What technologies do you see on your campus that you thought would history by 2014?
Here are my nominations for 8 campus technologies that I’m surprised have hung on:
1. Microsoft Office: MS Office is the granddaddy of un-killable technology. This expensive and bloated suite of applications is the habit that we can’t shake. Most days I find myself entering numbers into an Excel spreadsheet, preparing a PowerPoint presentation, and following Track Changes in Word. Each time I use Office I wonder when we will all stop using Office. When we will move to a more lightweight cloud solution. Productivity software built for collaboration, such as Google Docs. Even with the release of Office Web Apps and various mobile Office versions, I still use Office the old-fashioned way. As a standalone application, on a computer, with collaboration occurring by sending Office files by e-mails.
2. Office Phones: Why do we still have campus office phones? In your pocket is a phone that goes everywhere that you go. Not that we talk on any phone all that much, as e-mail has grown ever more dominant now that we can read and send e-mail from our smart phones. Campus landline phones are expensive. Yet we continue to juggle two phone numbers. Having given up an office phone (and an office), I can report that I don’t miss the thing at all. My mobile phone number is my campus phone number, and I’m as reachable as ever.
3. Fax Machines: Look at your business card. Does it have a fax number printed next to your office phone number, Twitter handle, and e-mail address? How often do we really use the fax machine? When was the last time that you got a fax? If all fax machines went away would campus business grind to a halt? Wouldn’t we find some way to replace the function of the fax?
4. Smart Boards: Are there some Smart Boards hanging around in your classrooms? Smart Boards once held so much promise. They were going to revolutionize how we teach. The reality (at least from what I witnessed) is that very folks actually used the “smart” features of the Smart Board. Mostly we just used the Smart Board as we would use a white board. The computer interfaces were too clunky, and it was just as easy to take a picture of what was written with an iPhone than to use the capture technology.
5. Hanging File Folders: Everyone on campus seems to be still using the hanging file folder. A system of organizing and storing paper that fits snugly in a file cabinet. The fact that we do everything digitally now has not seemed to diminish the need for paper, files, and folders. What is everyone storing in these things? What could we all possibly need in paper format, stored and accessed in a hanging folder, that we can’t call up on our computers, tablets and mobile devices? Are we worried that important files will be lost? Do we prefer to refer to paper copies rather than their digital cousins?
6. Jammed Photocopiers: Why do photocopiers spend so much of their lives jammed? The photocopier should be a mature technology. Why aren’t these things more resilient? Is it because they are being asked to do too many things? From printing to scanning to (gasp) faxing? Or maybe us academics are particularly inept at photocopiers. Perhaps there is some law about the number of years you spend in graduate school and the likelihood that will jam the copy machine. For every year of graduate school the odds of getting the machine hopelessly stuck (and not be able to troubleshoot it on your own) increases by 10 percent. Never let a PhD near a photocopier.
7. Business Cards: Why are we still passing out our business cards? Everyone has a smart phone. Wouldn’t it make more sense to use a business card app? What is the best business card app by the way, I need to get myself one of those? We are just going to try to get the information on the business card onto our smart phone anyway. Why don’t we skip the whole process involving these little sheets of paper, and go right to the digital exchange. How much would a campus save if business cards were phased out?
8. Classroom VCRs: Do you have classrooms that still have a VCR in some rack, hooked up to the A/V system and ready to go? Is the VCR a teaching technology that we can finally declare dead? How bad would the uproar be on your campus if you announced that VCRs would no longer be supported? Would the cost of digitizing all those old videos sitting in faculty offices be more than the savings realized by no longer supporting VHS tapes in the classroom?
What are your nominations for campus technologies that you think should have died a natural death by now?