Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

eTech Night shift keeps campus wired

When Professor Ed Stephenson gave his Friday lecture in the Biology Building auditorium, he didn’t have to worry about whether his cordless microphone would transmit or if the clickers wielded by his students would connect. He knew that the remotes, microphones, touch-screen monitor, digital pen and the projector that made it all possible always worked.

What he didn’t know was that after he left, the four members of the eTech Night Shift went to work, checking every cable and light bulb, getting each of the 122 Arts and Sciences multimedia classrooms ready for a new day of class.

“Technology is everywhere. You’re not going to get away from it no matter the profession,” eTech Director Ruth Pionke said.

She said today’s learning environment is often inseparable from its supplemental gadgetry, no matter the subject. Night Shift exists to make sure any literature professor can upload Faulkner to the web and any art historian can show Michelangelo on a projector screen.

The team itself isn’t always tech-savvy. Wade Whatley, a Night Shift member-turned-supervisor, is a nursing student. He is training an entire team of recruits; the rookies include a gamer girl, a musician and a rock climber. Pionke said Night Shift is a common entry point into eTech for not-so-technical students, though as they gain expertise, they often move on to other eTech duties.

“We haven’t had any big, unusual problems,” Whatley said.

The extent of Night Shift’s repair duties is usually nothing more than dead batteries. Rather, Night Shift is a reconnaissance team; they find problems, document them, send the report to the AV department, and let the techies handle the rest.

The team exists to service the little things that make UA’s tech-oriented education possible. Theirs is the kingdom of broken projector bulbs, sticky mouse buttons and touch-screen pens misaligned by an inch or so – the mass of subtle glitches that individually go unnoticed or ignored throughout the day.

A monitor display issue is the only hardware problem Ed Stephenson has ever had in the technological casserole of the Biology Building lecture hall, and it was fixed in a day. He has never had to think about eTech, because his gadgetry has always worked.

“They’ve been invisible, so I think they’ve done a good job,” he said.

Night Shift is not the group that professors and staff call when their computers crash or their projectors go blank. The team isn’t designed to tackle the big technological issues, but the problems that fall between the cracks. When a teacher clicks the same thing 23 times and then storms out, Night Shift makes sure the next teacher doesn’t find 23 open Firefox windows.

They maintain the classroom in a more subtle way that goes beyond technology. Whatley said upturned desks, trash, and broken podiums are not beyond Night Shift’s call of duty. The team isn’t supposed to maintain technology, but order and peace of mind. If they’ve done their job, no one will know they’ve done anything at all.

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