Sunday, December 4, 2011

Stupid Stanley gets a smackdown

Stupid Stanley has been futzing around in my Ancient Hamster Masterpieces class for the past seven weeks. When he deigns to turn in work, it's passable. He's yet another snowflake who could be making decent grades if only he attempted to use the literacy skills I know are floating around somewhere in his snowy snowflake brain.

Stanley is one of the Cool Kids, so of course he has a Mac. He bragged about how wonderful it was the first week of class and how small and light and superior it was. As of those of you are in the Apple Cult or work with/live in proximity to its members know, the word processing program which comes with Macs is called Pages. Pages and Word don't play well together, with Word being all nerdy and Microsofty, but in their infinite wisdom, the programming gods have created a file format which works across all word processing programs, the magical Rich Text Format.

My directions for all major papers specify that all assignments are to be turned in to me in either .doc, .docx, or .rtf format. Stanley has turned in every single one of his major papers in .pages format. The first time this happened, I gave him the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps the awesomeness of his Mac had blinded him to the possibility that he might actually have to work with people outside the Macsphere. Although he got a big, fat zero on the assignment, in the comments I walked him through the directions for how to convert his file format in Pages and told him that if he did so within 48 hours and emailed me the new file, I would grade it and replace his zero with whatever he earned. After I finished grading everyone's papers, I sent directions for how to access not just the grades but also the comments so I could be sure Stanley knew what to do.

Stanley apparently is also too cool to read comments, however. The second time, I gave the same admonition, told him to look back at the comments from the first assignment, and gave him 24 hours to revise. Again, coolness prevailed and I received nothing. He just got the zero and "I can't open Pages" comment on everything else. Stanley has now accumulated four zeroes on major assignments. The big research paper is due this week. Doubtless it will also come in Pages format, Stanley will receive a zero, and then the fun will begin as Stanley cries to my chair that he did the assignments but the mean old English Doc refused to grade them because she wouldn't convert the files.

I'm sure that somewhere out there, a set of directions exists which would show me how to do just that. But my set of directions trumps any snowflake's asking me to the work I asked him to do, and Stanley's saving the files the way he was told to and bothering to read my damn comments would have helped us avoid this altogether. Stanley's coolness has also prevented him from doing most of the posts, which fails him under the attendance policy anyway, but I'm sure he'll hang his hat on the awesomeness of his Mac and his nerdy proffie's tragically unhip PC.

I hope Stanley and his Mac enjoy retaking the ancient hamster fur classics course with some other proffie next term.


  1. Pages has a drop-down menu bar called "Share" where you can "Export" a pages file to be readable in a Microsoft Word format. I use it all the time.

  2. Oh, this is so important. It does not matter if conversion is possible. This is an inter-connected, digital world. Adhering to instructions about digital submission is crucial to Stanley's development as a member of that world. Furthermore, if he is not reading your correspondence or feedback, there is little you can do about it. We live in a world where he must put forth some sense of effort in order to communicate. When you are communicating him, even giving him windows of penalty-free second submission, and he is ignoring them, your only next move is to go over to his house and force him at gunpoint (or even physically push his hands on the keyboard) to do the work.

    And that, fortunately, is not part of our job description. Indeed, if you were to do that, Stanley could probably report you for assault. And so you did the best you could to invite him to perform in the class but he failed on every single assignment.

    Following directions. It's important. Do not cave!!!

  3. He reminds me of some of the students I had who, for whatever reason, thought that the rules didn't apply to them. No matter how many marks I took off from their work for not following the rules, they didn't change their ways just so long as they passed.

    I emphasized that following instructions is vital in the workplace. For example, some companies simply won't accept work by contractors that doesn't adhere to their standards.

    Somehow, that message didn't get through to them.

  4. Profflake.

    Learn to use the computer and don't penalize your student for having better gear than you. Seriously, it's silly in this day and age to give zeroes to your student for something like this.

    Care about the content, not what brand stapler or computer he uses.

    You're missing out.

  5. @Prickly: it doesn't sound like you've had the same experience as some of us who struggle with formatting. For the record, I use a PC at work and Mac at home. All of my students' essays are submitted online. If they were in paper format, I couldn't care less if they used their cell phones to format their essays. But the LMS we use is integrated with, and THAT only accepts certain formats. Without those formats, I cannot even OPEN student essays to grade them (regardless of the brand of computer I use). I don't know if this is EnglishDoc's experience, but I'm a stickler for format because otherwise, there's no way to grade a document without a hard copy (and I'd still want it to go thru, given the proliferation of plagiarism these days).

