I’m tired of typing that sentence.
By the end of the semester, I will have typed it approximately 188 times along with onscreen-clicking at least 12 times per submission. Is this the best use of my time? Come to think of it, is the entire rigmarole that I go through to accept electronic texts the most efficient way of responding to student writing? (Okay, maybe there’s no efficient way . . . ) Collecting paper documents and writing in the margins with a pen is looking better to me lately—at least until I remember that my backpack was more stuffed; and that all those pages transmitted germs, absorbed cigarette smoke, and got wet, walked on by the dog, or stained by a teacup.
But lately, when commenting on student writing, I’m a little struck by the clunkiness of my routine and keep wondering if there isn’t a better way. First, I open an assignment on Sakai, including the directions and expectations and due dates. Students upload a copy of their draft, usually created in MS Word or the open source version of Word. When it’s time for me to read it and make comments, I have to download the file, open it in Word, and use Track Changes. (Except, of course, when a student uploads a PDF file, in which case I open Adobe Pro and use sticky notes.)
At this point, Track Changes is familiar to me and I find it effective for giving marginal comments as well as for making some intertextual edits. My comments in the right margin are in color, dated, and numbered. If I can’t help myself and want to add a comma or leave a brief note right next to a problematic internal citation, for example, those edits show up in a different color, and a vertical mark in the left margin signals to the reader that something has been changed.
For me to get going on a new piece of writing, I need to click “Review” and also click the toggle button on Track Changes to ON. When I’m finished, I then have to save the new version, and since students rarely remember to use their names for the file that they upload, I end up changing “final draft” to “Sara W_490_analysis” or something that helps me identify it among the 40+ others in my Downloads folder. Then I need to go to Sakai > Assignments, choose the correct Assignment among several, click on Sara W, and complete a series of at least seven steps to return her writing to her, including typing out “Please see my comments on the copy I’ve attached below”!
Is this just me? Am I being completely thick about shortcuts, or does this seem like a lot to go through 188+ times in a semester? Is it Sakai, about which many of my colleagues complain relentlessly? Or am I right that there are TOO MANY STEPS involved in this exchange of drafts? I’d love to hear from Bits readers who either share my frustration or who have conquered this problem.
Tags: Bedford Bibliography for Teachers of Writing, Bedford/St. Martin's, comments on student writing, digital comments, efficient grading, electronic texts, grading papers, grading process, Nedra Reynolds, Porfolio Teaching, Portfolio Keeping, responding to student writing