Monday, September 26, 2011

When bad things happen to good people

Okay. Not really that bad. (And of course I'm not really that good!) But last week was the week from technological hell.

When designing lesson plans for the computer lab, I try to consider attention spans adversely affected by the potential for multitasking and multiple screens and address them through engagement.  One thing I love about my PC computer lab is that you can choreograph from the console. I hate to be am overt fascist (telling people when they can and cannot be on their technology). Instead, there are near moments of grace and litheness that accompany how I allow students access to their computers without them really noticing. (Or so I think!)
They are looking at your screen while on their screens.
They are off and blogging on their own blogs.
They are now looking at the PowerPoint on the wall (and not their computers because the computers have been frozen!)
Okay. They certainly notice that. But it's a powerful way to get them back to full group.

HOWEVER. I discovered this past week that the Mac lab does not allow this flexibility at all. I wish I'd known that beforehand. (I'm not sure what I would have done, but it does change the dynamic (and how you plan!) significantly.) My carefully choreographed lesson plan went out the window and I had to rely on asking students not to look at their computers which felt pretty lame, because of course the lure of the screen was too much for some.

Last week I wanted to review for this week's exam, but I was scheduled in the computer lab. No problem, people can follow along on their own computers, I thought. But it was the Mac lab and that follow-along option is not available. Yet. (Evidently it costs much more to purchase that option for Mas than it does for PCs. Let's hope they purchase it soon!)

BIG DISCOVERY: It's not easy for twenty-five students to comfortably view the one projection in the computer labs.
ALSO. There's the situation where half the class cannot log on to their blogs, or maybe they can log on to their blogs, but not to the Google spreadsheet they are supposed to reference for the blog post. That's a problem especially when your class is only 60 minutes long and the seconds are ticking!

Technology SNAFUs are inevitable--the Internet is not available; a platform is down; students can't log on for some reason. I guess you always have to be prepared for the unexpected. But are there some SNAFUs that can be expected? I wonder if those more experienced working on Web 2.0 platforms and computer labs (and even in Smart Classrooms) have wisdom to share.

It'd be great to have a glossary or small handbook or a wiki: "SNAFUs You Can Depend On in the Web 2.0 Classroom and How to Turn Them into Teachable Moments." The goal of any lesson, I think, is for learning to be the focus and the experience, and not the apparatus or scaffold that undergirds it. I hadn't realized how much this needs to be addressed in the online, hybrid, or Web 2.0 classroom.


  1. I am feeling your pain. In one of my labs (E106) Net-Op freezes all the computers the second or third time you click anything. We have had to restart the computers, all of them, three times now. Whew! And the projector is useless. I have put a ticket in.

    BTW Net-op should be able to run in the Mac lab if the computers are running in PC mode. I would ask as they could probably set that up.

  2. Oh, and the "on the spot workaround" for Google Docs is making the Doc public for the duration of the lesson. I use "allow anyone with the link to edit" for class then close it after.

  3. This is my worst nightmare, but it looks like you handled it pretty well!

    Even trying to practice your 'lesson' in a lab doesn't ensure that your actual class will run smoothly. Technology is that way!

  4. I count on all these SNAFUs, and yet it never gets easier. Today I had to say to a class, "Stop typing! Look up here!" I've learend that I have no problem turning into an authoritarian personality when it comes to making sure they're on task. Not that it works for everyone. But I do "go there."

    Today I tried to show a clip in E-141. What's amazing about that Lab is that it has a beautiful projector screen but these cheap little computer speakers. You have to turn the volume to the max on the speakers, on the computer, and on the video just for students to hear what's happening. In this case, only one of the speakers even worked. The idea that they wire some of the labs for visual but not audio BAFFLES me.

  5. Justin--we have extra speakers that you can plug in if you are doing major watching (in my case, watching The Truman Show next week in E-141). You'd have to return them as soon as class is done, however, in case someone else needs them.

  6. I like your idea of collecting troubleshooting tips.