    Moreover, is it REALLY unreasonable to expect students to follow instructions or to read comments given on an assignment? Students like Stanley need to learn how to follow instructions at some point in their careers. Perhaps having him flunk the class is not the best way to learn that lesson, but I can't imagine why he wouldn't have at least checked his grade and come to see the professor, which would have solved this problem at the beginning of the semester.

  6. @Prickly: Oh please. First, that the student has "better gear" than the professor is completely subjective. After using a MacBook for 2 years, I remain unconvinced of their superiority. When it finally got old enough to be replaced, I immediately bought a Windows laptop(at a third of the cost of a comparable Mac laptop!).

    Second, our job as educators is to do more than just teach content, but also to teach students how to be professionals. If a boss wants a presentation or documentation in a certain format, then employees need to do that. They don't have a choice, and getting all smug about their chosen format won't get them far. In the classroom, a professor has every right to demand a certain format and if students can't handle those simple instructions they deserve to fail.

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. @Prickly: You sound like a snowflake prof. Get real. Students need to learn to follow directions.

    In the digital world, format is everything. While it is about the content, it's also about the container. It is the student's job to properly package content in the container of MY choice so that I can open it.

  9. I've used nothing but Macs my entire student and professional career. I use Pages all the time because it's elegant, easy and convenient. But I also use Pages because it's dead easy to export the document with one click into .doc, .docx, .rtf, .txt and PDF formats, to send to my recipients. Since Mac only has 13% of market share - and I was using Macs back when they only had 3% - I would never make the mistake of assuming that my recipient can read a Pages-formatted document. Furthermore, I tell my students they can send me files as .doc, .txt, .rtf or PDF, but I don't give them the option of Pages because it occasionally gets garbled in transmission.

    The problem, in short, is not that Stanley is a Machead. The problem is that Stanley is a moron. You have an absolute right to define which formats you're willing to accept, and an absolute right to give the little blighter 0 when he can't even be bothered to convert and resend it for full marks.

    I take it he hasn't bothered to check his grades yet, either. He's in for a shock.

    By the way - I ask in general extension of this topic - has anyone else run into the scam where a student will deliberately send you a damaged/garbled/whatever file for an assignment, and then "resend" you the file "properly formatted" when you couldn't open that one? In fact the first file was just a garbage file they picked up somewhere, and the intention is to get an extension on the assignment.

  10. @Merely, I've had the experience of which you speak more times than I would like (the one where students purposely send a garbage file. It's annoying! You?

  11. Just for shits and grins, I took a look to see what would be available to me if in fact I had chosen to disregard Stupid Stanley's lack of respect for my instructions. The only tools I can find either strip the formatting out altogether or convert to a view-only PDF. In English, things like paragraphs, spacing, and MLA format are critical to the discipline, so #1 would be out unless I truly graded on "content only," which would just be a stupid thing to do given the importance of formatting to both professional appearance and understanding of content. #2 isn't feasible either since I do actually mark up and comment on my students' work in detail, and even Acrobat Pro doesn't have the ability to do that in the way Word does.

    As for my "inferior gear," I use what my college provides me and complement it with similar equipment I can afford at home. We're PC-based. Very few disciplines use Macs, and equipment is a departmental decision. I've used Macs in other departments and remain unconvinced that they are friendlier or more intuitive.

    The bottom line is my class, my rules. I didn't ask for anything unreasonable, and I gave him ample chances to learn from his mistake. So now he can face the consequences.

  12. @Merely: I have two stories about the garbled document scam. When I was a bad, bad freshmen flake years ago before it became popular, I sent a garbled document to a professor because I ran out of time. I kept waiting to hear back from him so I could send the real version. I never did. I got an A in the class...

    Last year, a student tried the garbled document scam on me, and I was skeptical. My husband, however, is a software engineer and did some technical magic that somehow proved it was a fake. Student failed that paper.

  13. @Merely -- I haven't had a case where I could prove a student had done this, but I've had a few cases where I had very strong suspicions. I've also had cases where they turned in an earlier assignment or an assignment from another class. It's hard to prove that the incorrect submission isn't a simple mistake, so I've had change my policies to work around it. I use a turnitin type of instrument too, so I require they turn their papers in digitally and in a form that instrument can use (Word only). I've gotten into the habit of quickly reviewing the assignments on the due date to make sure I can open it and that it looks legit at a quick glance, and if I can't open it I give them 24 hours to get it to me or they get a zero.

