Sunday, January 17, 2016

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Back in the late 90s, a time when computers in schools weren't everywhere, I was in my teacher credentialing program.  One of my friends in the program was able to get a donation of about 2 dozen computers for her elementary school classroom; she loaded them up with Oregon Trail, some other educational games, and other goodies.  These were stand-alone computers, not connected to each other or to the internet.  I'm not even sure if they had internet capability or not.

One day she called me in a panic--do I need any computers?  If not, could I at least take some?  See, her principal didn't think it was fair that her class had computers and no other classes did, so the principal ordered the computers removed.  That afternoon.

Fast forward to today.  I have a dozen and a half netbook computers for use in my stats classes.  They were purchased by the school and our district tech services folks worked their magic on them.  We have wireless nodes all over our school, and these computers are, of course, internet-capable.  They're dang difficult to use, though, because, in an effort to make sure a student somewhere doesn't access pictures of boobies or something, our tech services has made the process of logging in and using the computers a herculean task.  If we do it exactly by the book, network speeds slow to a crawl.  Even when we don't do it exactly by the book, I still encounter problems that I have to work around.  (Note:  kids may know how to use phone apps, but logging into our school computer network and accessing a web site when given a URL that omits www for convenience sake?  No way.  Most of them aren't as savvy as adults think they are.  The hurdles our tech services people put in our path are to try to stop the very few who are tech savvy.  But I digress.)

It would be great if things could work smoothly--you know, like my wireless network at home does, no matter what kind of equipment I connect to it with.  It would be great if school administrators weren't such ninnies about computers:
All teacher Kim Kutzner wanted to do was help her students dig into their school work.

In her zeal to reach her students and make their writing assignments easier, the Chowchilla [California] Union High School English teacher pooled her resources and used her husband’s savvy to get her students the equipment she believed would help them excel.

Kutzner says her students’ test scores are up after she and her husband bought the equivalent of nearly $80,000 worth of laptop computers for her students to use...

Kutzner told The Modesto Bee that at first the English Department Chair was given major ‘atta girls’ five years ago for buying the computers at auctions, having her husband fix them up and network them into a classroom computer lab.

Now, however, the district is, as the principal of her school told Independent Journal, “investigating” and “assessing” the use of the computers. In fact, the school may ban their use.

It’s unclear why the computers are now becoming an issue.

The laptops aren’t connected to the internet and students are currently being allowed to use them.

The Chowchilla Union School District Superintendent says he’s now concerned with the privacy of students.


Anonymous said...

Along a similar vein of wishing school administrators weren't ninnies, my district is pushing forward with a plan to get wireless networks installed at all school sites. Great, I say to myself. I'm going to get myself a new iPad for my personal use and take my old one to school to use there! Oh wait. Teachers aren't allowed to access the wireless network. Apparently they aren't too concerned with students finding pictures of boobies, instead they are worried about teachers finding pictures of boobies. Ridiculous.

Ellen K said...

There is an elementary teacher who spends her spare time finding websites to block. That's fine for younger kids because they can't discern between good and bad websites. But when teaching an AP or dual credit class, students need access to certain websites to function. This teacher has managed to block all my museum sites as well as all university blogs and websites by professors. I cannot show an image of Botticelli's Venus without going through back doors. In the meantime, it seems like every kid knows how to access game, music and movie websites to distract themselves all day long. We just can't get to websites that help students learn anything.