Friday, November 14, 2014

When at First You Don't Succeed...

I am dead tired by the time I go home each day. When the first tardy bell rings, it is a never ending scramble to maneuver through roadblock after roadblock, flying through each class period. We have had server issues, including the inability to log in on a computer at any given time. If a computer does log in, the start up script runs extremely slow, because it is pulling data from the server. This week has been tough, to say the least.

The class working on our Tiger's Telegraph has taken the worst hit, trying to meet their one article a week requirement. We go through a variety of different log in strategies, and if we get in, we must maneuver between using the proxy or taking out the proxy. Those individuals who are the furthest behind get first dibs on any computer we can successfully log in.

Students have not been given email access, and have used a dedicated folder tied to their login information to store any documents or presentations they are creating. About 2 weeks ago, the folder system disappeared, and was completely blank once it was retrieved. In order to be able to collaborate, we have had to become very resourceful.

I discovered that Google Docs now includes a feature where you can share a link with someone and it gives them editing ability. No longer does the person accessing the link need a Google account to view and edit the document. This feature has saved me from having a meltdown in my classroom. I set up a document for each student, and then hyperlinked their names to their document. All of the hyperlinked names are on a private Google site page. Once a student has completed their article, they signal the editor to critique their work. The editor accesses the document from their own computer, and while the author is watching, will make comments and suggestions about their writing. Collaboration, my dear folks, at its finest.

My pundits, who are in reactive instead of proactive mode, would immediately criticize the fact that students can access other student work. I understand their concern, to a degree. But I feel that in this instance, I am teaching students acceptable behavior on the internet. Before I even set up the system, I had a series of discussions with the students about proper behavior and safety. I preempted any use of Google docs with the understanding that if a student accessed another student's work, and did any harm, they would fail my class for the 9 weeks. I would go back to the revision history and be able to see who accessed which document at which time. Is that a bit of a stretch? Maybe.

I am of the school of thought that instead of blocking students from anything they might encounter that is less than stellar, we need to teach them behaviors and procedures WHEN they encounter things on the internet. There is not a filter in the world (unless you count the Chinese filter for their country) that will keep out every single thing that may be found offensive to others. If we do not teach students strategies on how to handle situations such as this, we are not truly preparing them for an unfiltered world when they get older. There is nothing confidential that is stored on any Google Doc, but the idea of mature behavior versus unethical malice is practiced every day by my students.

Think about this scenario. Have you ever accessed someone else's unprotected Wi-Fi? I know that I have, even though it is unethical and probably illegal. If I were to be on someone else's Wi-Fi, and threatened someone, or pirated movies, the person left holding the bag is the individual with unprotected Wi-Fi. There will be times in life when students will encounter access to content that is not their own, and by knowing the implications beforehand, our students will be equipped to maturely deal with the situation.

Until I am given a better alternative, my use of Google Docs stands.

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