What was the world of technology like when you were born? I was born in 1968 and the best technology I first remember was our 8-track tape player. An 8-track was a single reel of tape connected into a continuous loop and we would listen to our favorite songs by Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd and Abba. The sound quality wasn’t the best, but it was portable. Graduating from the 8-track to a smaller cassette tape was a big deal. Before iTunes, we would listen to the radio on our “boom boxes” and spend afternoons recording mix tapes of our favorite tunes. We would trade the tapes with each other and rewind the songs over and over again until the delicate translucent thread would wrinkle or break.
It’s easy to forget how far we’ve come with technology. In 1968 something resembling the Internet was only a concept. ARPANET was created by the United States Department of Defense, the predecessor of our now world wide web. In it’s infancy, ARPANET connected only four universities in the United States. The first commercial online service, Compuserve, was founded in 1969. And the first graphical browser didn’t come along until the 1990s.
When I was in high school they offered a computer class for upperclassman, the first of it’s kind in our district. We bought floppy disks and tried to navigate MS-DOS (Microsoft Disk Operating System) on the newly released IBM PC. The system processor took a few minutes to boot up and the neon green text that appeared on the monochrome monitors was difficult to read, but we were on the cusp of entering the exciting world of computing.
Fast forward to teaching with technology in the 21st century. Technology certainly has several advantages, but one obvious disadvantage is that anything electronic can eventually break. Most devices can withstand heavy day to day use, but they ultimately have a shelf life. And it seems the rapid movement to replace old technology instead of restoring it is on the rise. We want the newest, fastest slickest computer hardware and software; and this wish list transfers to the equipment we use in online teaching.
At College of DuPage faculty are given a desktop computer, but also have numerous computer labs on campus and at our satellite centers. At least one computer is found in every traditional classroom, again embracing Internet access for a variety of educational applications.
College of DuPage’s computer lab hours, knowledgeable staff and accessibility is impressive. On our COD website one of the most recent on campus computer labs has been updated:
Seaton Computing Center (SCC)
Constructed in 1990, the 18,500 square-foot center houses computer-specific classrooms for the Computer Information Systems, Computer and Internetworking Technologies, and Office Technology Information programs.
A $6.5 million renovation, completed in 2013, resulted in specialized clusters that include high-tech classrooms, a visual and simulation lab, networking hardware labs, a server/internetworking lab, software/web development labs, and end-user labs. This collection of resources can be shared to address the changing needs of all three program areas. An open student work area promotes student engagement and collaboration.
I have a HP Pavilion model PC in my office on campus and an iMac desktop computer in my office at home. Knowing that there is a good probability that something bad will happen in the life cycle of a computer, it’s a good idea to take measures to protect it. In order to avoid costly repairs or frustration losing important data, I strongly suggest a backup plan. In the past I purchased an inexpensive a backup drive or USB external hard drive. And now I invest in an online storage service such as Carbonite, Google Drive, iDrive, iCloud, Mozy, or SkyDrive. I frequently use iCloud, the one that supports the largest percentage of my devices and I use the downloadable app that the service provides to maintain a mirror of my files on the computer.
I encourage students to have three copies of their important data: the original, a backup of the original, and a backup of the backup. The secondary and tertiary copies should be in different locations. Ideally, keep one copy with you for swift restores and recovery, and keep one in another location where it isn’t subject to the same physical threats like lightning, flood or theft. There’s nothing worse than losing data — I have “counseled” plenty of students who experienced it and it can really throw a wrench in their progression in an online course.
We rely upon technology to work. And when it doesn’t, it can be frustrating. Here’s an e-mail message I received from our COD Manager of Network Services this morning while trying to log into our Blackboard Learning Management System:
While running a routine cleanup procedure, access to Blackboard was in inadvertently affected at 11:05 this morning. The problem lasted approximately 5 minutes. The impact was unexpected and we are taking steps to avoid this problem in the future. We are sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused. If you have any questions please contact the Help Desk at extension 4357.
How did we survive without technology? Wait a minute . . . we did.