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??