A professor presses buttons in vain and students begin to stir in their seats, unstimulated and restless, waiting for class to start. Something is wrong. The projector won’t work. The professor presses buttons, nearly whimpering in frustration. He glances up in desperation, searching for a knowledgeable face amongst his pupils. Panic sets in.
Suddenly, an energetic man with a Teddy Roosevelt mustache opens the door, swiftly crosses the room, presses a button, toggles a switch or jiggles a cord and the projector wakes from the dead. The man is gone in moments, the professor’s words of appreciation and a collective sigh of relief following him out the door. Meet Brendon Packwood, audiovisual support specialist.
“We’re the first line of support for any and all classroom technology.” Packwood said. On his smartphone, he carries software that monitors the status of the 229 technologically enhanced locations on campus, 150 of which he actively maintains. This way, he is able to head off problems like burnt projector bulbs or overheating issues before they cause trouble in a classroom.
But just as his tech support obligations often take him outside the physical classroom, Packwood’s duties go beyond simply helping befuddled professors navigate their digitally enhanced podiums.
“I take on designing, installing, maintaining and training on the classroom technology … and in fact it’s outside of the classroom. We’re using the term ‘learning space’ now, because even hallways now [have technology] like the collaborative learning spaces in AJM and Reid.”
As new buildings are built on campus, Packwood and the other fellow full-time audiovisual specialist are tasked with planning for new, technologically upgraded learning spaces to be built on campus, to keep MSU up-to-date and anticipating technological trends.
“I do a lot of research and attend conferences and tradeshows to keep on the bleeding edge of interactive learning technology … trying to keep abreast of what’s out there and what is going to benefit our users,” Packwood explained.
Packwood speaks with a passion that can’t be entirely explained away by the double power coffee he just ordered. His interest in technology has roots in his youth. During high school, a passion for car audio systems turned into a lucrative home entertainment system business. Then at Earlham College in Indiana, where he received a degree sociology and anthropology, Packwood continued pursuing his interest in technology, working as the go-to tech expert for the anthropology department.
After a few years of snowboard bumming and bike touring, he and his wife found themselves in Bozeman where Packwood promptly applied for and was selected for the newly created position of audiovisual specialist at MSU. He has held the position for the past seven years.
As the semester winds to an end, Packwood has found himself gearing up for a busy summer. In addition to having a child on the way, he will “work 10-12 hour days the weeks leading up to the start of fall semester.” In a recent summer, Packwood spent three weeks working without a day off to complete classrooms, labs and a few conference rooms in the Animal Bioscience Building and Gaines Hall. After all the hard work, he and his coworkers finished the task with only a few hours to spare on the first Monday morning of the term.
Currently, Packwood and his coworkers are designing the interactive learning spaces in Jabs Hall, working with University Communications to standardize the interactive monitor displays throughout campus and remodeling room 215 in Cheever Hall. The goal, Packwood said, is to “future proof” classroom technology at MSU. This, he joked, ensures him plenty of job security.