Good or Bad Angel

“Okay, I think I got what I need to get to my email account, but I don’t know about that other thing,” I said to Don, the person assigned to set me up with the technology I was told I needed for college.

“What other thing?” Don asked. “Oh, you mean Angel.”

Did you say angel? What in the world do angels have to do with Penn State?” I asked incredulously.

“Yeah, it is kind of a funny name, isn’t it?” he chuckled. “But you’re going to need to learn how to use it regardless of what it’s called.”

“Okay, but give me a minute to get past the questions. Why is it called Angel? What does Angel stand for? And is this angel sent from God or the devil?”

Although Don could not answer my inane questions, he patiently answered the seriously panicked questions about the crazy contraption he called a laptop, explained the difference between hardware and software, and how, together, it would work for the good. Now the big day was approaching and he was making sure I felt comfortable with the whole mess.

That “whole mess” was almost a deal-breaker.

In the beginning, when The Pennsylvania State University accepted my application in the spring of 2010, I was told I’d need a fairly new computer and something called high-speed internet service so I could run Internet Explorer.

I figured my seven-year-old desktop had more than enough speed for my old woman’s brain to keep up with. And besides, I was not—posilutely not—signing on for an exploration mission so why did I need an internet, or any other kind, of explorer? Not only was I too old but my Amish genes were not compatible with computers or any other type of modern technology.

The Bureau of Blindness & Visual Services (BBVS) counselor did not give in. “Well, that’s not really negotiable,” she told me gently when I protested.

“The BBVS will pay for whatever you need and I’ll get Don to buy the things and train you to use them,” she continued. “It’ll be alright, Don’s very good at what he does and he’s easy to work with. You’ll like him.”

“I’m sure it won’t be a person that’ll give me the nightmares,” I countered. “I’m having nightmares just thinking about it.”

Computers, apparently, did not give Don nightmares. He acted like a little boy opening boxes on Christmas morning the day he schlepped the stuff into my house.

“I’m glad somebody’s excited about all that fancy stuff,” I said wryly as he unpacked boxes, unwrapped black and silver gizmos, and unwound thin black snakes.

The instant headache I felt did not bode well for the nightmares I had predicted.

He explained that he’d had the equipment sent to his house so he could get it all ready. “I got you software so you can magnify things as big as you need. It’s already installed. Oh, and that software will read to you too. I got you a large-print keyboard, a printer that also scans, and another scanner that reads books.”

“Ach, I am never going to learn how to use all these things,” I sighed. “Spending all the money this stuff must have cost was not necessary.”

“Well, I think you will eventually learn how to use it and appreciate it. We want to do our part to help you do well,” Don answered.

“Yeah, well, I’m already feeling like a bumbling idiot so how can I ever do well with something I will never understand?”

In the end, though, my head did not explode, the nightmares were minimal, and the feared idiocy abated. Now it was time for action.

“Okay, show me what to do with Angel,” as I sighed for the umpteenth time.

“The first thing to do is get into your Penn State email,” Don said. “I’ll show you how to get to Angel from there.”

Among other things, Don explained that Angel was a course management system (whatever that meant?) that I would use to submit assignments and showed me how it would also keep track of my grades, IF the instructors used it.

“That’s how you’ll get to your online courses, of course, but some of the on-campus instructors will also have you submit assignments on Angel or they might post grades or resources there. But there will be some who won’t use it at all,” Don added. “I think you’ll really like it after you get used to it.”

Fortunately, that first semester I had only two instructors who used Angel; one was an online course, and the other instructor posted assignment and test grades.

Don was right. After driving the Angel IT people nuts by asking myriad imbecilic questions, I did learn how to use and to appreciate Angel, especially the grade-report feature. I felt quite sophisticated.

And, oh yeah, Angel must be good because those As on my ‘report card’ look even better than they did forty years ago.


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