no one owns staplers), needing to print during class, and listening to excuses of forgotten folders containing essays at home. Some students still have the excuses, “I couldn’t submit my essay” or “I do not have Internet” or “My printer was out of ink or broken, or “the dog urinated on my laptop.” Therefore, I have instructed them to (A) email a copy to me or share it with me on Google Docs, (B) bring a typed or hand- written copy to class to give me as they explain the problem, (C) print from our computer lab before school, or (D) take ownership of YOUR problem and solve it. The reality is that 92.4% of the excuses come about because of procrastination. (I found that statistic on the Internet, so it must be true!)
Although, the company checks originality, it also enables teachers to grade the essays online. There is an automatic grammar and punctuation checker; however, it is not always correct. For example, it always indicates the title of the essay and the first sentence is a run-on-sentence. Teachers are able to create their own comments; thus, no more writing the same comment over and over again. We merely highlight the mistake and click the comment! I am finding it an easier way to grade, as long as I have an Internet connection.