As our school year rapidly approaches I thought I would share a policy with you fine people that I will be sharing with the colleagues of my own school. The policy is a simple one but very important. It is: Technology is not an excuse. This year my school is starting to implement a 1:1 program from grades 8 through 12. This program means that these students will be carrying around and allowed to use their own device throughout the school day and when warranted. This also means that students will be doing more and more work digitally and less physically. In short they will be turning in more projects, papers and homework electronically and not turning it in by hand. That means that corrupt files, deleted files, lost work, etc. will become the new dog that eats student’s homework. I am here to say NO! This is not an excuse. Read past the break to find out how you can stomp out this excuse before students even think it and why they shouldn’t be thinking that way in the first place.
First let’s talk about how to get this in place. Above all else, plan ahead, be proactive (not reactive), keep it transparent and offer support. Here are the steps I think will work.
Step 1 – Get Proactive
For this to be truly effective it must be adopted by everyone. That means go talk to your administration and your handy dandy IT folks. The IT folks can create guides on whatever services you are working with (Dropbox, Minus, SkyDrive, Edmodo, etc.) so teachers, students, administration and parents are all on the same page and know how to use these services effectively. The admin can get the word out to parents of this new policy. All of this should be done before the first day of school (ideally).
Also, emails or meetings with all the teachers should sent out or held so everyone will be on the same page on how they handle late work of this nature.
Step 2 – Educate your teachers
Talking about a new policy is good and all but the staff needs to feel comfortable with it as well, and when you’re dealing with technology some teachers may not be all that comfortable. A sit down Q&A will give teaches an opportunity to express their questions, concerns and discuss how to handle certain student questions and most of all to emphasize this is a school wide policy not something that is used occasionally. You want to make sure that the teachers don’t feel alone with this process. It should be a school wide and everyone should feel free to discuss it with everyone else.
Step 3 – First days of school
Now it’s time to be a tyrant (of sorts). Explain to the students that they need to be responsible and back up their work. If they lose their work because it becomes corrupted, the program shuts down, the program freezes or a virus ate it, then they need to redo it, simple as that. They should be backing up copies in the cloud and on a USB flash drive. There are plenty of options for free online office programs(Google Docs, Microsoft Live, Zoho, LibreOffice, OpenOffice). If they are unsure how to do that show them the guide, walk them through it, but explain to the student that you can help but it is ultimately their responsibility.
The main idea to drive home is that there are plenty of ways to back up and secure your work. There is no real excuse (corruption, lost, accidentally deleted, etc.) that can actually justify not turning in the work. If all the teachers are doing this, then the students will understand that you aren’t just being a grumpy teacher without your daily cup of joe. This is actually a serious policy that is going to be enforced by everyone.
Step 4 – Consistency
It is time to put the policy into action. When a student comes up with no work to turn because “Microsoft Word just quit and I lost all my work.” then you will know what to do. Explain to them that they are still responsible and that they should have saved early, often and backed it up with GoogleDocs (GoogleDrive now), SkyDrive, Edmodo, etc. and on a USB. It’s just like handing in a typed paper. If you forget the paper at home the day it is due, then it is late. It’s really not much different than that. What is great about technology is that there are so many ways to save and back it up now that really “losing” digital work is pretty hard to do, especially if the student took all the measures they were supposed to.
Common Student Responses – “It’s not my fault.”
Students will always come back with “It’s not my fault that the computer screwed up my paper.” This is true, but it is not the teacher’s fault either. At the end of the day it is the student’s responsibility to ensure that the work he/she does can be turned in and is backed up. If the computer messed up and the last three weeks of grades I have recorded are erased, it is up to me find those grades and reenter them. I like to give my students this example when they can’t quite see my point. Pretend three weeks of grades suddenly disappear from my electronic grade book. I don’t just throw up my arms and say “Well, I guess those don’t count. It’s not my fault they were erased.” Parents, administration and most of all students won’t swallow that. I need to find the back up and if that doesn’t work, I need to find those grades by tracking them down. Sure it sucks, but it’s part of my responsibility.
Another excuse I’ve heard often is “The computer (or Dropbox, Skydrive, Google Drive) just deleted it! It was finished and then it’s not there anymore!” If this was 1995 maybe I could believe this, but it’s not. This technology has been around for a while and places like Google, Microsoft, Dropbox, etc. make a lot of money off of these services. They don’t just delete people’s files at will and randomly. If they did, would you use them? Of course not. For someone to suggest that this happens means there is a serious problem with that service and they need to get in touch with them. If someone hacked their account and deleted the files, then they need to contact that service again and report it. Also, they should also be storing their work on a flash drive. This is something that people can’t really hack.
Regardless of the excuse, the reality is that few are actually acceptable. Students must be responsible for turning in an assignments on time.
If it is habitual, it probably isn’t the technology to blame but the student. With the excuses out of the way, then we can focus on helping that student get his/her work in on time and get them on the right track.