A few observations about the technology I’ve come across at the University of PEI so far:
- Before class on Wednesday I needed to get something from my server back at the office. I was able to use a public PC in the library to download and install the PuTTY SSH client, and then connect to the office server. It was nice to find machines that weren’t locked down to within an inch of their lives.
- The computer hooked up to the screen projector in our classroom (Main Building 120) is running some version of Windows, and Windows has been set to automatically download and install updates and then prompt the user to reboot. As a result every 5 minutes over yesterday’s lecture the PowerPoint presentation on the screen was interrupted by a pop-up dialog box that had to be dismissed.
- Suggested readings have, so far, been distributed as proprietary Word and PowerPoint files, which open with varying degrees of success on my Mac. It would be nice to see some movement toward widespread use of open file formats to avoid this problem.
- The university uses Moodle as its “virtual learning environment.” My experiments with Moodle to date suggest that it’s a 1998-style web application that’s constricted around the traditional academic hierarchy and course delivery system. While it’s nice that Moodle is open source, in the age of Facebook its user interface seems antique. And it’s unfortunate that the infinite flexibilities of technology haven’t been exploited to experiment with different ways of teaching and learning: as it stands, Moodle seems little more than an electronic recapitulation of the same-old same-old.
- There is a kiosk in the hallway of student centre that can tell you the history of the University and let you watch a video message from the University President. It cannot, however, tell you when the next bus leaves campus, nor how to find Main Building (i.e. things you may actually want to know).
The most exciting development I’ve come across so far on campus is that the reference desk in the Robertson Library is in the process of being removed and replaced with an in-library coffee shop. There’s no word on whether this shop will improve on the abysmal cappuccino situation, but I’ve promised to endow an espresso machine if the opportunity arises (Don and Marion McDougall can’t hog all the naming-rights fund for themselves).