Friday, August 29, 2008

Unintended consequences

My medieval survey class was initially scheduled in a large lecture hall on our satellite campus -- a dimly lit, echoing nightmare of dilapidated room that was terrible for a class of 20 that relies on discussion. But I wasn't going to be a diva about it because I thought if this horrible building and its crappy classrooms were good enough for my grad students and their comp classes (usually in the smaller rooms, of course), it was good enough for me.

However, it's one of those lecture rooms that slope down from the doors, with steps that are of unconventional depth and without railings. My blind student* pointed out that this was very dangerous for him. (*Note: I wouldn't normally identify him as such, but I don't want to refer to him by name or even initial on the blog. Further down I will refer to him as Funny Guy because he's got a pretty darn hilarious and corny sense of humor.) So I called Wednesday morning to have the room changed and got it immediately because of the safety issue, despite the current chaotic room shortage problem on campus. I made a command decision to have the change effective for the Thursday class and e-mailed all the students to tell them. I e-mailed them all more than 24 four hours before the class.

Our students are told they're expected to check their campus e-mail because that's the *only* way they get certain important information, including billing statements, notices of registration holds, etc. The ones who are savvy have that e-mail forwarded to their Gmail, Hotmail, or other account that they use more frequently, but, sadly, many students on our campus are kind of clueless when it comes to electronic media. (Tangent that may become a separate post one of these days: when I read Margaret Soltan's posts railing against the use of laptops in class, I think, "What planet is she living on? What planet am *I* living on? Where are these laptops?") And now I know that despite the *requirement* to use their campus e-mail, they don't check it.

How do I know this? Half the class didn't show up on Thursday. Funny Guy checked his e-mail -- I called him to make sure because I knew he wouldn't be able to see a room-change notice and I didn't hear back from him -- but half of the rest of the students did not. Perhaps I should have been calling the sighted students instead of Funny Guy; clearly they needed more looking after. (Funny Guy genuinely appreciated the call, but I now feel kind of like a condescending schmuck. However, it did give us an opportunity to chat more about textbook issues and I got those sorted out.) And, alas, the classroom management office obviously failed to put up a notice about the room change -- as they're supposed to do -- since I got an e-mail from one of the students later in the afternoon yesterday telling me that the missing students were all there wondering where the rest of us were. I should have gone there myself to put up a sign or a message on the board, but I trusted the process. Silly me.

*******

In other unintended consequences, it seems that if you tell a fanboy that you like Tolkien and Star Wars, you will get a marriage proposal. Granted, it wasn't a serious marriage proposal, but one of my students yesterday did indeed say, upon learning that I am Tolkien and Star Wars fan, "Will you marry me?" Also, it seems I look just like a character in another student's own fantasy literature writing. That's not really a consequence of anything -- except maybe of not having bothered to get my Medusa hair cut in a year -- but I thought I'd mention it. Clearly, I'm already deeply in with the fandom crowd and it's only the first week of class. I love being a medievalist!

6 comments:

The Pastry Pirate said...

so... this fanboy... is he cute? tall? because i like tolkien *and* star wars, too! and i have lots of weapons!! er... that sounded scary, but a lot of fanboys i know would be impressed....

jus' sayin'... on a related note, i had a physical on monday and, going down the list of routine questions, the doctor asked "and what method of birth control are you using?" i replied: "living in this valley. i mean, really, have you seen the prospects?"

she just about wet her pants laughing, then added she was glad she'd married "on the outside."

indeed.

Jeffrey J. Cohen said...

I teach at the same university as Margaret -- same department in fact -- and would like to note that when i taught a course with 80 students last spring, precisely one had a laptop. But the examples Margaret culls for UD have always been at other universities, and not literature classes. Law seems to be the most frequent offender, if memory serves.

Students not reading email is a big problem. Those who are plugged in electronically are more likely to text and use Facebook than to be careful readers of email. Outreach and information dissemination is a HUGE problem for me, esp. as chair of a department!

Dr. Virago said...

Pirate -- He *is* tall, but for various reasons I won't get into here, he's not the guy for you.

JJC - Yeah, the laptop thing strikes me as one of those things that is happening in a *few* places - elite places or professional schools - that then gets extrapolated to all higher ed even though it doesn't fit.

And on the e-mail issue, it's becoming clearer and clearer to me that e-mail si the province of Gen-Xers and above, and maybe some of the older millenials. It may seem to us part of the continuum of electronic communication, but it's really another world.

Sigh, I guess I need to sign up for Facebook after all.

medieval woman said...

Ah - the fanboys! They're our bread and butter - one of mine asked once if TD and I had read our vows in Elvish. He was at least 1/3 serious.

I also feel you on the lack of reading email - but they're texting all the time on their zip-zop texty thingys!

Dedalus said...

medieval woman -- LOL. Can't they tell that Elvish is so NOT medieval? Yeesh. Some Latin, some Greek, some Finnish thrown in...very pretty, but an awful long way from English Lit, just like its creator. (Bless his reactionary heart.) If anything, you should read your vows in the Speech of the Rohirrim, right? :) Now THERE'S a language we can get behind!

See, I eat Tolkien fanboys for breakfast, but I love them. Tolkien fanboys have potential--if they're FIFTEEN. They like pretty words and might turn into something interesting. Otherwise, avoid. Star Wars fanboys are infants. Cringe.

Dr V -- yeah, it's me, the one who who won't shut up; sorry. :) Everybody links to everybody else. Way of the world. But I'm worried about this blind guy--I hope it's not the guy I'm thinking of, and maybe it's not--but is he REAL friendly? Loves movies? Talks to everybody who walks in the room with great enthusiasm? Because that guy gets old real fast. Just saying. Harmless, sure, but I pity you.

I'm with you on the email question. This is a problem. I keep emailing young folks and thinking they're ignoring me and then finding out they got around to checking it six, seven days later. I might as well have sent a TELEGRAM. I'm too young for this sort of obsolescence; this sucks.

Dr. Virago said...

Hey Dedalus! Welcome! (It took me a minute to put two and two together, but then I remembered your newest blog -- yeah, I found them, too.)

Yup, that's they guy you're thinking of. I let him get away with the chatter so far, but next time I'm nipping it in the bud. He's distracting other students and it's all about his personality, not his disability. He's only gotten away with it so far because he *is* pretty funny.