A friend who completed a long career in soil conservation recently recalled his first days at Purdue University in the 1960s. Hailing from a high school with 50 seniors and no chemistry or physics classes, he was in for culture shock. His very first class was in the large lecture room in Lilly Hall of Life Sciences, located on the far east side of the building.
"I looked at how big the room was and almost walked out," he says. "By the end of the week, a friend from my area was going home for the weekend. He asked if I wanted to go. If I had went, chances are very high I wouldn't have come back! I stayed."
That classroom at Purdue University is now more than 50 years old. While it may look functional, it consists of technology of a far different time. The super computer was yet to be unveiled, and when it was, it would be a huge monstrosity that read key punch cards, located in the basement of the Math Science Building. You can do more on your laptop than that huge machine could do.
Walk in the classroom today and you notice overhead projectors that teachers can write on and scroll up to the next bare space on the film. I honestly thought most of them were in a museum. Where are the overhead projectors, the interactive devices for students to respond?
The upshot of all this is that if Purdue College of Agriculture Dean Jay Akridge is right, eventually that classroom may be replaced somewhere else. It may take another generation, depending on funding, but its days are numbered.
When my friend first told me he had heard it was on the chopping block and he had his first classes there, I thought "what a waste." Then once I walked into the room later and saw the antiquated equipment, I realized its day is passing quickly, if it hasn't already passed.
As a popular radio commercial says, you can't run a business with the tools of yesterday, which in that case is a DSL phone line for Internet, once thought to be a great breakthrough. Well, you can't teach the techno-leaders of tomorrow with antiquated tools either.