Last semester, I had various struggles with my graduate methods course. One was a series of AV problems. (I use PowerPoint for all my lectures, including various fetching diagrams and such, so I'm utterly dependent on being able to get my PowerPoint up and running for me to do the class.) Part of the problem was with the room I was in having some quirky equipment that did not get along with my laptop. Another part was that I was teaching in another building, and so when anything would go wrong I didn't have anything immediately at hand to help me improvise to solve the problem.
These AV problems were frustrating not only because of the lost classroom time but because I can't help feeling like I am coming across like a disorganized and incompetent doofus in front of my class. I generally approach my graduate course with the idea that instructor-as-doofus is a strong candidate hypothesis in their minds that I need to refute, and so AV problems both me because they seem instead to be adding to the credibility of my proposed doofus-hood for each minute that an AV battle rages in front of the ever-scrutinous eyes of students.
So, after last semester, I resolved that I was not going to have this happen to me again. I made sure that my room this time was in Social Science. The Social Science rooms also have newer equipment that I've used many times and know work well with my laptop.
Even so, the crucial bottleneck in the process is that I write my lectures on my desktop machine, but I need to move those files on to my laptop to use them in lecture. My planned way to move my files from my desktop to my laptop is to use the keychain drive I have. I recognized that this might not work sometime, but I figured it wouldn't be any problem because, even though my laptop doesn't have any internal drives, there are still of course many other to get a file onto my laptop.
Anyway, yesterday, a half-hour before the start of the third meeting of my class, I started to move my lecture onto my laptop and discovered that, indeed, my keychain drive had decided to stage a wildcat strike and not work for me. I thought:
No problem! I'll use the portable USB drive that I use to move files back and forth from the office and home. Problem: Unlike my desktops, my laptop does not put enough power through the USB port (even when plugged in) in order to power my laptop, so you have to use this adapter that came with it in order to get AC power.
No problem! I'll just use the adapter. Problem: I think the adapter must be at home. At any rate, it's wasn't anywhere in my office that I could find.
No problem! I'll just e-mail the presentation to myself, and then plug my laptop into the network and retrieve the e-mail. Problem: When I plug my laptop into the network, it says I have to register my laptop because of changes that they have made to the security system since the last time I plugged my laptop into the network.
No problem! I'll just register my laptop (and wait while the laptop reboots), but then I should be good to go! Problem: For reasons I suspect are associated with ripping the network cable out of the back of my desktop and plugging it into my laptop, Windows says I have a "Conflicting IP address" error and won't let me onto the Internet.
No problem! I'll just go down to my fancy AV classroom and connect to the network from the hookup there! Problem: The cable connection doesn't seem to work.
No problem! We have wireless here in Social Science! I'll just connect using my wireless card and get my e-mail that way! Problem: You have to log on some special way through the UW computer system to use the wireless connection.
No problem! Someone in my class will know how to do it! Indeed, they do. So, then, the wireless connection seems to work, except it won't actually open up anything in my browser.
No problem! There is a phone number on the lectern to call for AV emergencies. So I'll call the classroom AV support person, who will know just what to do! Problem: The AV person is on vacation this week. (The second week of classes?) No indication on the voicemail for an alternate emergency number to call.
No problem! I'll run down and get the help of one of the computer consultants on the fourth floor. They'll know just what to do! Problem: The computer person first just confirms the problems I had already figured out. She does note that maybe she could fix things if only we had a key to the AV cabinet.
No problem! I do have a key to the AV cabinet! Problem: This actually turns out to help with nothing. The computer person notes that the problem would be solved if only there was one of the new orange network jacks somewhere in the room.
No problem! There is an orange network jack in the room. Problem: We have no cable for plugging my laptop into this jack.
The computer person goes to get a cable. She mentions that the problem with the wireless connection might just be that I'm too far from the hot-spot-epicenter. Sure enough, when I go down the hallway and set my laptop on top of the FedEx box, I'm able to connect to my e-mail and download my lecture. My class begins 20 minutes late, or almost a full hour after a began the process of trying to move my lecture from my desktop to my laptop. I do the entire lecture feeling like the Mark Of Doofus is indelibly neon-inked on my forehead.