The Computer Ate my Homework

Posted on: 1 March, 08

Connect2School (C2S) is a virtual desktop that allows students and teachers to access their data and applications via the internet.  A student can begin working on a document at school and then access the same document from home.  It eliminates the need for carrying floppy disks or a thumb drive to and from school.  (Does anyone even use floppies anymore?!?)  Anyway, there are lots of nifty things one can do with C2S….in theory.

C2S has two major flaws.  The servers are frequently overloaded.  When teachers are trying to input their grades for report cards, it is not uncommon to be unable to log in at all.  More servers would solve that problem, but finding the money for the servers in unlikely.  Reliability is the second issue.  It is not unusual to have documents, even complete folders of documents, simply vanish from C2S.  Our wonderful tech guy, KH, is able to retrieve them on rare occasion.  However, this is of little help to the student whose term vanishes on Sunday night….and the paper is due first thing Monday morning.  KH works long hours, but he is not on call 24/7. 

J is cursed when it comes to C2S.  A few months ago, he had a very involved project about 90% done.  The project was due the following Tuesday morning.  Since it was a long weekend, he was feeling good about his progress.  His plan was to finish it up Saturday morning so he could relax the rest of the weekend.  He logs in and the project is gone.  It was as if the folder never existed.  We make a mad dash to the public library for some fast research because the library was going to be closed on Sunday and Monday for the holiday weekend.  C and I helped him by pulling books, making photo copies, and document source citations.  Poor J spent the rest of the weekend trying to recreate what had been lost.  He finished on time, but there was no relaxing that weekend.  The tech guy never could recover his folder.

Having been burned once, J got smarter.  If he starts a document on C2S at school, he saves a copy to his hard drive as soon as he gets home.  If something gets lost, at least he has some of data saved.  This has been a good practice because it happened again a few weeks ago.  Unfortunately, he had done a large amount of work at school and C2S lost it before he could get home to back it up. 

J has a major paper due on Tuesday.  He has been working on this for weeks and backing it up at home.  His goal was to finish the paper today, print it, bind it, everything, so he could have Sunday to just be a slug.  He had to use C2S for his annotated bibliography because it has a “citation maker” tool that teachers like the students to use.  He had backed up the actual paper to the hard drive…thankfully.  As soon as he completed two page bibliography, he tried to save to the hard drive.  For some unknown reason, C2S not only did not save the additional pages to the hard drive, it lost them completely.  The bibliography was not even on the C2S server.  Vanished into thin air. 

It could be worse.  The whole thing could be gone.  J was just so thrilled to almost be done with this albatross of a project.  He decided it was enough for one day.  Tomorrow, he will recreate his bibliography.  He will still be done ahead of schedule, but he could have done without the additional drama. 

The district wants C2S to be an integral part of the school day and the curriculum.  There is even a program to provide computers and internet access to students who cannot afford it.  In theory, it is a thing of beauty.  However, in practice, it is a nightmare.  We have a high level of tech knowledge in our household.  The fact that we have 5 computers and 4 people speaks volumes. We have learned tricks to manipulate C2S, but there are still times like today when I want to scream in frustration.  I think about the students who have no support at home.  Yet, so many assignments are required to be done on C2S.  Most teachers are fairly understanding of the tech issues.  They will usually give an extension, but it still means recreating your project.

Dogs no longer have to the rap from missing assignments.  Now students can blame it on the computer.  Sadly, it is usually not a lie. 


3 Responses to "The Computer Ate my Homework"

Is it possible to save his work at school onto a USB drive? Even though theoretically it’s not necessary to? Poor guy, I’d have thrown something at the computer server.

Reply to Shari: Most of the workstations the students use are thin clients which do not have a USB port. Overall, the move to thin clients has been great for the district. In this particular aspect, they are a pain.

What a pain! So basically because the school system has spent the money, the students have to suffer because the technology is failing them. That seems like such a great idea — not.

Is he able to email a copy home as soon as he finishes at school? My DS has resorted to this after not being able to gain access to his schools’ network from home a few times.

Reply to Keely: Some students spend too much time playing around with email instead doing their work, so the school does not allow students to access email while at school. It is too hard to monitor who is only accessing for school work and who is emailing stupid jokes to their friends. It is frustrating because this would be an easy solution to the C2S issue. Once again, a few irresponsible students complicate the lives of everyone around them.

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