When technology meets departmental tradition

As I’ve mentioned before, this semester I’m teaching a shiny new class in, more or less, humanities computing–“digital literary studies.”  Back when the course was scheduled, I asked to teach in a smart room–not just a room with a multimedia station for the instructor, but a classroom with computers for every student.

And I was scheduled for one!  This spiffy room which is almost like 2 rooms in one: one area devoted to computers, and another with movable desks and an instructor’s workstation.  During our first meeting, we had an initial part of class in the desk area, then moved to the computers, and then went back to the desks for final thoughts.  It was great!  There were some technical glitches, but, on balance, we were all pretty happy.

But.

The spiffy room is known in our department as the journalism lab, and, for many, many years, all our journalism classes  have been taught in it.  Apparently, this was news to our new(-ish) scheduling software, because there was a journalism class being taught concurrently with mine, which had been displaced.  Since I didn’t want to buck against longstanding departmental practice, I agreed to move out of the classroom.

Except that there are no other smart rooms available at that time.  Actually, that should say, “known to be available,” because there’s apparently some chance that rooms are scheduled without actually being used.  Also, it’s not clear that some of the professors are actually using the computers, in which case we might be able to work out a deal.

I pointed out that it’s suboptimal to have a “digital literary studies” course without, you know, computers,* and so they let me sign up for the campus Mac lab for the next several weeks.  And, given the situation, they even were willing to let me sign up for 2 sessions above the legal limit–so I can have 7 weeks in the room, instead of 5.  (What I’m supposed to do at semester’s end is anyone’s guess–though I think the theory is we’ll have found some alternative by then.)

Thursday night was our first night in the Mac lab, which is ok as a lab but not the best space for a 3-hour, once a week class.  Beyond that, the screen was stuck 2/3rds of the way down the wall in the front of the lab.  It’s usually controlled by the switcher in the multimedia station, but not in this room.  I went to ask the lab workers, but they couldn’t figure out how to make the screen go up or down.

I mention this because that night I was teaching, in part, about RSS feeds, and how to find them / use them.  Time and again, the link I wanted to point out was not visible to the students because of the screen’s position.  And so, this happened:

That’s me, holding up the screen with one hand, getting ready to point out an RSS feed link with the other.  The picture is courtesy of the Church-Mouse, who naturally posted it to his Facebook profile.

Here’s hoping that *something* about this situation improves! Nomadism is better in theory than in practice.

*Actually, this would probably be ok if I had known about it in advance . . . but once I’ve planned out the way the course will go, it seems hard to ask for change!

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2 Responses to When technology meets departmental tradition

  1. Heather says:

    Yikes — one’s worst nightmare! I’ve thought about teaching in one of the spiffy classrooms in Vance, which have computers at each desk but no computer free area, but am concerned students will use the computers to IM rather than pay attention. [the last Honors class I had to tell folks to shut their personal laptops, which got a really vile review on Rate My Prof]

  2. Alex says:

    I do what I can, Dr. Jones. I do what I can.

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