Teaching in the dark

I arrived a little early for lecture so I could get the computer set up with more-than-the-usual number of computer applications. Today we would discuss writing resumes and cover letters, so I had opened sample student resumes (in Word and PDF files), had loaded in my PowerPoint slides, and had connected to several Web sites.

All was set, and I was just ready to start class when all the lights went out in the auditorium. With no windows and with the doors closed, this was a very dark room.

I heard a few worried gasps.

“I know we usually have you put away your cell phones,” I said. “But everyone get out your cell phone and turn it on so we’ll have some light.”

Dozens and dozens of cell phones turned on. Soon the auditorium was dimly lit. The students were calm. I sent Paige, my lecture assistant, to Student Services to report the problem. As I talked with the class, she returned to report the power was off throughout the building. A series of thunderstorms were going through the area and probably had knocked out the power.

Paige and I both got out the flashlights we had in our book bags. The class laughed at our preparedness — and then several students got out their flashlight keychains. I said we were prepared to leave the auditorium if we needed to.

Then two emergency lights came on, so we began class. Of course the computer and all my prepared materials were in the dark, too, so we carried on with what we had. We could talk and listen and ask questions.

All of the lights did come back on within a few minutes. As I led a discussion about career planning, Paige turned the computer on and started preparing the files. We critiqued three student resumes on the big screen and looked at sample cover letters.

While we were in semi-darkness at the beginning of class, I taught the class what is one of my favorite sayings related to technology:

“Technology is great — when it works.”

The class repeated that with me as the auditorium was filled with the glow of their cell phones.

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