Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The X Files

Looking at listserv traffic at my university, it is interesting to see the number of postings about students who submit unreadable files in .docx or .pptx formats.

Not surprisingly, faculty members at my campus have been reluctant to embrace either Vista or the newer versions of Microsoft Office with the "x" extension. This "go-slow" approach among faculty has less to do with the generational divide or a contempt for early adopters than it does with the advice that we are getting from our own technical staff, who want us to stay with machines as long as possible that network, file-share, and function without a laundry list of problems. (I sent a horrible Vista Vaio back to the store this summer.) However, thousands of students are being sent to campus this year by proud parents who have provided them with shiny new Vista laptops, which is creating havoc. Sending someone an unreadable attachment is always a social faux pas, but students aren't always socially self-aware enough to see this. While their instructors are ticked off that they haven't thought to save in a backwards-compatible format, students probably see their professors as out-of-touch when they make the saner technological choice. In other words, these "upgrades" have a profound effect on the social contracts that have been facilitated by things that emphasize openness rather than status consciousness like the TCP/IP handshake.

Of course, many say, why accept files from students at all, particularly since their computers are often contaminated with nasty viruses? I like hard copy as much as the next prissy pedagogue, but it's hard to tell students that they can't turn a paper in electronically when they are helping their families evacuate from the recent California wild fires.

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Blogger trillwing said...

Well said. When I can't open a .docx file, my students seem confused. I try to explain to my students that my two-month-old MacBook Pro isn't already hopelessly dated, but I'm not sure they get the whole proprietary technologies thing.

9:09 PM  

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