Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Slapped wrists?

In a recent post I leapt into a storm (well - a slight depression, perhaps) about the apparent barring of Blogger by Argyll and Bute. It turns out it was a technical hitch, apparently, and all is now well. Today, wrist smarting slightly, I feel the need to justify the haste with which some of us believed the worst and didn't instead seek out the technical staff to find out what was what.

For a start, of course, I'm no longer in the system. But I was in it, and my experience as an employee left me more ready to trust the former colleague who alerted me to the outage than the people in charge of deciding what we could/could not do online in school. I'd like to give a picture of the possible scenario had I still been in B7, trying to use Web2.0 technology with, say, a boisterous class of S3 mixed-ability boys.

B7 is at the end of a corridor, tucked far from the heart of the school - the office, the Resource Centre, where lurk the people who know about gaining access to forbidden sites. Into the room come 27 assorted boys: "Miss! Are we bloggin' the day?" Expectancy is high - this is right up their street and access to the department computer trolley is rationed and carefully booked in advance. Let's say they have just set up the necessary site/sites for their work and are are eager to get blogging. The laptops are distributed and started up. It is only now, ten minutes into the period, that the problem becomes apparent. Your plans are scuppered and class morale plummets - these are not thoughtful academics we're dealing with, but very ordinary kids.

So what now? Leave the room to find out what's up? Find someone who can reach the necessary techies for you? (I never knew how to do this - it was A Secret.) Or quickly think up some other computer-based activity to keep the boys cheerfully occupied while mentally reshuffling your planned work for the next week, knowing that if you abandon them for the necessary length of time the consequences could be .... interesting? Rhetorical question, huh?

Seems to me there are a few pointers here. The first might be to realise that if web-based activities are on the increase in classrooms, then web-based hiccups have to be spotted instantly and teachers informed before the point of no return - in the same way as we used to be warned about fire drills, say. And perhaps it'd be a good thing if every teacher had a quick contact line to the techies - and it's no use firing off a specualtive email in the hope of hearing something before you go home that night. If you know your resource isn't working but will work again, at least you can plan and don't look quite such a fool in the eyes of the pupils.

In my admittedly limited experience of using computers in the classroom - not through choice but because it was so cumbersome to arrange - I found it frustrating and demeaning to be treated as if I too were a pupil who was not trusted to know how to unlock the sacred mysteries. Perhaps that explains the vehemence of the reactions which now seem to have been excessive and misdirected. I think there are lessons to be learned.


  1. You might find the kids are a bit more understanding of the problems and the fact it isn't the fault of the teacher - most will have experience downtime before!

  2. Chris,

    I won't repeat myself here, but I have responded to your earlier post about the 'technical fault'. I hope it clarifies my position somewhat.

  3. Of course *we* have the problem of the fact Dunoon Grammar School work with PCs and not Macs, yet all the primary schools do. So even doing a word-processing document is a mystery in itself...

    I do think schools on the whole need more computer technicians. Afterall, the blackboard is disappearing and the Smartboard is taking over - what if it breaks? Chalk and talk?

  4. Thanks, Andrew - I've had some interesting discussions on the back of this one! More power to your ?fingers? in your drive to empower teachers.

  5. I apologise for the comment above - I realised it does not make sense. I must have been exceptionally tired or frustrated with life yesterday!

    What I was trying to say was:

    We (in Dunoon) have the problem that the computers in DGS are mainly PC, yet in Primary School the children are used to working with Macs. So that's is a problem in itself, nevermind the internet. I find blogging a completley different experience on a PC.

    Remember the days when the machine used to break in your room? Who would you get to help? An outsider - The genius himself! Therefore, as said above, we need more technical support in schools if we are going to move into an "ICT" world.