Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Flying Without a Safety Net(work)

On weekends, I rely heavily on the Trinity network to check email from students and colleagues, and even (gasp) to get some work done for our Computer Skills class. Imagine my surprise, which quickly turned to panic, when I logged on to the network Saturday morning and found that my account was “no longer valid and has expired.” Nothing helped, not retyping my password, not using the Trinity webmail exchange. I wrote the HelpDesk, even though I knew it was closed. Monday was a holiday, and my next class was 8:30 Tuesday morning.

I drove over to a virtually deserted campus to try to log in from my office computer. No luck. I was still “expired.” So I took a quick look at the class syllabus to see what advice I had for my students who found themselves in a similar situation:

What if the Computer Network is down?
Plan to complete assignments before they are due. Unforeseen computer problems sometimes occur. Due dates will be changed if the server is down for a significant period of time. Due dates will not be changed for personal computer problems.

What if you don't have a computer or your personal computer isn't working?Computers are available for you to use in many locations on campus. Anticipate problems and complete your work well before deadlines.

Fortunately, I had completed most of my notes for the Tuesday class in advance – taking my own advice about completing work before it is due was a good thing - but I was still out of touch with my students. What if they needed me? How would they survive?

Well, or course, I underestimated their self-reliance and overestimated my own importance. When Heather from the HelpDesk blessedly fixed the problem Sunday afternoon, I had exactly two messages from students, both friendly and neither urgent – my students were just fine.

But the experience made me thing about terms such as Internet Dependence.

I turned to – where else, the Internet – and checked out Dr. Sanity’s Blog to test myself. Did I exhibit any of the following symptoms of withdrawal from my network??

Withdrawal, as manifested by two or more of the following occurring after cessation or reduction of heavy prolonged internet browsing:
(a) autonomic hyperactivity such as sweating or heart rate in excess of 100 beats per minute
(b) hand tremor and an intense desire to type rants
(c) nausea or vomiting when re-entering the real world from the virtual
(d) transient visual, auditory, or tactile hallucinations
(e) psychomotor agitation
(f) anxiety that something will happen and YOU WON'T KNOW ABOUT IT!
(g) grand mal seizures or perhaps just tics as you longingly look toward the shut-off computer

Whew! So far so good (well, maybe I did experience a bit of Symptom F), but I did “re-learn” two big lessons from flying without my safety network:
· Get the work done in advance. You never know when you’ll be cut off from your network. If it happens, relax, go to a movie, enjoy the weekend knowing that you’re ready for class
· Your students are more resourceful than you think – and the best thing you can teach them is how to get answers for themselves!

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