    I'm also a Mac user, and prefer Pages myself, but I have had some problems in the past with conversion. So for anything I do for school I use Microsoft Office for Mac (the newest version is actually quite nice, and has a great Outlook application to use for my faculty email). Oh, and I tell them if they use Mac and have conversion problems they can go here ( - totally free and super easy to use).

    I agree with (most) everyone here that it is the student's burden to submit it properly. Sure, I could convert it when they send it in wrong. But when I'm working with 100+ students, the few minutes it takes them adds up to a lot of my time wasted. Besides, how hard is it to format it correctly? I mean, really, reading directions, checking your grades? Not hard.

  14. I went through this with a snowflake a few years ago - he would only pass stuff to me in Word Perfect format. He may as well have chipped it into stone in aramaic or something.

    They *MUST* learn to follow directions. It's as simple as that.

  15. Good job sticking to your guns, EnglishDoc.

    About the only format that I refuse to accept in my classes is the .pages format. I'll take .doc, docx, .wps, .odt, .rtf, and .pdf. Hell, if the student can make it work for footnotes and stuff, I'll even take a plain old .txt file. But .pages is a huge fucking pain in the ass, and students are forbidden from using it for paper submissions in my class.

    Nor am I some tech-ignorant luddite. I run Windows and Linux installations at home, a Mac at work, and my partner has a Macbook Air. I'm considered by most of my friends and colleagues to be a pretty good go-to person for tech questions, and the IT guys on campus have sometimes been surprised about some of the stuff I already know without them having to tell me.

    The .pages format, however, is really annoying, and I refuse to deal with it. I might moderate my position a bit if it weren't so easy to get around, but the fact is that in this day and age producing a document in a more common format is trivially easy. As others have already noted, the Pages program itself will happily export in a variety of other formats, and free options like Google Docs and Open Office mean there's no excuse for using an unusual proprietary format like .pages.

  16. How can I be a prof-flake? I'm not thinking my special class requires such special and exceptional adherence to my personal belief about turning in assignments.

    Why the OP can't just convert the file screams "ENTITLED PROFFIE AHEAD." That person is the prof-flake.

    I care about the content, not the font or format or whatever else you tell yourselves is preparing them for the real world.

    What, are you creating nothing but desktop publishing majors. Get real, all of you.

    Futzing around worry about formatting is missing the much bigger picture of the work itself.

  17. I loved Merely Academic's reply. Well said!

    I'll add that I require hard copies of papers in my brick-and-mortar classes. I require those papers to be typed in 12-point Times New Roman font, double-spaced, and stapled, and there is a penalty for failing to comply to these standards. How is this different from the OP's requirement that papers be submitted in a format that the professor can open? Format is important, as is following directions.

    At my online uni, it is routine for syllabi to have some version of the "if I can't open it, I won't grade it" warning.

    And finally, when I submitted a typed copy of my MA thesis to the graduate school secretary, as was required, she flipped a few pages, noted (grunted, really) that I hadn't formatted the page numbers for the introductory material properly, and promptly THREW the open box of papers across the desk at me. I meekly collected the scattered pages of my work and went home to fix my mistake. The grumpy secretary could have been more polite about it, but she was entirely right. Lesson learned: details matter.

  18. I own a Mac, I don't own Pages. If students send me Pages files my iPad and iPod can open them, but it's really hard to comment that way. I don't, therefore, accept Pages documents.

    On the other hand, I have worked with professors whom I wanted to smack up the side of the head with their laptop over file conversions before. A student was turning in WPS files and therefore failing one prof's class. It wasn't in the syllabus or anything, but she kept telling the student that it had to be in Word format.

    Of course, the student had no bloody idea that Word was not Works (I've found this mistake in many non-traditional students who bought a computer at a store like Best Buy and just assumed it had what they needed pre-installed).

    All that was normal. What wasn't was that the school computers, including the one the prof was using to check the essays, opened WPS files in Word natively. ALL YOU HAD TO DO WAS DOUBLE CLICK THEM.

    And she wouldn't. Period. She said she didn't know how. It was the same procedure as opening every other student's files, but she wouldn't even try it for this student.

