Monday, November 8, 2010

It Had To Happen

The power went off on campus this morning. Transformer blew. I was in the midst of showing a Frontline clip about Abraham Lincoln and his discovering faith after his son's death. My class is in an electronic classroom which means that the class is transmitted over TV to other campuses. And, it means that the room was dark as soon as the lights popped off. Of course, the 'security lights' popped right on in a split second so we had a little light. It was still quite eerie.

I jokingly asked the class if they believed maybe the end of times had come and we didn't know about it. We all giggled nervously. Usually these things don't last long, so, doing what English teachers do, I began to lecture, from the book, and from my own knowledge. No PowerPoint, no notes, nothing electronic. Unheard of!

The class concluded a few minutes early, but they had a group assignment to work on, so that was okay with me. I sent them off, with cautions to watch traffic lights and stairs, and then I gathered myself and went back to my office.

The uproar in my office suite was amusing. Fortunately, I teach in a discipline where, frankly, if I have a mouth, I can make it work for me. Sadly, other disciplines are not so fortunate. And, in our age of "newer is better" we no longer have chalkboards or even white boards in the classrooms. Everything, and I mean everything, is electronic -- either data projectors, "Smart Boards", or laptops are all now the usual business in the classroom. Honestly, I thought some professors were going to weep openly!

Just a few years ago I was in the Appalachian State University library working on my master's thesis. The library had converted to all online databases. The old card catalog sat, neglected, in a corner. The power went out and, naturally, the computers went down. Taking my trusty flashlight (yes, I was a Girl Scout), I just slipped over to the card catalog, my dearest library friend, and continued my research. Even some of the younger librarians had never used one. I giggled as I flipped through cards and my trusty "Reader's Guide" and gleaned out bits and pieces that seemed useful. My afternoon was fulfilled while others just moaned.

In these days of so-called "modern technology" I have to wonder if we have outsmarted ourselves. Have we gotten so dependent on the technology in our lives that we cannot function if the Internet is down? What has become of education if we need to have the most modern, the most up-to-date technology in order to teach and inspire our students? Have we lost our focus and foolishly believe that technology alone makes us more effective teachers? Are we training students who will need more, faster, cleaner, easier, and, sadly, more sanitized learning? I fear that 1984 might be more real than I want to accept.

What do you think??


  1. Christopher came home from work early a few days this past summer just because their server went down!

    Of course, their work is completely on the computer but still... isn't there anything one can do when the server goes down?

    I remember always using the old library card file and I don't think either library I go to even has their file still available... and I also carry a flashlight.

    But then again... I grew up in the country where the electricity could be iffy and it still goes out once in awhile where I now live. Usually it means a squirrel has been fried somewhere... you'd think after all this time, squirrel mothers would warn their young.

  2. ROFL.. I can just hear those mommies saying, "Now, dear, you will be fried if you..."

    "What's fried, Mummy?"

    "It's what happened to Uncle Charley last spring, remember?"


  3. I miss my Dewey Decimal System! :) Great post, glad that it was not the end times for now, LOL ;)
    Ma TK

  4. Hmmm I have become dependant on some technology.. But my life doesnt revolve around it..However it is much easier to go the library and type into the computer what subject you are looking for and it give you a list of books to look up.. I dont think the card catalog is available either and we are small time here..
    I also have some of the subjects memorized on where they are at in the library and what order they go in..
    I would miss the connection that Technology provides but could live without it... Some people I know would have serious heartattack and freak because they can be updated on FB... Oh wait thats me!!Lol J/K

  5. I miss those old card catalogs in the big oak drawers. My children don't have a clue what they are...LOL!

  6. Ha! That reminds me of college (late 80's) when the electricity went out and I was the only one with a NON-electric typewriter - so I could keep typing away and all the others had to wait for 6 hours til the electricity came back. In the meantime, it was Halloween, so packs of us roamed dorms and scared the heck out of each other. But for once, my "non-modern" typewriter was spot-on.

    -Connie in San Diego

  7. Must share an experience that took place with my newly married young daughter. She needed to acquire car insurance to pick up coverage when our policy on her expired. She explained that she couldn't 'get any' until she had internet...

    I had to explain that 'back in the old days' we used the phone book and phone and in her grandmother's day, they made a trip to town to talk to an agent. Her reply was "Oh." It never occurred to her there was a method other than using the internet to do what she required.


Thanks for dropping in on the farm today! I enjoy your comments!