Friday, November 19, 2010

From this Side of Campus

When I was at the conference, I had some helpful conversations with some smart people about using a survey program (Qualtrics) to get some more responses to my research questionnaires. It sounds good. I played a bit with the program there, and ran into a couple of problems, so when I came back on Monday, I called the Technology for Learning Team, TLT. TLT does lots of stuff to encourage people to use "technology" for teaching (by which, alas, they don't mean books or even pencils and paper, but electronics; but let's not forget that pencils on paper is a most excellent technology! And I love book technology!).

I called so that I could speak to a human being. And I did. And that human being offered to help me make an appointment. So she filled out a computer appointment request. She said they'd email me with an appointment time, so I asked, what if I'm teaching at that time. And she hesitated, as if that had never come up before, and said I could just ask for a different appointment.

What I was really hoping was that the person would say, sure, come by! Our drop in hours are X and Y this week. I didn't think that was unrealistic, because their website advertises that they have drop in hours, though it doesn't say what they are.

I got an email the next day, offering me an appointment during my class time. So I emailed back, asking for another time.

The next day, I got an email offering a time that worked for me on Thursday, so I said, yes, thanks!

But within two hours, I got another email cancelling that because the person who was supposed to teach me was doing a CPR class.

Then I got an offer for a Friday time, but all my Friday is taken up with meetings from 9-3 today (I'll be late to one meeting because I'm teaching, but my colleagues know that). (I know. It sucks to be me.)

Then there was an email about well, gosh, next week is difficult.

And so, we settled on a meeting for the Thursday after Thanksgiving.

It seems to me that the technology and procedures that should make scheduling meetings for technology office staff isn't working as well as they should. I'm sure there's a human being in there somewhere who's talking to the TLT folks, but I wasn't talking to them, but to an intermediary. Now, I understand if I'm trying to make an appointment with a dean that their staff person handles making appointments. But that person can actually make the appointment, so I can just call and work it out. I don't have to email back and forth for the better part of a week.

I have a sinking feeling that in the time I've spent emailing, I could have read the directions for Qualtrics and figured out how to do the three things I want to do:

1) Make several question answers go to specific next questions (so that the person who answers "yes" to question three goes to one version of question four, and the person who answers "no" goes to another).

2) Doing that also seems likely to require that the questions won't all appear at once on the screen, but will need the respondent to "flip" or "page" through. So I need to learn how to do that.

3) I need to learn how to make it so when I email to a person or list, each person receiving the link to the survey can get on there, and only those people can get on there.

Maybe by the week after Thanksgiving I'll have read the directions and figured it out. (Heck, I should have spent my time just now doing that instead of blogging my frustration!)

Here's the point. From my side of campus, it's a pain in the rear to get help with a technology thing that our TLT folks really want us to use. I'm not a super early adopter or a computer whiz, but I'm not anti-technology right off the bat. My love for technology corresponds very closely to how user friendly or learnable the technology is, how useful it is, and how fun it is (and, if I'm purchasing it myself, how it fits into my budget). I think a week and a half is too long to wait to get help with three or four smallish questions.

How does it look from the TLT side of campus?

I'm guessing there's a certain sense that we instructional folks are privileged and that we only work 12 hours a week. From that side, it probably looks like since we only have 12 hours a week in class, we should be a lot more flexible about when we can meet tech folks for help. The tech folks don't see that I'm scheduled by the advising/transfer folks to meet with students, don't see that I've got standing committee meetings, office hours, and lots of advising meetings to help students change majors or minors.

I'm guessing we seem recalcitrant and slow to pick up new things. (I can't see the point of clickies in my classes, for example. I just can't. I can't think of a single useful multiple choice question to ask about Othello. Can you?) I ask my share of really stupid questions, I assure you.

I'm guessing that they're frustrated when they offer a "learn this program" class and we instructional folks don't show up. (Because we don't know that we might someday want to use the program, or we don't have time in the midst of grading madness, or whatever.)

How do we bridge the gap? How do we get the LTL folks to help us more efficiently? How do we get the help with the things we want help with? (I don't know what the LTL folks desires are.)


  1. Anonymous10:35 AM

    Hi! This is something I think about a lot, being fairly into electronic technology myself, seeing a pretty big gap between potential and implementation, and in some ways having been in both the TLT and teacher positions. I feel like far too often technology presentations for teaching/researching are "look at all the cool things you could do" one shot deals, when what is really needed is a longer (and less cool) implementation process of "here are a few cool things and here's how we want to work with you to integrate these into your classroom/project over time." It doesn't matter if it's new and cool, until it's implemented. This probably isn't really helpful to you, but I am coming around to the idea that individualized follow-up sessions should be built into the original workshop in a more proactive way. So not that you contact them for follow-up if you need it, but they follow-up with you on a specific implementation that you developed/thought about in their workshop. In return, you put in the effort to try the implementation, rather than just ignoring them (which often happens when TLT does do this). Although in this case, it just sounds like your TLT office has some scheduling issues--I've worked with these types of offices for assorted projects in two different universities and usually they responded immediately and were tickled pink that anyone actually thought of using their services.

  2. The problem with many tech workshops is that when you are in the middle of teaching, it's hard to see how they help. WOrkshops focus on tools, not issues as we'd define them pedagogically. "Use wikis"! "Use blogs"! But what is the problem this is trying to solve?

    And with you on pen, paper and books. They don't crash, and you can work with them even in event of a power failure...

  3. I just couldn't keep myself from commenting here. The problem teachers have combining technology and pedagogy was exactly why I wrote this book:
    It's due out in January. I do think you would be interested in the forward . The writer deals head on with your topic. I hope it helps.

    Best, Marjorie Vai