Education Technology

My Brain is About To Explode

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Image by rogilde – roberto la forgia via Flickr

For real.

It’s happening.

I’m. Having. A. Total. Meltdown.

I’ve been trying to figure out this anti-plagiarism program called, and while the program appears easy enough to use, well, it isn’t working for me. And I seem to have found the ugly truth: apparently no one works at this company. There is no technical support. No phone number provided at which to reach a human.

After a major Internet investigation, I found a phone number. Elated, I dialed. And then I got that automated voice that tells you to please wait. Please wait. Please. Wait. (I watched an entire DVR’ed episode of Survivor while the music played in the background.)

Before I ever reached for the phone, I tried email. I explained my situation in detail, and somebody (a monkey?) sent me an email ticket indicating somebody (in India? in Texas? from Mars?) had received my angst-filled note(s) and promised I would be contacted within 24 hours.

I’ve been waiting for help since Monday.

I can’t get a human.

I can’t even get the sales rep.

So here’s a little video for your enjoyment.

You know, while I wait.

What makes your brain explode?

14 thoughts on “My Brain is About To Explode

  1. Have you tried 510-764-7600? I know it’s long-distance, but that was the number listed before the press inquiry person at the parent company’s website.

    Although I have to wonder about a company whose CTO is named Christian Storm (Ph.D.) and whose founder was J. M. Barrie.

    1. The whole thing is suspicious. I tried THAT number hours ago. Then I got a toll free number. Then I got another toll free number. On an up note, about 20 minutes after I posted this little rant, my phone rang. Now I have their digits. And a go-to guy.

      And guess what? It was an issue on their end!

  2. Mrs. Jakes: Perhaps this understanding will advise of the reason for what you consider incompetence and unprofessional delays. It is an anti-plagiarism firm. Get it? FIRST they have to do a background check on YOU to see if you’re a real person with proof of existence which calls for an examination of your life’s paper trail and the relative documentation thereof. It is unethical for them to assist an imaginary person in that person’s obsession to castrate a poor fellow for not footnoting “the” or “for” and “frogs” for example. I think the Patriot Act (I read it. It’s 200 pages long), requires this protocol of scrutiny. Sometimes we sacrifice efficiency for safety in today’s world that ever threatens our democracy. I am sure you overlooked this reality of life in our dangerous world.

    While you are waiting on hold, instead of watching tapes of that silly series, may I suggest you learn an obscure ancient language and that culture’s mysteries so you could get paid to help Dan Brown write another one of his Da Vinci genre of novels and make a great deal of money as well. You could also extort money from him by threatening to reveal his plagiarism after publication as opposed to editing before publication.

    1. Carl, I swear I will never waste time like that again. My son watches Survivor. It’s his little nugget of joy each Thursday afternoon, his one free day without any scheduled activities. So it was there. And I watched.

      But in my defense, I needed something brainless that could be aborted at any moment… you know, if that call from the Help Desk ever came. Alas, the moment never came, and I watched as the young’uns voted some chick off the island. Shocking. I didn’t see it coming. 😉

  3. No offense, but I was going to suggest dumping the whole concept. It gives the vibe of assuming all students are guilty until you’ve checked them out. I have no experience, but can’t you tell if a student is cheating by comparing their work with tests and class time? In the sciences it is pretty clear.

    1. Hi Walt:

      This semester, plagiarism has been a real problem for me for the first time in twenty years. And I’m not alone. Other teachers are batting “cut and paste” syndrome: the Internet has made it so easy for students to cheat. I’m trying to use the program to give my students a tool to look at their own writing critically. So they can run an originality report and assess, “Hmmmm, have I cited this bit of information properly? Have I paraphrased this enough?” I want my students to think critically. I’m not using it to “bust people.” Not my goal. I want them to see the reports.

      I am just piloting this program. Not sure I’m buying into it either, but if students are being academically honest, they shouldn’t be afraid to submit their papers to it. Right now, it is extra credit to anyone who tries it.

