The Most Technologically Demanding Year in Education

By Nigel Deakin |

College Students Using Zoom, Courtesy of Oberlin College

I’m far from the first to say it, and I’m absolutely not the only one that’s going through it, but technology has become one of the most important things in our lives, and the COVID-19 pandemic really brought to light that it’s not just important, but it’s required. And that both terrifies and excites me, because I might be an advocate for moving forward, but for some the thought of it is beyond intimidating.

Obviously a lot of us have spent a lot of this year at home, and for most, if not all, it meant some major changes. Working, teaching, learning from home, it’s all new, and as someone that works in IT we got to see it first hand from the point of view of every person that probably had never thought about doing this (for good reason). Students, staff, faculty, all of us were the same, and in IT we were scrambling a little bit to keep everyone covered. For a minute we didn’t have enough laptops, we couldn’t get our hands on webcams in time, everyone had forgotten their passwords, it was a little hectic.

Backing up just a little bit, I specifically work for the Business and Professional Studies division (BPS) as a Technical Assistant IIA, so I am a general tech for everyone under that umbrella. As the world started changing in February, I took just enough initiative to prepare everyone to go home by checking on their personal laptops, getting them equipment in case they had to go home, basically making sure that the resources I had could get them ready for the worst case scenario of everyone being sent home.

And now I’m so glad that I did. When we all had to leave campus and start doing this brand new thing, BPS (between my prep and their expertise) was more or less good to go, and I was able to help out ITS with the tsunami of new challenges they had for the rest of campus. I helped by answering helpdesk calls, and I got to see firsthand just how much some of our community was struggling with this shift. 

For me, working from home meant I got to work from my own computer, listen to loud music without bothering coworkers, hanging with my roommates and our puppy, but for a lot of others it meant not feeling like they can properly teach or learn from a class, not being able to effectively communicate, or not being able to focus on work because they have a child to take care. What was easy and made sense for me was clearly something causing a lot of struggle for a lot of other people.

So when I said that the necessity of tech terrifies and excites me, here’s what I mean: new tech is super cool and fun, and I think that if we can get to the right points with it, it will do nothing but make our lives easier. However, I know that integrating tech into everything will ostracize more people than we know. Professors, coworkers, parents, I don’t want them left behind. So while I love working from home, and the change of pace and understanding it’s brought, I hope we can safely return to campus before too long so nobody’s feeling left behind.

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