    *headdesk* *headdesk* *headdesk*

    I showed the student how to open them on the school's computers (by double clicking) and save them as docx. The student passed because the work was fine. *sigh*

  19. I have to admit although I think he's wrong, Prickly is NOT being a prof flake. He's not looking for special treatment or special hoop jumping at all.

  20. I'm not picky about formatting on the page, but about file format (and naming conventions), yes. I'll open the file and change the name to suit my workflow if I can (50 files named "essay 2" just don't cut it), which means these days I accept .doc, .docx, .rtf, .pdf (not ideal, because I can't open it in Word and use the comment feature), and .odt. I refuse .wps (the main problematic file kind I was getting for a while) because, as far as I know, Word never put out a patch that could open it; it does now open .odt, and of course Open Office can save in .rtf or .doc/.docx, which is what I prefer.

    I gather that Prickly Prof has not applied for a fellowship or grant (or job) lately. I've encountered some very precise directions concerning file format, naming conventions, use of special characters, and, of course, character (not word) count in applying for fellowships and grants int the last few years, and, as a recent post here (which I don't have time to dig up at the moment) recounted, such requirements are becoming increasingly common in the job application process (the poster's department wanted everything -- including recc letters, which many posters pointed out was an unreasonable request -- in one PDF file). I try to keep my rules to a minimum, designed entirely to minimize the amount of time I spend futzing around with things other than actually, you know, reading and commenting on the paper, but it strikes me that those who are stricter are simply preparing their students for the world of work.

    I have a warning on my syllabus that students are responsible not only for uploading a file in one of the approved formats, named according to the convention I prescribe, but also for checking that the file has really uploaded, that it can be opened, and that it's the file they meant to upload. I still get mistakes, or maybe that's "mistakes." For a while, the most common one I encountered was submitting a shortcut (.lnk) file instead of the paper itself. It happened with a few students who struck me as both responsible and honest, so I guess it really can happen by mistake (though I don't know many people who create .lnk files for short-term projects), but I'm sure it's also one of various high-tech versions of "the dog ate my homework" floating about. I've also received blank files and the ever-popular "oops; I posted my proposal/outline/bibliography instead of my final version" (because, I suspect, that's all the student had at the time)"

    Because I haven't yet mastered the gradebook tool in our updated LMS, which means the ones for my classes this semester are downright chaotic, I might actually have sent an email if I had a student in the same position as Stanley this semester. But, by the same token, if a student isn't sure how to access his grades, he really should have asked his professor by now.

  21. I also regularly recommend Open Office to students who've ended up with Works or something that creates similar issues, and remind them about the need to do a "save as" or change defaults. Since I teach writing, I consider advice about how to make a document easily openable by the maximum number of people to be very much under my purview; it (and file-naming conventions that avoid a situation where different files with the same name -- not just "essay 2," but also "c.v." or "cover letter" -- end up overwriting each other on a recipient's hard drive) is an audience issue. Part of a writer's job is to make hir writing as accessible as possible to hir audience.

    Mind you, if your students are anything like mine, we're teaching this to people who won't even bother to cut and paste a link (let alone remove the accidentally-included period or other piece of stray punctuation at the end that's causing the problem) if it doesn't work on the first try. They've got to assume that their own audiences are going to be at least as impatient and/or lazy as they are.

  22. @Darla:
    You are correct. I take my comment about Prickly being a prof-flake back.

    He is, however, way off base. He is also clueless - many journals require specific formatting/filetypes/etc., so making students adhere to policies is valuable.

    It is not up to me to convert files. And, it might be hard to convert without having the fucking program that generated the file in the first place.

    I am one of those who specifies particular file formats so I CAN concentrate on content.
    Otherwise, I'd be spending a shitload of time converting (or attempting to convert) files.

  23. I'm here to chime in with the "details matter" crew.

    As mentioned, there are a plethora of situations where submissions would simply be returned or left unread if one did not follow the specified formatting. This may be a 21st century conceit of the Information Age, but I had professors back in the Dark Ages (1980s) who would summarily toss from the inbox any paper that: was not stapled with ONE staple in the upper left hand corner; did not have the prescribed title page; that included any sort of ancillary cover/folder.

    While I was suspicious of the submission of the obviously unreadable file, thank you o'CMers for giving me the fortitude to add that to the "don't you dare" category on my syllabus for next term!

