WHY I PUSHED MY 500 POUND TECHNOLOGY-CART AROUND FOR YEARS & WHY IS MY OFFICE LITTERED WITH OLD TECHNOLOGY?

OLDTECH

This is my 26th Fall Semester at Yavapai College and just this morning my TELS buddy Todd stopped by the office to get me set-up on WORDPRESS (to do the 9x9x25 blog) and he innocently asked: “Why do you have three; no four old TV’s in here?”  That, as they say, is quite a story…

WHY I PUSHED MY 500 POUND TECHNOLOGY-CART AROUND FOR YEARS & WHY IS MY OFFICE LITTERED WITH OLD TECHNOLOGY?

In a Yavapai College long, long ago and not far, far away I used to push my technology cart-everyday & all day.  Literally!  I had a cart, a rolling cabinet really.  It weighed about 500 pounds (fully loaded) and it was a bit of joke among my colleagues. Even with the best PC available, a Video Tape Recording Camera, a VCR (a dual deck Go-Video Player/Recorder) several TV’s and (yes) a LASER DISK PLAYER (if you are my age you may just recall what a Laser Video Disk Player looked like and how BIG the disks were) and all the supporting media-it was quite a sight.

In the BUC$ Division (Business Computer Science Division->which no longer exists-but I am still here-My God what a sad insight about longevity) my fellow instructors (that was our title back then) all had a good laugh at my expense-some more openly than others but I was the butt of many jokes and much laughter.  When asked why I was doing this-my answer was simple:  “For my students.”

I had surveyed my students and found that the number one reason they dropped a class was that they missed classes and if they missed more than one or two they could not earn the grade they wished to earn.  So I decided that I would make the lecture content available in a 24/7 format.  I started with VHS tapes of Lectures, coupled with transcriptions of the lectures (I used to ask if anyone would word-process the lectures if I tape-recorded them and usually someone would) so I began to build a library of Video Lectures coupled with Lecture Transcripts.  My students, especially those from FAR AWAY locations like Ash Fork, Seligman, Black Canyon City and even Mayer started to take advantage of this technology and I started to see my “job” in a different light.

If I was really going to be a “Priest in the Church of Reason”  (Robert Pirsig’s description of the good College Professor) I had to make the content available 24/7 365->it was my job to get the content to them!  Many of my Colleagues laughed out loud at that sentiment on my part.  One of my fellow instructors said (in a very derisive tone) “The least the students can do is get to class!”  I didn’t see it that way.

I was armed with data from surveys I had done asking why people dropped BSA classes.  The results stunned me.  The most statistically significant predictor of a student dropping a class was (insert drum roll here) having more than 3 children!  Not the class or the time it was offered or even the EXCELLENCE of the INSTRUCTOR!!!  IT WAS ABOUT THE STUDENT-NOT THE TEACHER!!!!!

Imagine my Shock when I asked my students if this could possibly be correct and they said “YES”.  My adult students with families (about 70% of my night student clientele) lectured me about what it was like to have kids in football, track, soccer, band and drama and then on top of working 40×52 they had to get those kids to their school and then get them to their Soccer, Swimming, V V or whatever and then finally get to YC by 6:45 for class.  If one kid got sick-they could manage it-but when 2 were ill they were at the wall and GOD FOREBID-if the third one was hit with the flu, MMR or whatever it was Katie Bar the door.

So I stacked all the technology I could get my hands on and pushed my cart up the inclined walk ways that used to litter our campus (in clear violation of current ADA) and like Sisyphus I trudged on towards some kind of justice/salvation-until the ITS and eventually the TELS came to my rescue.

Needless to say (so don’t say it) I loved BB, Tegrity and the Technologically Enhanced Class Rooms when they finally arrived-I loved them from day one & even with the switch to CANVAS, CONNECT and the other changes it still beats the hell out of pushing my cart.

But after all these years I still have the unwanted TV’s in my office-I guess as a reminder of how good we have it now!!  Occasionally I run into an old student who will tell me that w/o the VHS lectures &/or the transcripts->they would have never finished Statistics or Quantitative Methods or Management or whatever course.  It is always wonderful to hear a former student say that YOU helped them achieve their goals.

Aside from the obvious laugh value of me trudging across campus, pushing the 500-pound technology cart up the (now illegally steep) walk-ways-what is the lesson here?  What can we learn about technology & teaching and student learning?

First I had done part of the right stuff.  I was looking for a pattern of evidence-I just didn’t get all the information that was actually there!I had done the analytical work to ask students why they drop a course.  This survey of BSA students was a great first step.  But it was purely quantitative in nature.  I failed to do an immediate follow-up of the obvious qualitative issues.  Even with the central statistically significant predictor of “more than three kids.  I lacked the context and application for what the statistical truth of the study was trying to tell me.  There is no way to keep four or more children perfectly healthy for 16 weeks-just not going to happen…so I had to develop a technological strategy that would make the content available 24/7.  Please recall this is WAY pre-Internet.  So for years I recorded by lectures on VHS and then eventually I burned those VHS Lecture to DVD’s and keep both in the library or sent copies via USPS mail to the students.

This worked great!  I had students who need to go Elk hunting to put food for their family on the table-miss two lectures-NO PROBLEM-> I’ll mail you the tapes.  Having a baby-no worries-I’ll mail you the tapes.  Fell at work and broke your ankle-don’t sweat it….I have the lectures for you right here!!!   When BB and Tegrity did these tasks automatically and INSTANTLY I was overjoyed and so were my students!

And that is the story of why 26 years ago folks used to see me pushing my technology cart across campus…

So if you ever see my old TV’s (in my Office) now you know the rest of the story.

You humble correspondent in better, fitter days:

TBEAR