Thursday, November 15, 2007

It's not my job, but...

...some things you just can't ignore.

It's my job to teach the teachers. Hold their hands, if need be. Bring them into the world of education in the 21st century. To address the needs to the traditional and the non-traditional students out there, who need technology-delivered learning experiences.

Some of the more traditional among those teachers have trouble with this. I mean the really traditional.

By "traditional," I mean old. Really old.

Usually, they have tenure and you just can't get rid of them. They aren't throwing in the towel. Academia is a good gig for them. Set your own hours, dress how you like, and get paid (usually a lot).

It's up to their departments to decide what they can or can't teach. If I decide they're untrainable, they don't teach online.

I teach regular workshops to show faculty how to use our online course management system for teaching online. For those wondering, the system is WebCT. It's a giant in the industry and a royal pain in the ass. When I do presentations in which I have to mention it, I set a mouse-over to play the Imperial March from "Star Wars." I hate it. But it's a necessary evil on this campus.

I taught one of these workshops this week. It was a small group, which is fine by me. However, I was dreading one attendee. He's an elderly Math professor who demands a lot of individualized attention. He tends to head off in the system and do his own thing, then expects you to stop everything to help him out of the quicksand he's stuck in. Very annoying.

So, he's taking this workshop for the second time. Some people need refreshers, so it's not too unusual. I set up a "test course" for each attendee to play with, so they don't do anything that goes live. He already had a test course waiting, since he'd taken the workshop before. About five minutes into it, though, I noticed a problem. He seemed unusually lost, unable to find even the login screen.

His test course comes up, and he looks confounded. "You already put stuff in here," he said.

"No, that's just the work you did before," I said. The others were beginning to react, seeing their courses blank. Why didn't I give them stuff he got?

There's a blank look on his face.

"You know," I prompt him. "When we did the last workshop."

Nothing. He furrows his brow at me and starts muttering. He's sure I put that stuff in there.

Throughout the workshop, he accidentally closes his window or gets lost in the system. I spend a lot of time over his shoulder. The last 40 minutes of the workshop, he puts his head back and goes to sleep.

I'm worried. He literally has no memory of doing this before. The simple functions he followed before, he's not following now. Something is wrong.

I've discussed my concerns with my boss. This professor is still teaching the same classroom classes he always has, and doing well with them. He wants to learn the technology, but I'm not sure the faculties are there. But we don't want to discourage him from learning, but it's clear he won't teach online. Unfortunately, it's a sticky political situation because the man's wife is dominant on campus.

So, the best I can do is arrange for a student worker who knows the system well to be positioned beside him each time we have a workshop, to gently help with the his struggles.

But...I'm still worried about him. It's not my job to worry and I'm not a close personal friend or anything, but I can't help it.


Kimberly said...

Ouch. What a lot of frustration and worry!

I had to take a large furniture store from written to computer orders, and train all the staff on the use of the very simple computer system.

It was then that I realized I wasn't meant to be a teacher after all.

darth sardonic said...

damn, if he can't remember the last workshop, he might be a candidate for assisted living. the fact he napped for the last 40 minutes only reinforces that.

Pixie said...

sounds like Darth might be right here!

~ellen~ said...

Oh, boy. It's nice of you to be concerned about him, but with the forgetfulness (and the napping) I think he might need to retire soon. Poor ol' guy.

But mainly, poor Blogget!

Blogget Jones said...

Oh, I'm sure he needs to retire! I mean, not handling the technology is one thing, but it will seep into this classroom classes soon, too. The trouble is that with tenure, they can't get rid of him. Somehow, they'll have to convince him that it's his idea to retire.

And we need more than just my story....hopefully, other people are seeing this, too. I've relayed my concerns to The Powers That Be, so we'll see.

He's slipped just since I've met him. Makes me worry about dementia or small strokes or something. Poor, poor man.

Blogget Jones said...

Kimberly: it can make your tear your hair, can't it? I swear, I've taught seven-year-olds, teenagers, and adults...and the adults are by far the most difficult!

Sassy Blondie said...

As an administrator, I truly feel your pain. At some point, I'll move into the top spot, but I've got to figure out how to get these oldies to hear what I'm saying.
Of course, these are the same people who have the most problems with discipline...and to the kids seem to be the most unfair.

Thanks for's nice to have a partner in the trenches.

Blogget Jones said...

Oh, I feel your pain, too, Sassy. I know exactly what you mean. I'm new here, but pushing for the way things *should* be. Makes me a pain in the ass, but that's what I was hired to do.

In the trenches is right. Soooo glad you're there with me!

:o) BJ