    Oh, and just for giggles, I had a student submit a paper that was 75% copied from a previous class. He was adamant that since it was HIS writing it was not plagiarism despite an exquisitely clear statement in the Student Handbook this was NOT permitted. The dear dean ostensibly left it to me to decide while simultaneously making it clear that a "do over" would be appreciated.


  24. Prickly Prof,

    if a student submits in .pages, and the prof does not own a copy of Pages, the prof cannot open the paper. The prof can google around and look for a Pages to Doc Converter, and will find that if you want to mess around on Sourceforge you can find a converter that will convert to .txt, if it works, but skips all the formatting, and then the prof can cut & paste that and put it into Word. At this point the prof has wasted 20 minutes googling, downloading, cutting, pasting, and converting to a text-only file because the lazy little brat of a student couldn't be arsed to click "Export" and submit the file in one of the 5 possible formats named in the instructions.

    Tell me: how is any of this the prof's job? If the student submits an assigment written in green crayon on paper towel, I won't accept that either. It is the student's job to give me something I can read. It's not my job to make it legible. It's theirs.

  25. If what you're testing students on is formatting an essay, you're all doing a bang-up job.

    But I don't have a lot of interest in that. When projects or essays come in in odd formats, I try not to panic or get up on my high horse.

    I just use Google docs to view Mac files when I'm on a PC. I just forward the document to one of my Gmail accounts and open it up through Google docs. I can print, cut and paste, etc.

    Again, if you're teaching a typing class or desktop publishing, you're well within your rights to make formatting of the essay a deal breaker - the OP gave zeroes for EVERYTHING!

    But I don't teach typing. It's the material I'm interested in, and there are easy ways to view it.

    My main message is: Don't panic, okay?

  26. The main take-away from all of this is:

    Students are NOT more tech-savvy than previous generations.

    The administration keeps trying to push 'innovative' teaching methods down our throats, with this idea that the modern student doesn't communicate the way the old fogies do. But it's just false: the students are just more used to having technology in their lives. They're actually pathetic when it comes to understanding it as a tool.

  27. I'm struggling, Prickly Prof, to find anyone panicking in this conversation. Receipt of a .pages document does not cause me to panic. It simply causes me to assume that the student has not read the very clear instructions on the class website.

    You can whine all you like about how we're privileging formatting at the expense of actual content, but the reason that I specify particular formats is precisely so that I can get to that content without spending extra time converting or emailing or otherwise worrying about getting the document into a format where I can focus what the paper actually says.

    As I said in my previous comment, I allow a wide range of document types, and I also post on my class website links to Google Docs and to Open Office so that students who do not want to pay for Microsoft products are not left out. I also note, on my site, that the Pages software will export in acceptable formats, so they can use Pages if they want to, as long as they save their paper in an appropriate file type.

    Every publicly-available computer on campus has Word installed, so that students who don't even own their own computer can easily submit papers in the correct format, and in my experience the students who are willing to pay the premium for a Mac generally also fork over the fairly decent price for the Academic and Student Edition of MS Office.

    In the last five years, I've literally had about 5 or 6 students try to submit papers in the .pages format, and trying to get those papers in a format that I could easily read and mark up with comments took an amount of time that was out of all proportion to the number of papers. I'm simply not willing to deal with it, especially when there are so many free and easy alternatives available, and when the Pages software itself allows the student to export as an .rtf or other common file format. If they can't figure out how to save to different file formats in their own software, that's not my problem.

  28. Actually Dr. N, the takeaway I get from this is that there are some proffies who will capitulate to any extreme to not appear to be rigid in any context.

    Leaves me to wonder how any functioning adult has lived and never encountered a requirement that would not be amended/adjusted/avoided because of YOUR personal preference.

    This is the sort of attitude that leaves the rest of us fielding the indignation the put upon student who uses the Pricklys of the world to claim that the rest of us are the "only" proffie who holds to the standard submission policies.

  29. I still don't see that I'm being an unreasonable bitch if I say that if I can't read it, it doesn't get a mark; and that the onus is on the student to give me something I can read. It is not as if I'm demanding that the student only use one format, and that a rare or proprietary format. There are half a dozen ways of sending me a file I can read. I'll take any of them.

    And if a student doesn't bother to read my comments or check their grades, again, the onus is on them.

