Media Services, the department responsible for classroom technology maintenance, is moving forward with their effort to cut down on problems that arise from outdated software, and they are receiving support from the faculty, along with criticism.
The university relies on technology in many ways, whether that means expanding the classroom to include online spaces, like Blackboard, increasing connectedness through Mainestreet or simply using classroom computers to display assignments and topics of discussion. While these various types of technology can be seen as beneficial, some professors have problems with it that must be solved by Media Services.
Angela Cook, manager of Audio Visual and Media Services, said that Media Services is called for assistance roughly 30 to 50 times per day.
According to Cook, media services is busiest at the beginning of the semester. “The case is,” Cook said, “that the faculty forget how to use technology over school vacations, but they refamiliarize themselves with it as the semester proceeds.”
“The equipment we have in the classrooms are cumbersome,” said Lorrayne Carroll, associate professor of English. “It takes time for me to get set up in class.”
Carroll admitted that she feels bad for the people who work in media services. The media center, she stated, is understaffed and overworked and under resourced. She described the workers in the media center as “heroic” for all of the work that they do in classrooms around the university.
“For the past several years we’ve been working on consistency in the classrooms,” Cook said. “When I say consistency, I mean that we’ve been trying to place the same technology in all the classrooms, like projectors and sound systems.”
Regardless, Carroll said that even though she familiarizes herself with the technology as the semester progresses, computer troubles still happen that take up valuable class time.
“For one of my graduate courses,” Carroll said, “I walked into the classroom and all of the technology for the projector was changed around. It took up a lot of class time because I couldn’t figure out how to hook up my computer.”
Cook said that another problem with software in classrooms is the changes that computer companies make to new models of laptops every year. Most of the projectors are set up to work with video graphic array outputs to older laptop models.
The latest version of video outputs for computers are high-definition multimedia interfaces. Cook said that a number of technology problems in classrooms are related to students and faculty using computers with HDMI video outputs.
Media services has been able to add HDMI outputs to some of the classrooms to solve these problems, but there are classrooms that do not have updated software, an obstacle that Cook said was due to lack of funds in her department, and this has created issues.
Carroll said that she relies on technology for teaching her classes. She uses the projectors to show students homework assignments and for class discussion.
“I keep files on all of my classes in my computer,” Carroll said. “I’m using the computer more and more because I find that students don’t print out assignments. I also show students websites to help with research. Technology is useful in multiple ways.”
Professor Carroll went on to explain that technology is just a tool, and whether or not its use has positive effects in the classroom depends on how it’s used, and if it works properly.