Join the Program in Writing and Rhetoric’s very own Kimberly Towers-Kubik as she continues exploring the complexities of assessing paper drafts in part three of her four part series! (Click here to check out part two)
Part Three: Modern Complications in Defining ‘the Draft’
by Kimberly Towers-Kubik
Now an entire semester removed from what originally prompted this journey, I have further thoughts on what makes the draft so complex, and they are related to a couple of age-old questions:
- How has technological advancement impacted draft development and are these ‘advances’ for the better or for the worse?
- Should we embrace these changes or should we hold on to tried-and-true methods to retain the progress that has already been made in understanding the draft?
Drafts have traditionally been submitted via paper copy. This means of submission has the effect of making documents feel static, which can unintentionally cause students to pause. Waiting for professor feedback, students may avoid making drastic changes to a draft and as such, progress is potentially put on hold.
Such time lapses can be particularly damning considering the extremely short length of the semester. Students run the risk of losing track of thoughts that might have helped to facilitate the advancement of ideas within the paper.
Now, however, with the invention and integration of Google Documents and other such technologies into the classroom, drafts have gained a sense of movement because they are live. When students exclusively use such technologies, they can not only access their documents remotely from anywhere at any time but they can also keep track of their thoughts by leaving comments on their own drafts for potential future exploration.
Such comments might seem far less permanent or daunting than a partially explored idea or sentence clumsily embedded in a draft on a Word document and far less difficult to misplace than a quick note scrawled on a paper copy. As such, ideas are not lost (even if a comment is deleted, as all comments are stored) and the potential for thought to imbue further thought at any given time flourishes.
The implications of live documents from the professorial perspective are similarly widespread. Professors have the opportunity to see and comment on papers in their most current form. They can also do so while a student is simultaneously logged into a document almost as an impromptu tutoring session, which can help a professor aid with troubleshooting, provide encouragement, and allow for the exchange of thoughts.
Furthermore, professors can view how the draft came to be as a result of the history-tracking function. Students who are aware of this function might even more fully engage with the writing process knowing that the document, in its live form, can be viewed at any time as can the history of its development. To those who teach composition, the implications of a live document versus a static document are clear. They can provide professors with an opportunity to help students conceive of their own individual processes, a goal it seems all scholars and practitioners can agree upon.
For all that is good that comes with these advancements, however, there are still some drawbacks to consider. Some professors may prefer the static document because it can pause the swirling chaos of student thought. This can provide time for reflection on the part of both student and professor and work to control the nagging compulsion that technology and a live document can invite. It is also important to remember that it takes time to read, grade, and provide feedback on drafts. Hence, by the time a professor gets around to looking over the very last student’s live draft, it might be a week or more past the deadline. As such, a professor would ethically need to grade the draft as of the due date using the history tracking function to uphold fair grading practices, and in this case, the professor might as well ask for students to submit paper copies because of their static nature.
The draft – how it is defined and how it functions – lurks in muddy waters. With differing student processes, professor objectives and preferences, and the technological environment clash, it is difficult to gain footing with a topic that becomes increasingly complex as the years go by. Hence, a re-conceptualization is most sorely needed. In my last installment in this monster of a draft, I will explore the ways in which we can free ourselves from the limitations that strict definitions invite, all of which center around a context-based approach. See you there!
Do you have ideas of your own related to this concept of a ‘live draft’? Please comment below, and like, subscribe, and share!