  30. @Prickly: I may be getting into dangerous waters here, but how many essays do you receive from students in the course of a semester? Even if it takes me 2 or 3 or 5 minutes rather than the 20 Merely describes (and which I have spent on occasion, sometimes fooling futilely with google docs, which, the last time I tried, still didn't open absolutely everything, and will never render the file that deliberately contains gobbledygook intelligible -- and, as we've noted above, students do, on occasion, accidentally or deliberately submit such files), that adds up over the course of a semester in which I have 90-100 students, all in writing-intensive classes. I don't like the feeling that I'm part of an assembly line, but, since, by no fault of my own, I am, I find myself craving one of the attributes of an assembly line: enough standardization to keep things moving along at a steady pace.

    Or, to put it another way, students are overworked, we're overworked; isn't it reasonable to expect us to do each other the small courtesies that make each others' lives easier?

  31. In my online class, where I teach literature, not desktop or formatting, I expect them to be able to follow simple directions. I have them posted in the syllabus, and I also post them as part of the directions on every assignment. Then I send an e-mail to the entire class encouraging them to check their grades because some of them failed due to formatting, and I include in that e-mail the directions on how to convert and re-submit (which I allow for the first assignment up to one week later). After that, you simply fail (although I continue to post directions for converting files to word or rich text, the two formats I accept, on every assignment).

    Here's the thing, Prickly Prof, it can take me up to 5 minutes to convert their formats. With 25 students, that's an awful lot of extra time I'd have to spend if everyone failed to follow directions. And MLA format is part of my discipline, so formatting is important---and when formatting gets lost in translation due to a file conversion, the whole thing becomes even more serious. Nope. Not doing it.

    What you are doing is obviously working well for you as you seem to be extremely smug about it and pleased with yourself (and living up to your moniker), but for the rest of us you are encouraging your little snowflakes to expect the world to do their work for them, and that is not what college graduates should be led to expect. You are, in short, doing them a disservice.

  32. Whilst I do think Prickly Prof is mostly in the wrong, it is a pretty trivial reason for a student to fail a class. EnglishDoc, it sounds like you see this kid in class. If so, why haven't you spoken with him directly?

  33. I'm with Stew on this. The kid's got a rocking machine. He likes to utilize it. He'll get a kick out of dumbing down his format so his PC-proffie can read it, too. Just talk to him. Don't hurl zeroes like Chinese throwing stars at him.

  34. Prickly, here's my litmus test:
    1) I double-click on the submitted document.
    2a) my (up-to-date) version of MS Word (on a PC) automatically loads, as it is the only word processing program I have (other than Wordpad and Notepad in windows).
    2b) if it doesn't automatically load, I have the "software chooser thingy" use Word to load the document.
    3) If MS Word can't open or convert the document, then the student loses marks for not submitting a .doc or .docx file as instructed, and thereby me not being able to verify that they in fact submitted a valid assignment on time.

    It is not MY job to jump through software hoops if the student didn't follow instructions to begin with.

  35. I think everyone here is mostly in violent agreement with Merely Academic. You're right: the student should adjust to your policies, not the other way around.

    Stew: At my school, we would simply give the student an 'incomplete' grade until he can actually submit his damn essays.

  36. Not me, Dr. Nate. I think there's a "bordering on snowflake behavior" in the original post. "It won't work on MY computer, whaaaaaaaaaaaaah."

    It's a digital environment. We can't just hold on to the one format we know and expect all future generations to speak to us on our terms.

    I'm, like the other dissenters, much more interested in rewarding the good work and content than simply penalizing if the don't meet formatting needs. Especially when those needs are awfully narrow.

  37. I had profs like this in grad school. Ratcheting up their control over format and giving a shit less about content. It was annoying, but easy to ace their classes. I wrote complete dogshit work but formatted WONDERFULLY. So what, I was a good typist.

    I'd have much preferred rigor of the work than this sort of blind eye to things that don't open on one person's computer. Come on.

  38. This comment has been removed by the author.

  39. @Frisky: Actually, we CAN expect this generation to speak to us on our terms, within reason. It is our classroom and our rules, and we decide what's acceptable work, not them. The same holds true in the business world, and in other parts of academe (journal submissions, grant and job applications). We do students no favors by pandering to them. And frankly, I don't get paid enough to convert their files to be compatible with my software. If they don't like that, well, that's too bad because they don't really have a choice. Welcome to life.

