Sunday, September 19, 2004

Some Thoughts From An Internet-Addicted Teacher and A Recommendation to My University
Hurricane Ivan, even though it largely spared New Orleans, has hindered my effectiveness as a teacher. This is because my classes are dependant on the internet, especially blackboard as well as a site that I have set up on a server run by the Center for the Advancement of Teaching. School was cancelled all last week, and the internet was down campus wide at Xavier from Tuesday morning until Friday. This meant I could not send or receive e-mail, which mattered a great deal to me because this is the main way that I communicate with friends and family who were worried, and also how I regularly communicate with editors, publishers, and other professional contacts. This meant I could not check to see on Xavier’s home page whether or not classes would resume Thursday or Friday. This meant I could not receive emails from students asking for clarification or help. This meant that I couldn’t post messages on blackboard about the revised schedule. I think it was Friday evening that the servers came back to life, and I was able to communicate via email to many students (about 40). Several of them commented that they wanted to use the time that school was cancelled to get caught up on their blogs, but the server was down and this prohibited them. Several students evacuated Tuesday and wanted to know if we had classes Friday. Several wanted help with a paper that is due soon, and clarification about the schedule. Blackboard is still down and it is really hurting my classes. Students typically in their emails said they went to blackboard to see announcements, or guidelines for the paper assignment, and couldn’t because the server was down, then they emailed me. I don’t know why the servers went down, perhaps the university felt that the area might flood and they shut off the computers. I very much hope that ITC (information technology center) at Xavier takes a moment and plans for future events such as this. If they could have had one person assigned to come to the university and reset the servers so that they functioned properly, this time that we had off from the hurricane could have been very productive for me and my students. Instead, we lost a lot of momentum and will have to spend much of my class time Monday and Tuesday talking about schedules and administrative issues. Technology could have helped me be a good teacher even with the school being closed this past week, but, it didn’t work, and I wished it would have. So do my students.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I share your frustration because I also was hoping to use Xavier e-mail and web to communicate the decisions of the university to the www. It wouldn't be appropriate for me to make excuses for myself or anyone else.

It seems to me that these things will continue to happen in NO as long as there are dangerous storms which threaten the people that make up the university. The next time everyone should be able to learn from their mistakes and examine what they could have done differently.

There's a lot of good bad and ugly to go around, but those of us who rely the most on technology are also at the mercy of it. There used to be a time where we told computers what to do, and so much of our world has become mechanized. I rely on it for my living and not o sure that it will lead us to a better world.

This storm reminds me that we all need to unplug from time to time and focus on what is real. Anytime I have been in danger, I have never counted on my employer or technology to save my ass, I only have been able to count on my own hard work and determination. I was reminded of that as I sat at the hotel bar in Memphis knowing that my home was boarded up and my wife, due with our first child, was safe and relaxed with our pets.

There was a lot I didn't know. Would the school still be there? When do I report back to work? Will my paycheck arrive on time? What about the stray dog in the neighborhood? None of that is really that important in the grand scheme.