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EdTech Relief at Super Bowl Power Failure
February 4, 2013 - 9:12pm

The highlight for me of Super Bowl XLVII (which I watched by streaming online) was when the power went out in the Superdome.   

This was a perfect tech failure. Not so catastrophic that anyone was hurt, or even particularly inconvenienced. Only half the lights went out. Play stopped for 35 minutes.   

The NYTimes description captured the mood of the blackout perfectly, noting that the players "stretched on the ground and tossed footballs to stay limber. A few looked as if they were relaxing on a park lawn."

This was a perfect tech failure because it makes us feel so much better about all of our tech failures.

  • If the Superbowl can lose power then it is not the end of the world when our online synchronous class experiences some audio problems.
  • If the lights can go out during a show watched by 108.4 million people then I'm not going to get so upset when a bulb burns out in a classroom projector.
  • If the Superdome can't keep the juice flowing during an event where advertisers pay $4 million dollars for a 30 second ad then I'm going to stay calm during my next unplanned LMS outage.

The hard truth is that technology will always fail.  

We hope that our technology fails gracefully (as in the Superdome on Sunday when backup power kicked on and kept most of the lights and the TV signal going), but sooner or later the lights are going to go out.  

We plan for resiliency, we build in redundancy, and we try to alway have a "plan b" in our pocket. But we also need to learn how to set expectations for our technologies at the correct level. 

We need to work to communicate with our stakeholders and customers, our faculty and students and deans and provosts, that no technology is foolproof. This includes our educational technologies.   

Stay calm. Work the problem. And at some point the lights will come on (or the server will restart) and we will once again be able to resume the lecture, log in to the course, and play some ball.

How do you communicate the fallibility of our education technologies to your constituents?

Have any good edtech failures to rival the power outage of Super Bowl XLVII?


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