With two minutes to go, the auditorium was empty. An insistent thrum of traffic and torrential rain filtered into the silent room. I called up my slides, dimmed the lights for optimal viewing of fluorescent bacteria, and made sure Tegrity was activated to record my lecture. I checked my watch, and scanned the vacant rows of seats for signs of life. On the hour, my phone pinged as a text came in.
“ok your good to go dont forget to upload at the end mindy”
“But there’s no-one here, Mindy,” I replied.
“don’t worry their watching in the libray or at home go for it”
The course director had spoken. For a moment or two, I weighed the coercive logic of distance learning against a Socratic ideal of engagement. No contest. I gathered my notes, and glancing up one last time, about to leave, I saw a solitary figure, a redhead in shimmering blue leggings, sliding into a back-row seat. She shook out her umbrella, smiled politely, and opened a laptop. I switched on the wireless mike clipped to my lapel.
“Good morning,” I said, and aimed the ruby laser at the screen, carefully underlining my lecture topic. “This has come up in every National Board for the last five years. You’ll ace that section with this lecture. I’ll begin with three essential concepts.” I slid my cursor to the Tegrity logo and killed it. I discussed the first concept, and was well into the second when my phone pinged again.
“tegrity down cant see anything”
“Sorry, I’m busy right now,” I replied.
Pointer in hand, I left the podium and made my way to the back row. My student smiled quizzically, curious about what next. I cut off the mike, covered the third concept and went on with my lecture. Some minutes passed, the double doors behind us swung open, and a cold damp draft came in from the street. Mindy appeared in the aisle beside me, wet and bristling. She watched one or two slides go by, and said, “Let’s switch on Tegrity.”
“I prefer not to,“ I said.
Mindy grappled silently with this notion, weighing the rights of one hundred and fifty paid-up students against my mandate as a professor. Before two seconds had passed, she strode down the aisle towards the podium and my laptop. My red-headed postulant took advantage of the interruption and leaned towards me.
“What do you mean?” she whispered. “This bacterium shuts down acid secretion and causes ulcers? I thought dogma said “No acid, no ulcer!”
On the big screen, Mindy brought Tegrity to life, and a hundred or more remote students saw pearls iridescing briefly on their obsidian displays.
“Good question,” I said, “let’s get some coffee and dig deeper.”
I cast aside my wireless trappings, and we stepped out. The torrential rain had moved on, the sky was blue, and Socrates rested easy.
Writer from Charleston in USA