    And it's not like .doc and .docx are formats used only by us fuddy-duddy professors, and the little undergrad flakes are being forced to navigate some antique and obsolete technology. Microsoft Word is by far the most used word processing software in the US; Pages and OpenOffice are used only by a tiny minority of users, who are for some reason made smug by their minority status. And even these niche programs convert to .doc, so there's really no problem there. Students need to suck it up and act like professionals or deal with the consequences--like adults.


    Seems pretty simple. If you submit an article to a journal, and it's not formatted the way you've been instructed to format it, guess where it goes?

    I have become more and more convinced as the years go by that while I am teaching writing, I am also teaching students how to follow directions. FOLLOW DIRECTIONS. If your boss tells you to do something a certain way, and you choose to ignore those instructions and just do whatever the fuck you feel like doing, what happens to you? If your boss can't see the end results of *your* version, who's wrong? Answer: You are, little flake.

    I give my students explicit, step-by-step instructions for turning in digital work, and I tell them that if they ignore the directions and upload their files in a format I can't open, the assignment is late.

    @EnglishDoc, stick to your guns. All you have to do when the Dean comes calling is point to ALL OF YOUR OTHER STUDENTS WHO FOLLOWED DIRECTIONS. Stanley's refusal to perform the tasks as assigned EARNS HIM the zero.

    I don't get what's "proffie flake" about that.

  41. If a person can't follow directions, or can't even be trusted to LOOK for them, that person needs to be brought up short, and fast.

    But I do think that if a student is continually handing in papers in the wrong format, and not looking at the grade, then it's probably a good idea to take that student aside at some point if it's possible.

    I only say this because when the student does complain about the grade, it will make the prof look better. If you know that kid is ignoring the grade and the comments, and he keeps making the same dumb mistakes, why not actually MENTION it to them? Then, you'll never have an unsympathetic chair or dean say: "So you saw this kid twice a week while all this was going on and you didn't actually say anything to him about it?"

    And what a helicopter parent would do with this isn't pretty. I mean, at that point it doesn't matter whether the prof is right or not. It looks bad. It's a situation that can be avoided, so why not avoid it?

  42. Also, remember, EnglishDoc isn't talking about receiving one assignment in .pages and automatically giving the student a zero. Clear directions were given, the opportunity to fix the problem was explained (which probably also took more time), and the student apparently just kind of blew it off.

    I might have SOME sympathetic leanings for the student were this not the case.

  43. This comment has been removed by the author.

  44. And, as we talk about conversion, just have students export any document to PDF - it is simple. Both Macs and PCs can easily save to a PDF file, and proper formatting is maintained - that is the entire purpose of PDF.

    My students are allowed to turn in either .doc, .docx, or .pdf. Works for 98% of the students. Since 98% can follow instructions, have have no problems giving 0's for the remaining 2%.

  45. @Stew and anyone else who's wondering: No, I don't ever see this student. It's an online class. I have regular online and campus office hours for students to contact me and vice versa. I also make myself available by appointment if my schedule doesn't fit theirs so we can work something out. I have never heard from Stanley all term, not even as much as an email in the LMS or campus mail system.

    I have written to Stanley not just in comments on his work but also in notes to his email about the need to check his grades and my comments. When Stanley got his midterm assessment (which is an overall, narrative assessment of how the student is doing in the class and why), I told him all this as well. I just checked the course log. Stanley opened my emails. That's no guarantee he read them, however.

    Stanley's overly healthy Mac self-esteem made its appearance in our introductions thread, where I encourage students to tell the class the name they want to be called if it's different from what shows on the roster, their major, their hobbies, what they hope to get from the class other than a good grade, and any other personal information they wish to share. Stanley wished to share his great affinity for his Mac and tell the rest of the leper colony how we were missing out on the most supreme computing experience ever. That's as close as I've ever gotten to a personal interaction with him other than commenting on his extremely sporadic discussion board posts in an open forum.

  46. Serial posting after myself to add that a look at the grade book shows me that Stanley has missed 14 out of 24 required discussion board posts (done directly in LMS with NO FORMATTING ISSUES), which is already the equivalent of missing 7 weeks of class in terms of attendance and one and a half letter grades' worth of points regardless of the other assignments. The only thing Stanley has shown himself to be decent at is quiz taking as he has failed only one this term.

