Disclaimer: I’m very tired and I’m having a hard time seeing what I’m writing. It just looks like a mass-y block of text and nothing makes sense when I try to pick it apart and read it back to myself. So…good luck.
Initially, I looked at both articles – Tim McGee’s “The Politics of the Program: MS WORD as the Invisible Grammarian” and Danielle DeVoss’s “’It wasn’t me, was it?’ Plagiarism and the Web” – and I immediately thought they were outdated. Both were published in 2002 and use data or research from the 90s. Knowing that technology and modes of communication are in constant flux, evolving and adapting, I thought that reading documents about Microsoft Word or “plagiarism and the web” seemed a little pointless. After more than a decade, all of this has to have changed, right?
However, after reading both articles, I became a little skeptical – how much has actually changed? I feel like both are exposing the same problems and the same “we ought to be doing X, Y, and Z”s as some other more recent articles. After reading them, I feel a little bitter.
From then until now, students are still concerned with grammar and style, using Microsoft Word as their dominant composition tool and utilizing the “grammar check” feature. Instructors are still concerned with grammar, but seem much more concerned with “higher order” issues. Although, I know grammar was much more of an emphasis in previous decades, but I’m fairly certain (or hopeful) that grammar has been put on the back-burner throughout the last 40-50 years. What I gather from the text, McGee suggests that instructors need to become the “authority” on grammar – taking away the power of Spell Check and the notion that writing is editing, not drafting – and teach grammar or style in a way that doesn’t showcase it as this mechanical, algorithmic, or linguistically static. This is a great idea, but this isn’t new to me. Because this isn’t new, I assume that : 1) Students are still using MW as much as they did in the early 2000s. 2) students are still worried about grammar and expect that writing = mastery of standard language linguistic expectations. 3) Instructors are still trying to break away from skill-drill instruction. 4) Process is more important than product.
In DeVoss’s article on Plagiarism, I also couldn’t see anything different in how we teach or approach plagiarism. Yes, some students buy or download their essays off of the internet; some students throw in quotes or paraphrases without citing the source. Because it is such a simple process of “copy-paste-ing” students can sometimes be unaware of the “danger” of plagiarizing or perhaps fully aware of the risks, but do it anyways for a variety of reasons – pressure, frustration, stress, anxiety, low self-esteem concerning their own writing, etc. Like the other article, the major idea that I gather here is that nothing has really changed over the last decade. Plagiarism is still an issue.
The theories and approaches are all the same (we ought to do A, B, and C because of X, Y, and Z). I’m not sure how to illustrate this at the moment or what to even think about it, but there’s a disconnect somewhere, either way.
When I read these, they made me think of commercials or ads that create these rationally irrational slippery slopes. There’s a larger fear here that students are learning the “wrong” grammatical or writing philosophy from their computers, perhaps making English instructors feel like their being kicked to the curb, haha. Realistically, I know the fear is that by using these tools, students aren’t understanding writing as a larger process or experiencing habits that shape them as motivated and mindful writers that take ownership of their own work.
On another note, what the hell is up with “patch-writing?” I really should have gone Jennifer’s workshop on plagiarism earlier in the semester, because based off of the description given in DeVoss’s article, patch-writing seems confusing or maybe not that bad? – “allows students a place to borrow from a text, manipulate it, and work through new concepts by piecing their writing with the original work.” To me, this sounds like maybe paraphrasing without adding a citation…which is wrong, I suppose. However, it also sounds like what I do on a normal basis – read a thing, internalize or think about that thing, add that thing to my own ideas on things, and produce some other thing that demonstrates my new understanding of the thing. I did it in this very post while trying to articulate what I thought these authors meant and what their words mean to me. I don’t think I’m understanding what patch-writing is. I would like a model to see what it looks like, because I’m having a hard time seeing it as either negative, or positive.