      And yes, I can tell who is cheating, but then one has to gather proof… and that takes a lot of time. It’s a demoralizing brain drain. This program pretty much lays it out there for everyone. In a writing class, where students hand in papers that they have worked on outside of class, it can be difficult to tell who has received “help.” Agreed, things are a little more clear in math and science.

      And no offense taken.

  4. I have been reading these posts. It reminds me of when I was a kid. I cheated in school, a lot. not in high school, but more in elementary or middle school. I had no idea how to study. Nobody ever taught me. I was left to my own devices to figure it out. I didn’t. I would often look at the kids paper next to mind, write down information on the side of my sneaker or my wrist. I still had poor grades. cheating only gets you so far when you do not have the answers.

    If I had gotten in trouble it may have scared me, but at the time I assumed desperate times called for desperate measures. Children make choices based on not knowing how to do it differently. It is not a cop out and it does not make it excusable.

    I stopped on my own eventually and never cheated in college, but I would wonder the lack of skills some of these kids are brought up with. I would think they need a talking to that outlines the problem with cheating, how this effects how they will behave as adults and determine their success, and I would likely give them a zero for the paper, or have them re-do the paper. I do not think I would involve administration because I would assume they did not know better.

    The consequence would be the punishment you set forth in your class, and the gift would be the discussion you provide to give them a sense of understanding and a better way to make choices: what I’m saying is teach a boy to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.

    1. Tim:

      I appreciate your candor. And I would be lying if I said I never cheated. (Lord, I had no business in taking Trigonometry!) That said, I teach at a community college, and there are certain expectations laid out on day 1 with regard to cheating and plagiarism.

      I believe that by college (as you said), students should have a firm understanding of the ethics of honesty, and they need to understand that cheating hurts them (or could hurt them) in the long run. I am available to conference if they need help. I have office hours, but they have to take the action step and initiate the contact.

      The Internet has made things very difficult for Composition-101 teachers. Hell, papers can be purchased online. Many students confess to having never read a book, only the Sparks Notes. Critical thinking skills are at an all-time low.

      In my class, if a student is caught cheating, it is up to me to decide: 0 on the paper, re-do the paper, F for the course, and/or report to Academic Services. I take a lot of things into consideration when making these decisions as I know withdrawing a student can impact financial aid, etc.

      That said, sometimes the greatest life learning comes under duress. Some of my students aren’t ready for college. Some don’t have the skills set. Some are there because their parents’ forced them to attend. Some need to grow up a little and maybe come back to school. Some need to get busted to understand how serious cheating is. If they cheated on the job, they would be fired.

      So yes, I want to teach them to make better choices, but some folks will always try to steak other people’s fish rather than go fishing themselves. Don’t you watch Survivor? 😉

  5. Man. I can’t blame you for resorting to “Survivor” episodes while you waited for tech support. But really, J. M. Barrie?!?!?

    Dealing w/dr. offices makes my brain fry. Phone consults, walk-in clinic visits, ER visit, another phone consult. Will you just get an app’t for us, puh leeze. . .

  6. I was always too scared to cheat…so I got really good at “bulls***ting”.

    It makes sense to me that as the internet has made cheating easier for students…then the tools on the internet that can be used to catch students who cheat should also be utilized (and hopefully easily and readily accessible to the teachers).

    It doesn’t necessarily indicate some general distrust of the students…but truly, “Where there is smoke there usually IS fire.”

  7. From your words it appears these children who cheat have the skills to take the first step to conference. You are blessed and lucky as a teacher to have the opportunity to recognize why they behaved in a way that is not acceptable and to teach them a better way to move forward. Many students are not ready for college, and their first few years or even their entire undergraduate will be filled with many poor choices as this is the process of growing up. But the fact remains that many immature young men and woman attend college. Any skills you can give to them, any words of wisdom may stay with them and help them grow and nurture in years to come that may not be seen in the few months they sit in your classroom. Thank you for being a teacher and thank you for putting aside your frustration and anger and thinking hard about how you can help the kids who make some poor choices.

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