    I take umbrage at the few of you who've insinuated or flat-out said that formatting is the only thing I care about. Of course I care about content, and content is a huge part of any grade. But formatting is also part of being a successful writer. Try turning in an MLA paper to a journal which uses APA formatting. Give up paragraphing and see how that affects people's ability to read content. Start sending emails to your chairperson and dean in textspeak and see how well that goes over. Writing is a package deal. Students need to be able to read and follow directions, thus meeting the format, content, and deadline portions of any assignment. It's part of being responsible and demonstrating they've met the learning outcomes. One of the mandatory learning outcomes for all classes in my particular hamster fur corner of the English hemisphere is that students must be able to write an essay in standard MLA format.

  47. Nah, I call bullshit on the original poster again. The only thing you're grading the student on is format. He didn't do the format you wanted, so you don't know a single thing about the worth of his work.

    I mean, have your rules if you want, but don't bullshit yourself or us about them.

    I know it's a lot easier to build all kinds of hoops to stymie students, but I just think that's cruel and self-satisfied.

    Give them a chance, English Doc, that's what I'd encourage you (and your supporters) to try.

    Then fail or pass them on the work, not whether they have the same computer as you.

  48. What Gerald said. I was writing the same darn thing.

  49. Well, if it's an online class, you've really done all that you can do. If you don't see the guy, you can't tell him in person. Your ass is covered, and if he complains, you've got a trail of emails and comments.

  50. Gotta love those "holy wars" between forever-Mac and lazy-Win users. Similar to those never ending discussions on "why are you using that ancient FORTRAN?".

  51. Hold your ground. You have set out the specs for your papers. If these kids are as goddam tech savvy as they prattle on about, they can figure out formatting and get their stuff in on time, and meeting the appropriate specs.

    Remember when we had to type our papers on paper, and get REAL carpel tunnel syndrome, and if you fucked up something, you typed that page over again? Don't acquiesce to accommodate their ridiculous demands.

  52. I think it is amusing that some people here have equated wanting something in a certain format to not caring about content. Weak logical reasoning skills abound.

    And how does this really have anything to do with Mac vs PC? The Mac will save in .doc format, as my Mac friends tell me, (preen to me) and it also saves in RTF. I am much more often confronted with the very different concern of a student not having a PC at all and using Open Office, (which also saves files easily as RTFs) or having a cheap PC but not having purchased the Office software, so they are saving files as .wpds, even though the free word processing software on those things also saves easily in .RTF.

    Heck, I have an engineer friend who made comments similar to the ones from people here who just didn't get what I was going through with little stupid shit for years. Thought I was being silly over details like that. She ended up getting a job teaching engineering classes at the local CC in her town and guess what? It drove her crazy that her students would not put their labs together with a staple. They just wouldn't do it. And coming from work, she had enough to carry, etc, to worry about bringing a stapler. And if the reports were not stapled, they just tended to get messed up. Made it a little more difficult for her to keep them together, keep them nice.

    She ended up making the damn staple worth five points off the top. OMG guess what? They ended up being able to staple after all....most of them. And fuck the rest.

    She never makes comments about my concerns at all anymore.

  53. Bella for comment of the week.
    And - late at night - I read this "which also saves files easily as RTFs" and thought it meant "read the f'ing syllabus", but sadly, re-reading it suggested that was not the case. Oh, well....

  54. Stanley submitted a rough draft of his final project to me this morning in RTF format. He apologized to me for not doing it sooner, said he realized he had zeroes for not following directions on the other assignments, but still wanted my feedback on the work he'd done so he could be sure his group project turned out OK. I gladly provided it. Stanley smartened up: a holiday miracle!

  55. Late to the party to say that I care about the work students are doing, but since I care about that...why can't they take the 30 seconds of caring about their fucking work to put it in the requested format. I'm suspecting that when they enter the (god forbid) job market, certain skills like FOLLOWING DIRECTIONS are going to be most necessary.

    As a Mac user since sometime in the mid-1980s, I've pretty much accepted that no one can read my digital documents, and I learned to work around it. Crazy, I know, but I'm equally comfortable with both formats. Stanley needs to get on with the program.

    When I last taught Freshman Comp, we had to sumbit electronic student portfolios to the state (don't get me started) as part of a standards verification program. I had 20 to 30 kids a semester. If they couldn't follow the format directions, I got fucked. Nobody was going to give me a special allowance for...well...being special, so I wasn't going to give the kids one, either.

    And, one word, that my physics colleagues whisper disdainfully as they watch us argue about these issues: LaTek.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.