Yesterday, in a very exhausting but exciting Macaulay Orientation Technology Day, we hosted all 363 of our incoming freshmen for lunch, workshops, and of course the eagerly-awaited laptop distribution! This year we also gave the students laptop sleeves for the first time, which resulted in some of them (as you can see from the photo!) discarding the boxes their shiny new laptops came in just as soon as they left they Graduate Center. But we did give them more than that–things which (we hope) they won’t discard as eagerly.
On the tech side, I got to try a (very impromptu, but successful) first public attempt at using Poll Everywhere. Very fun, and I may post more about that another time. (Why use “clickers” when all the students already have cellphones?) The Tech Fellows also gave some very well-received workshops–introducing Leopard and the Mac, showing the students (most of whom were not experienced with Macs at all, even if they enjoyed my joke about the tattoo on their knees) what these new machines could do. Photobooth, as always, was a big hit, except for the students whose cameras didn’t work (it seems most of those cameras revived later. Not sure what happened there.)
But the most interesting, and risky, part came with the rollout of the Macaulay Eportfolios to all these incoming freshmen. I admit I was a bit worried that the whole WPMU installation was going to fall apart when it got hit by so many people all trying to create eportfolios at the same time. And in fact there were some glitches, especially at the peak (which seemed to come right around 430 PM in the 3-5 PM workshop session). When that happened, some people got “invalid authorization key” error messages–although those seemed to go away if they just tried again after a minute or two. The system also stopped sending me the automated notifications of new blogs being created for a while–it picked up again later in the evening, but there were a whole bunch–probably around 40-60, for which I never got a notification. Even worse, some of the eportfolios seem to have been created, but bogged down in a weird way so that they’re there, but with no CSS whatsoever–and no users, either. Those will ultimately be deleted, I suppose. But still, we got about 200 eportfolios created in the same two-hour period. Not a bad start.
Most of them are still in their default state, but a few students have already gone in on their own and done some updating–trailblazers! For us, now, follow-up is going to be key. Getting some attention to those trailblazers, doing some show and tell, getting some commenting and sharing going, and adding some students from the upper classes, too…all of that is going to be part of this year’s work. Or fun!