Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Timing Is Everything

Yesterday, just as school began, we got an announcement over the PA system--our district network was down.  We had no internet and no intranet.

It's amazing how much of our world stopped.  Attendance?  Discipline?  Schedule changes?  What kid's in what class?  All done by computer in our all-encompassing school management system, Zangle.  If teachers didn't have some sort of roster pre-printed, I guess they just had to ask the rest of the students who sits in that empty seat....

Last week I vented to my principal about what our tech services people do to every computer I've purchased for my stats lab.  Among other things it turns out that if they're not connected to the district network, they're very good paperweights.  Oh, you can run Excel on them, but you can't save your work, not even to a flash drive.  What's the point?  Essentially, they cannot be used as stand-alone workstations, they must be connected to the district network.  This is time-consuming on boot-up and fairly worthless, as the only networked function I need from them is to print to a printer that's located in the same room as the computers.

It's a good thing I didn't need that lab yesterday, or I'd have been completely dunken verstunken.  I needed them today; it was a close call.

Yesterday during 5th period we got the announcement that network operations had been restored.  Upon logging in I noted that our tech services people had sent us two emails that day--the first notified us that the network was down, and the second notified us that the network was back up.  Honestly.


Anonymous said...

"Please respond if you don't get this email."

Dishwasher Philosopher said...

In defense of school IT staff, especially at the high school level (which incidentally, I happen to be); we're trained to lock down as much functionality as possible in order to prevent a security breach. At my school we have certain computers that were not part of the overall security policy due requests from a particular program and I have to say that those are the computers that have the most problems due to students having the ability to make changes.
As to students not being able to save to the local computer, more often than not it is a decision that is made to make documents accessible tothe students where ever they log into the network. USB drive access is rather more variable. We allow it in my district but it can be a security concern because if the student can save to the device then they can run software from it as well.
Regarding the emails, it's silly I know but it's also habit and the fact that it's not only the medium we may be most comfortable with but the one we most use to communicate.
Just thought I'd offer some explanations from the other side. ;)

Ellen K said...

Our district is similarly reliant on networks, servers and such. We get daily missives on this program or that which is down. Ironically, the teachers who are on one server have far more limitations than the students who are on the Guest server. Both semester last year, our grades were delayed because of spam and virus attacks. Today I was home sick, but the system keeps sending me emails that roll was not taken. These records are kept by administration and such lapses are frowned upon. What is worse, the heavy hand of technology must be evident in every single lesson plan and action. When you put that together with the addition of severely disabled students, without aides, who are placed in classes for the sake of diversity over educational goals, it makes teaching a burden. I have five more years before I can retire. I am not sure I will make it.

Darren said...

I hope you make it. You strike me as more than just a little conscientious, and that's what we parents want in a teacher (well, that and subject matter competency, which you also seem to have).

Darren said...

I know that our IT people must have reasons for what they do. My concern is that I don't know these reasons, and they may not be know of the impact their doings have on my ability (or desire) to use the technology.

The more I want to use this technology, the more I need to know because of the hurdles they throw up. If nothing else, some training (perhaps on both sides of the fence) is in order.

Ellen K said...

Darren I hope I make it too. And I don't say that b/c I am some paragon of a teacher, but because sometimes it seems I am the only one trying to work with the average kids. We have all kinds of programs for GT and SpEd, but where is the concern for the kids who will be slogging out there working at a middle management job? We are letting those kids fall through the cracks for the sake of kids who will never ever live or work outside a sheltered environment. And it's happening everywhere. My other teacher is going to quit over some drastic and naive actions in this regard. I will be lucky if I survive. And this is in a "good" school. And I'm a teacher that had more kids get 5's on their portfolios for AP that all the other schools in the district combined. But that's not what matters anymore. What matters is "collaboration" and "groupthink" and "facilitating" or in short-making a big show of using technology and such even when it's not necessary or even effective just because. That's where we are heading. And it's doubleplusungood.