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"My Flash Drive Ate My Homework” and Other Technologically Enhanced Excuses

I teach as an adjunct at a local (Cincinnati) evening MBA program.   I love it, it’s energizing, it enhances my creativity, and the students are for the most part excited to learn.    Before starting this position, my academic experiences came from the time period of dot matrix printers and floppy disks.  We used technology, but just to get our papers printed, or to store some extra charts and graphs. A lot has changed in both technology and learning.  Now we interface with students through Blackboard or Edmodo.  We fire up the 3M machine with our morning cup of coffee.  I just found a high-tech version of the overhead projector, in case you want to show your students something actually printed, –like in a magazine or the newspaper.

I have had a lot of fun exploring these various tools, and consider it a personal accomplishment when I actually get them to work.  Each time I use Blackboard, I have at least one “Wow, cool!” moment when I find something new and helpful.

But in the process of teaching in a technologically enhanced environment, I have noticed a new trend developing.    The excuses offered by students are often fueled by the technology that is supposed to make the learning environment better.

Just in the past 6 week class module I collected the following “tech-cuses” (Homework or other assignments not completed and blamed on technology).

“Blackboard says I am no longer recognized as a student, so I can’t turn anything in.”

“The 3M lightbulb is going bad, so my entire presentation will have an eerie green glow.”

“My brother swapped computers with me and my presentation is on his.”

“My paper had great formatting before I sent it to you. “

“ I accidentally washed my flash drive and lost all my papers. ”

 In response to these, I want to hold a hard line and say, “Too bad, no excuses! “  Yet, this fall my own home computer crashed twice.  Even though we had backed up and duplicated important files, the whole family sat down and cried. Too much of our lives wrapped up in that hard drive.  I feel these students’ pain.

So I write this post to see your reactions.  When a student has a tech-cuse, often it is harder for the student to solve than the old, “My dog ate my homework.” excuse of 30 years ago.  They can’t just re-type the paper, because all of their work was done digitally.   Do we give them more grace periods, more extensions?   It seems counter-intuitive to give extra time to accommodate the systems that should make life and learning easier for us.  What do you think?