Tuesday, January 24, 2006

And This, My Friends, Is Why I Resist Incorporating Technology in My Classes

And by "technology" I mean newfangled and wacky things like showing a DVD.

While our campus is trying to upgrade the classrooms to "smart classroom" status, we are by no means there. I have never been assigned a smart classroom in my time at this university, and I suspect it will be a long time before I am assigned such. Even the classrooms that are not "smart" don't have things as simple as a DVD player, which is problematic because neither I nor the library purchase VHS tapes anymore. To do so would be a bad investment, no? At any rate, I made the decision that I was going to stop being afraid of technology and plan to show the DVD of Krapp's Last Tape in Intro to Lit. Problematically, the room that I'm in doesn't have a DVD player, and it has a TV from the stone ages that probably wouldn't accept a DVD player if I tried. So I make an IT request to get the equipment I need in my classroom.

"For security reasons, they can't deliver equipment to a classroom."**

No, I'm not kidding.

I would be interested to hear where exactly they can make deliveries.

This also means that they will not set up this equipment for me.

Which means that I need to learn how to install a DVD player/projector myself, which means that I need to go and get schooled in these activities right before I'm teaching and hope (against hope) that nothing goes wrong when I get into my classroom and try to do this myself.

Note to administrators everywhere: It's really difficult to be an innovative teacher and to integrate different kinds of technologies and learning experiences into one's classes when one receives only the most pathetic amount of institutional support. Grrrrrr......

**I understand why they wouldn't be able to make a delivery to an EMPTY classroom, but it is entirely unclear to me why they wouldn't be able to make the delivery to the INSTRUCTOR of the class (I could show my ID or something) in the classroom and to set up the equipment for me. Or, if they insist on delivering the thing to my dept. office (which, apparently, is not a security risk), why can't they let the person who delivers it ACCOMPANY ME TO THE CLASSROOM AND SET THE THING UP. Ok, I need to go boil with resentment some more and stop writing about this.


StyleyGeek said...

I do sympathise. But at least it means your IT people trust you with the equipment. I struggle with IT guys who won't loan me an extension cable without following me to the room and "helping" me set it up (because IT equipment is difficult and dangerous, right, and might melt a pretty girl's brain) and who won't give me administrater rights on my own computer (or install some of the programs I ask them to, because they don't support anything that isn't made by Microsoft).

Ancarett said...

I've now pretty well won the battle to get "smart classrooms" for all but my senior courses. But for a few years I was reserving multimedia carts (projector/DVD/VCR/computer carts, all in one), going to the depot, signing them out, wheeling them down to class, plugging them in, getting them running and reversing the entire process at the end of class. It added an extra forty minutes to my teaching day. . . .

Ianqui said...

No, seriously, you should ask them where they do deliver the equipment.

Maybe you should ask Dean Dad about this one.

Cats & Dogma said...

Nice call on the Beckett, even if you can't get the DVD. In a pinch, you can get the entire audio in two MP3's on UbuWeb at http://www.ubu.com/sound/beckett.html.

You can either play them in class, or have your students listen to them beforehand. It's pretty excellent, I must say.

Dave Merkowitz said...

Once I had to have a class watch an entire movie [Sunshine...recommend it] with the audio only coming out of my laptop speakers because the TV in a building with the last name of pitcher from the team in Crazy's neck of the woods. It was frustrating to say the least. At bigger Uni across the river, we've gone pretty high tech, sometimes too high tech. Anyway, I have felt your pain.

Dr. C said...

What the heck? I thought they just chained those puppies to a cart and left them in the classroom. That's what the IT folks do here. The only bad problem? None of the remotes seem to work ... or they disappear ... or they just aren't delivered.

DocLarry said...

The university at which I used to teach installed several "smart" classrooms, then provided zero training or maintenance. Within one month half the equipment did not work, the computers consistently crashed due to nothing ever being deleted, and faculty in my department would wheel in an old VCR already connected to a monitor rather than attempt to learn how to use the "Smart" classroom. Being the techie in the department, I was often asked to assist other faculty, even when I taught during the same period.

The race to adopt and integrate technology into classrooms appears to have more to do with attracting tuition dollars than aiding learning.

shrinkykitten said...

I am so dependent now upon smart classrooms that I don't know how I would teach my main course without it! I play music, have powerpoints all made up, play dvds and vhs (because a lot is still on vhs -- and I got a vhs/dvd player to try to copy them to dvd just in case, but can't get it to copy).

I fear I no longer remember how to just stand up and lecture without all the technology.

And, by the by, I completely empathize with the frustration in this! I had an "average intelligence" classroom last semester, and it required me to constantly have to get projectors, but I couldn't show films, etc. It's a huge headache.

Dean Dad said...

I hear ya. On my campus, most of the 'general purpose' classrooms have tv's with attached vcr's in them; showing a dvd requires considerable foresight and planning. We're replacing the vcr's with dvd/vcr combos later this Spring, but it takes a while.

Do you have a laptop? If you can plug the laptop in so that it projects through the overhead projector, you might be able to show dvd's that way.

Tech support is one of those bottomless pits that destroys budgets, so most colleges just pick a figure and do a sort of triage on help requests until that budget is blown. It's likely to get worse before it gets better, which is increasingly annoying. Bah.

Laura said...

Before I comment, I have to tell you, I'm on your side. I think it's ridiculous that you can't get something as simple as a DVD player.

Okay, now putting on my IT hat. At my school, there are about 400 faculty. There are 2 AV guys--the ones who would come help you set this whole thing up. At any given time, there may be, oh, 50-100 classes and maybe half of those using equipment.

Now, for other teaching and technology stuff. Guess what? There's me. That's it. Me, for 400 faculty. There used to be another person who handled the language faculty, about 20-30 altogether.

I know we spend a lot of money on equipment and software maintenance (Blackboard, PeopleSoft, Microsoft Office, etc.), but you know where we cut corners? People. You know where most people notice a lack of service. Give you a hint. It's not because they don't have the latest update of Blackboard. It's because they can't get anyone to help them with their existing problem.

And you know what I tell my faculty when I am working with them and they complain about the lack of help--not about me specifically, but about the general lack of staff--I tell them to tell the Provost, the President, the CIO, whoever. I can't say anything because then I'm whining.

Sorry to go on for so long, but I consider myself an advocate for faculty who are trying to use technology, even at the most basic level. I am spread way too thin and it gets to me. And ultimately, it doesn't help the faculty to have me spread so thin.

Dr. Crazy said...

Thanks for your comment, and don't worry about going on - it's nice to hear the perspective of the other side.

The thing that I'd say, though, is that if they can spare the body to bring the equipment to a non-classroom (like my office), and then, when I tell them that's just stupid because I don't know how to set the thing up, and they can spare the exact same body for 20 minutes to show me how to set the thing up prior to my class, why they can't spare that body to take the thing to my class and to set it up. I'm not saying that IT isn't stretched thin - I know that they are (and at my university, particularly in terms of money for software, so perhaps they're spending all of their money on people and not the updates of software? Hmmmm). But it strikes me that the problem here is not that IT doesn't have the (people) resources it needs in this situation but rather that the bureacracy is getting in the way of efficiency.

For example, I figured this whole thing out on Tuesday, so why did I get another email today from another person telling me that they can't bring the equipment to my classroom? At any rate, at least now I know how irritating the whole process is, and I know now what to do when I need the equipment later in the semester.