Friday, November 28, 2008

Black Friday diary

So, while all you nut jobs were up at 3AM to be at Penney's for the insane 4AM opening, I was snoozing blissfully in my bed. Then, after you wrestled that little old lady from Murtaugh to the ground for those mother-of-pearl earrings for your grandmother, and as you made your way groggily to Best Buy for their 5AM opening, I turned the pillow over for that delicious coolness and went back to sleep. 

When you were elbowing some 300 lb dude who slept in the parking lot to get his PS3 with 3 games and a Blu-Ray movie and some crazy soccer mom was blocking the Wii aisle so her husband could load ALL the Wiis from the entire store into their basket, I heard one of the kids stirring, but since they were quiet in using the toidy, I was able to lay back down and slumber some more.

As you swerved through two intersections to avoid people talking to each other on their cell phones coordinating the Fred Meyer attack for socks, and as you inched your way forward in the longest line in Target history to buy those scooters, I was thinking about getting up-- but deciding "no, I think I'll 'snooze it' for a few more minutes.... or an hour."

I'm up now, but I'm still in my PJs. I just peeled an orange for Cole, shared it with Cate and Cam, made myself a turkey sandwich (on one of those still-soft rolls), and browsed online to find that Wii game on sale on Amazon for less than Wal-Mart's "doorbuster" price. 

Didya have a good morning? ;-)

Friday, November 21, 2008

a painful waste of time

I've been teaching college since 1999. All told that's 26 semesters (counting quite a few summers). When I review course syllabi with students at the beginning of each term I discuss my plagiarism policies. I tell students that I have yet to teach a semester in which at least one student submits an assignment plagiarized from work done by others. "Maybe this term will be the semester in which no student plagiarizes," I say, hopefully. "Maybe you'll believe me when I say that my plagiarism radar is pretty sensitive," I say, suggestively. "Maybe you won't have to learn that lesson by experience. Maybe you'll take my word for it." 

We've just finished week 13 (of 16) and, without really thinking about it consciously, I was starting to wonder whether I might get through this term without wasting my time and energy on a plagiarism case. Sigh. It's not to be. Not one, but two students chose to submit as their own work written by others. I had the unpleasant task of discussing it with them and making the excruciating decisions about what to do with. Do they fail the course outright, or do they fail the assignment and stay in the course? There is a range of possible consequences for plagiarism--mostly because plagiarism has many colors-- many shades and motives. Most of the time, students don't set out to cheat in this way. Mostly they find themselves pressed for time and make poor choices. 

I only hope that these are learning experiences for them.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

From the archives...

Here's a picture from last year's Draney Camp. Where does it take you?
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A day off... now and then

Veteran's Day is a good day to have off. The students love having any day off so we'll just leave them out of this one. I'm sure they respect the sacrifices of our veterans as much as anyone, but today most of them are either catching up on homework or getting further behind on homework (because they're getting sloshed and won't be in class tomorrow). Maybe.

I spent the day doing a bunch of stuff that I haven't managed to fit in lately. Namely: grading essay exams from the online Brit Lit course, updating scores in Blackboard (99 clicks to do any single thing-- you know how it is), getting a new battery for the minivan (Keri did this one, but I set it all up for her-- called the shop, haggled the price, made the appointment, etc.), getting new tires for the beater (just 2 new tires, mind you-- can't quite spring for 4, and the ones on the back aren't in bad shape), getting a haircut, making children do yesterday's homework, finishing an order for a photography client, taking an order from another client, taking the Snakeriver Council 2009 calendar to the stake so they can finish their 2009 calendar, and etc. (Phew!) I even managed to grade a few essays from the Mythology course. Who knows, I may even get caught up with essay grading by the time the next batch comes in on the 25th.

All of the above is to say that a day "off" once in a while is a good thing. It restores a sort of balance to the system of my life-- allowing me to behave as if there really were 8 days in the week once in a while. And dont' we wish there were 8 days in the week. But only if just 7 of them were scheduled.

How was your Veteran's Day?

Friday, November 7, 2008

Single Daddin' it

Keri is taking a road trip with a friend to see a friend this weekend, so it's just me and five kids. (deep breath)

and we're having fun...

No. . . really. . . it's been fun so far. I worked today so Jake and Josh took care of the kiddos. I was happy to find a clean house and live, happy babes when I got home tonight. They did well. The possiblity of getting paid for babysitting all day probably had nothing to do with it.

I'm sure they got their fair share of TV, Wii, Poptropica, and whatever else they could find while the padres were away (I used to make myself gigantic glasses of chocolate milk when I was home alone, or else I'd make a couple of quarts of lemonade Kool-Aid and drink the whole thing so I wouldn't have to share), but, as I said, the house was pretty clean and there were no scorch marks nor bleeding.

I got out from under a stack of essays today (por fin), and the good news is that I only have about 50 to go. Then, I get another stack on Monday. It's a never-ending story, but that's my job and I find satisfaction and a kind of joy in it-- even the parts that are hard. (Give me a medal . . . I know.)

