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Better classroom software (or perhaps hardware)

Topics/tags: Followups to rants [1], teaching

A little over a month ago, I ranted about the new projection system and associated software in our classroom. It seems like it’s about time for an update.

First, I should note that my experience was not necessarily common. For example, one colleague added the following note to my Facebook post.

I would say that the first version of the software-based system significantly changed my experience teaching with technology for the better. In the classrooms I taught in, it made the technology more reliable and the experience of doing what I wanted to do more uniform across classrooms.

My experience this semester has been rocky, but it’s hard for me to isolate whether the source of my problems is the software or the hardware. At the same time the software was updated I also started teaching in two completely new classrooms for me–one set up for art (no PC, two screens) and one for music (which seems to have more audio inputs to choose from, in addition to the new options you are writing about with the updated software). So this semester has been a little frustrating, but I’ve usually been able to get things working, other than the first day when I realized I didn’t have a PC available and so couldn’t get to the teaching files I have on my H: drive. The mute screen buttons have worked, the coloring of the projection has been a lot better than in JRC.

I’m not sure why I have fallen into writing my own musing here, but that’s my field report from Bucksbaum.

At the time, I was tempted to respond with I’m glad that your experience has generally been good. Mine has not. But that seemed unfair to the good folks in ITS [2]. So I gave it some time. A little bit later, they replaced the controller for the projection system and, I think, changed the way the computer communicated with the controller. There were a few hiccups in the first week; the Linux box got confused about the resolution and it took awhile to get 4:3 aspect ratio that is my preference for that classroom [3].

But now? It’s been excellent since the end of spring break. The system starts correctly each day [5]. I can show up with less than five minutes before the start of class and generally be sure that I’ll have everything up and running at the start of class [6].

I still prefer not to have to click a needless Close button. I’d prefer that it didn’t display a Projector is warming up dialog about a minute after the projector is already projecting. But putting up with those two issues is a small price to pay for a regularly working and easy-to-use system. I also know that I can’t blame ITS for the user interface.

Since I complained in a public musing, it seems only appropriate that I acknowledge the hard work of the ITS and AV center staff in a public musing. Thank you! I know that it’s hard to deal with all of the computing equipment on campus. I know that I’m a PITA [7] to work with. I appreciate that you devoted the time and the effort to get things working!

[1] Perhaps that should be apologies for rants.

[2] I am serious that I consider them good folks. Although I fight with ITS from time to time, I very much appreciate their hard work, particularly in light of high demand and comparatively low staffing.

[3] I’d be comfortable with a wide-screen aspect ratio if the projection were higher. However, our ceilings are relatively low for projection [4] and the projector seems to do widescreen centered rather than at the top.

[4] The architects planned higher ceilings. I believe there were both fire safety and cost issues.

[5] Okay, there was the one time that someone had rebooted our friendly Linux workstation into Windows. But a quick reboot solved that problem.

[6] I still show up fifteen minutes early on most days. But it’s nice to know that if I have to show up only five minutes early, things will work correctly.

[7] Pain in the neck.

Version 1.0 of 2018-04-25.