Wednesday, September 09, 2015

When (lack of) technology causes tension

I had lunch yesterday with a colleague who retired in May, and what a contrast we presented: one of us looking rested, relaxed, and full of smiles, the other carrying a tote bag full of books and student papers and the harried look of someone who doesn't have time to breathe between bites. Guess which was which.

Yes, we've reached the third week of classes, when things suddenly start getting very real--the papers, the class preps, the eye-rollers and phone-texters and students crying wolf--but right now what weighs me down most is what's happening outside of class:

1. I show up to a meeting to discover that it's my turn to take notes but I've left my computer on the other side of campus and all I have is a very small notepad and a pen that drops globs of sticky ink all over the tiny pages. It's a two-hour meeting in which people have many important things to say about important topics, and my pen hand has to scramble to keep up. Today's task: typing up those notes, if I can read them.

2. I need to show a DVD to my extremely small capstone class, which generally meets in my office. My new computer lacks a DVD player and just about every classroom on campus is filled at that hour, so I decide to test out the ancient TV that lives in our media storage room. I fetch the heavy rolling cart to my office, hook everything up, turn it on, and try every possible setting without success. The DVD player is running and the TV is running but they don't seem capable of cooperating with each other. Maybe I'll just hold up the DVD case and say, "See?"

3. A technical glitch prevents me from accessing information my students submitted online so I put in a work order, but it turns out that the glitch won't be fixed in time to be useful, so I have to ask the students to take one extra step and send me the information via e-mail, which half of them do right away while the others...don't. So now I need to spend class time urging the remaining students to cooperate, and all this would have been avoided if I hadn't been trying out a whizzy new way of employing technology to engage students in learning activities. Some days I'm tempted to simply pull the plug.

It's no wonder I walked into the restaurant carrying the world on my shoulders. As we chatted, though, I felt that tension slipping away and I left with a lighter step. My colleague's peaceful demeanor is contagious! I just hope she didn't carry away any of my tension.

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