When someone sends me one of those annoying please delete my comments and fill in your own choice lists to “Get to Know You Better” one is always “What is your favorite movie?” I hate that question. I am always at a loss unless I have seen one in the last 36 hours, and then that is it. However, when a movie is a metaphor for living, the title, actors, and story line spring to the forefront of my brain.
That happened just yesterday.My common practice is to scan all of the readings for my classes and put them on CDs. Also on the CD are the syllabus, class schedule and any other pertinent information I want the class to be privy to from the first day of classes. The readings are scanned into a PDF format. Although all of the other documents are in Word. This can create a problem since not all students have Word. If I don’t remember to make the files Word 2003 format, if they are using OpenOffice or other tools, they sometimes have difficulty opening them.
I am teaching a new Social Problems class this semester. I scanned for hours and hours on multiple days. It is a cumbersome project when a book is too large to fit two pages on the scanner at one time. Besides using a textbook, I am using a study guide, making me a scanner prisoner for another 8 hours.
After it was all completed, I meticulously put each chapter in its own folder along with the chapter study guide. Each was labeled with the chapter title, the book title and authors’ names. Opps! File names were too long for the PDF program. Shorten them or the program will kill off the files. Okay. Done!
Now it is time to burn baby, burn…Burn all of this course work onto CDs. Twenty CDs later, I am feeling good. I had all of this done at the beginning of August, so there was no pressure at the beginning of the semester.
Now a movie flashback to 1973; the movie is Westworld. Westworld was an adventure park for adults where you could live out your fantasy as human-like robots were the actors. As the advertising proclaimed Westworld where nothing could go wrong, go wrong, go wrong..
Tuesday, students started arriving in my office for their CD for the Social Problems class. Eight were distributed that day. Friday morning, I was up early; there was an e-mail from one of the students. “Dear Dr. James, I hate to bother you with this, but I cannot open chapters 2, 3, 5, 7, 8…” basically the whole book. Strangely, the study guide opened fine.
I tried it on my computer. No problem. I burned a new disc, tried it on the kitchen computer. ERROR message. I thought perhaps the chapters were too large, so I used PDFSAM to break them up into bite sized chunks, burned a CD. No go! ERROR again. What to do, what to do? I have Google sites for different classes, but the maximum size for an upload is 20MB. I would have upload each chapter in 3-5 files one by one. After getting chapter 2 uploaded and starting on chapter 3, Google announced I had reached my quota. What the… I had paid for extra storage where according to my settings, I still had 101GB of storage. After trying different browsers, cleaning the cache, cookies, cupboards, closets, and the bathroom while was at it, still nothing.
If I had to get twenty plus students to bring in a USB stick, it would take forever and they would never catch up on the readings. Brainstorm, brainstorm, brainstorm. I use Google Docs for tons of my own things, but have yet been successful with getting it to share. It does not play nicely with others. After a Google search, reading some reviews, I found Dropbox. It took me about twenty-five minutes to upload all of the chapters into individual folders. Students have a choice of downloading the chapter in parts or the whole chapter, depending on their Internet connection. Another nightmare averted thanks to my having taught critical thinking classes.