I'm doing a family portrait session tomorrow for some friends who moved to Boise last year. I hope the weather holds. It's been such a nice, mild fall. Aside from that freak snowstorm a month or so ago, I think it's been one of the warmest falls in quite a while.

I missed my regular temple session this week due to illness. I wonder if I can squeeze in a session tomorrow, early.

BTW, they call this style of blogging, stream of conscientiousness.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Living in the Enderverse

At what point do I call myself a junkie? A few years ago, probably 10 years ago, in fact, Keri's brother introduced me to Orson Scott Card. Actually he introduced me to Card's writing. I have met Card in person since, but that's another story. We were browsing titles in the SF/Fantasy section in Barnes & Noble and David pulled down Ender's Game. I think I'd heard of Card before, but I was, for whatever reason, wary of a Mormon writing SF. Not that I knew anything about SF beyond Edgar Rice Burrough's John Carter series (if you even call that SF), mind you. But I was in a snooty time of my life-- looking down on almost everybody from my perch in academe. Whatever.

Anyway, he shoves it into my hands and basically dares me to read it. If you have read Ender's Game you know that I devoured it in one night. Literally, I started reading it that night and kept on reading until 2 or 3AM (or whatever). 

Fast forward 10+ years. I'm teaching American Lit at the college here and I'm casting around for a novel to teach. In browsing my bookshelf and thinking about which genres we'd be covering in the anthology (and therefore where the gaps were) and which books I really enjoyed, I realized that Ender's Game would introduce students (some of them) to SF as a genre possibility and would be a fun read (for some of them, it turns out). We had some real fun teaching Ender's Game, and it made its reappearance in my Am Lit course a couple  more time.

Now, this term, in my Survey of World Mythology course, I'm teaching the third book of that series, Xenocide. As happened in the American Lit course, some students complained about reading it-- not knowing what to expect and being forced outside their comfort zones. It has, nevertheless, been a fun read and a great addition to the course. In fact, I've had very little to do in terms of them seeing how it fits in to the paradigm of the course (cultures in conflict and a Saussure/Barthes myth paradigm). 

Two new books with ties to the Enderverse make their appearance on the literary stage this year. OSC's Intergalactic Medicine Show contains 4 stories in the Enderverse is available now, and Card's novel Ender in Exile will be shipping in about a week. I had ordered the former on Monday, and it happened to arrive yesterday, when I was laid up in bed, so I read all four Ender stories. I'm afraid I won't be much good to anyone for a day or so after Ender in Exile arrives, so I'd better get caught up on grading now. 

In fact, I'd better end this post and get back to work. My point with all of this is simply that whether or not you want to criticize Card for capitalizing on the success of his Ender books, you cannot deny that there is a richness in the broad range of texts available for study. My workstudy student this term had read Ender's Game but none of the rest of the stories. When he saw First Meetings in the Enderverse on my shelf, he asked to borrow it. I thought he'd return it by the end of the semester or so (after all, he's a conscientious student and he has work to do). He brought it back the next day, having read the whole thing in one night.

Look what you've done to us, Mr. Card. Thank you, thank you very much.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Going paperless

Everybody else is blogging about the election today, I'm sure. I'm not. The kids came home a few days ago with a bug and I got it last night. I've been pretty wiped since just after midnight. Don't pity me-- that's how life is-- but that's why I'm posting to my blog instead of teaching today. I hope I can get some papers graded from the bedroom here, too. With luck, I'll get to that in just a bit. But first...

One of my colleagues at the college came to my office yesterday to talk about the CoRev project Kim and Shelley and I have been using to evaluate student papers for a year plus. Because it is entirely web-based, she was interested in it for sustainability reasons. She'd like to develop an entirely paperless class. In talking about what CoRev can do, what she'd like to do, and what we imagined that others might like to be able to do, we can up with a few ideas about how the whole thing might work. 

Just last week I talked to one of the web guys on campus about working with CoRev at CSI. The current install resides at ISU, which is okay, but it would be better overall if we had our own install and had the ability to tweak the rubric and improve the functionality. Even though it isn't exactly what Keith, Steve, and the rest may have intended, I would really like to be able to use CoRev to mark up papers for my individual students (rather than having to recruit three other instructors to be readers). I can score a paper in CoRev about twice as fast (if not faster) than in Word (which I do using track changes and the elaborate macros I inherited from Keith and have been tweaking and adding to since). Our web guy agreed that it looks doable to get an install going here and to tweak CoRev in the ways I'd like to. Good news.

The upshot of my conversation with my colleague yesterday is that it may be feasible to develop a suite of tools for paperless evals of and feedback on student work. Going paperless is a laudable goal, of course, but there are other reasons to be doing the kinds of things CoRev and the other proposed tools will allow us to do.

More on this soon, I hope.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Only on Halloween (?)

I'm heading somewhere on Halloween and this guy pulls up to me at the light. He looks over at me and gives me the wierdest look. I whip out the 'ole phone and snap one. He looks at me again and grins.

Sweet bike.
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