Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Tech?

**DISCLAIMER** The following mini-rant is in no way directed specifically at any one person or school system*

I hate it when techs talk down to teachers. You know the ones I'm talking about- the ones that come in, throw around jargon because they know the teacher has no idea what they're talking about, and pass the buck to the next (typically nonexistent or non communicative) IT person.

Every IT dept. has the same stated vision- to support teaching and learning. SUPPORT. As in- HELP. But the answer is always NO. Not "how can we make this happen?" or "how can I make your classroom vision become reality?" It's just ridiculous.

Case in point- when I was a 2nd grade teacher the school I was in had just found out that every single classroom was going to get a pod of 3 computers for student use. I was of course ecstatic, being the nerdy nerd that I am. I got up in a staff meeting and told the teachers at my school to start thinking of how they wanted to arrange and use these computers with their kids. I worked to get tables for kids to work collaboratively, helped teachers come up with ideas of things their children could be doing....the works!

Then the hammer came down- IT let it be known that all of these computer pods had to be grouped together within 10 feet of the port in the front of the room. Knowing how their minds worked, I immediately figured out what was going on- they had 10-foot cords. The edict had absolutely nothing to do with technology use, integration, or supporting this effort in the classroom. It came down to the length of the friggin cord. And at the front of the room, no less- where it made absolutely zero sense to have three big bulky computers (and CRT monitors).....blocking whiteboards, bulletin boards, etc.

So the IT dude comes to my room to set up my computers. I point to the port in the back of the room and kindly ask for them to be placed there. He says no. I say why not. He says the signal is not strong enough. So I tell him to go ahead and put the router at the front of the room and I'll go out and buy some longer ethernet cords and run them to the spots that would work best in my room. Then he tells me the kicker- that they all have to be within 10 feet of the port because if you run them 25 more feet the signal will weaken so much that they won't be able to use the internet!!!!

Unfortunately for him, I was a nerdy nerd. So I asked him if the port was exactly 290 feet from the hub because with standard Cat 5 wire there is no significant signal loss within 300 feet of the hub (and there isn't a significant dropoff at all if you go another 25 feet). He got all huffy and stormed out without setting anything up, which worked great. =) I got my computers where the students could actually use them and they could be a part of my classroom instead of an obstruction.

Wow, that was a long story. Don't think I've ever told that one before. It's just typical of many others though. I can't imagine that there was another elementary teacher as nerdy as me at the time, so literally hundreds of classrooms in the county received PC's that did not fit into their teaching process....thus alienating the teachers....leading to them being either misused or scrapped altogether. It's so typical of how so often the vision of the technology department does not mesh at all with the practices of the technology department. Grrrr!

The first question out of an IT Departments mouth should always be "How can I make your vision a reality?". If they truly want to support learning, they'll listen to the experts- the CLASSROOM TEACHERS. Throwing up roadblocks may make their jobs easier in the short run, but their jobs are support- not easy support....just support.

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