“We keep trying to dip our toes in the "lets free it up" waters, but are
so wary of the potential fallout that we keep pulling our foot back.
Maybe I'm waiting for one of you to pilot the all-free world and deem it
safe before I follow.”
These posts are my attempt to share what I have learned over the last 3
years from my current job where I am working in an environment that has an
educator leading the tech initiative. We have been successful. We are
running a 700 student K-8 school using the principals and techniques I’m
outlining in these posts. I’m also keeping the tech initiative alive in a
200 student K-8 school with 8 hours a week tech support without locking
down the computers. And my unconventional management methods are working
at the central office, more of a business model than a classroom model.
I would like to invite anyone who is interested to visit us at FCSU and
see for yourself what it looks like. Even better, I would like to
continue the conversations here and look at all the implications of what I
am suggesting. There are so many details and so many specific situations
that I could not cover them in what I saw as a blog post.
” The more problems you open yourself up to, the longer the wait times for
service can be, and the more frustration is felt by all parties involved.”
What I have experienced is there is no avalanche of tech support when you
unlock the computers. Most people don’t understand what it means. Most
of the staff just keep using the handful of programs that they are
comfortable with. The pioneers go nuts – they install Linux and push
boundaries. Sometimes they get into trouble and need to be reimaged, but
their discoveries and leaps forward are wonderful to see. The people who
for whatever reason don’t value this tool they have been given usually
keep a low profile, guiltily bringing their laptop to us to see why it no
longer can boot. Fearfully admitting that their 16 year old did try to
install a pirated version of the latest game on it just before it stopped
working. Re-imaging cleans everything up and this is a teachable moment.
These incidents are not bad. They are exactly what we are trying to do –
we are in the business of learning. Every person who runs into a problem
that we need to intercede with brings us a teachable moment. This is our
purpose – to improve the proficiency of everyone who works at our schools.
You allude to the lack of success with traditional professional
development. Something I have been observing working with Lucie
deLaBruere (the educator who is running this initiative), is how she runs
a successful prof dev effort in a school. It is very light on after
school workshops and extremely intensive on one to one interaction around
real projects in the classroom. The tech support initiative in these
schools is really just an auxiliary function to the on going professional
development that is looking for every opportunity to deliver learning that
will stick with the people. What better time to get their attention and
make a lasting impression than when something has gone wrong and you can
offer them the opportunity to either avoid it or fix it themselves.
Authentic learning can happen at any time.
Safety nets – what to do when your system isn’t working.
We have some 7 year old notebooks sitting on the shelf that people can
borrow if they are in a panic and can’t wait for us to image their
machine. These machines are wicked slow, but they will do in a pinch.
We are part of a team that includes a master teacher who has worked hard
to create relationships with the faculty. If someone takes the attitude,
“Just fix it, don’t bother me with explanations and don’t expect me to
avoid the problem next time.” we refer them to the boss, and those
conversations go very differently. We support and respect the educators,
they work with and respect us.
The third time you bring me your laptop with a virus on it, or some other
repeating problem, I will reduce your personal account to a User account.
You still have access to the Teacher account and can log into that if you
need to install something, but most of the time you are using a limited
access account. The forth time you bring it in with a virus, and I see
you are routinely logging in as Teacher I will change the Teacher
password. I have only had to do this once.
In conclusion, this is a paradigm shift. We measure our success not in %
uptime, but in successful use of technology in the classroom. We have
support throughout the system for this philosophy.
All that I have written here is looking at unlocking the computers that
are dedicated to the teachers and staff. Unlocking the computers that are
being used by the students presents different challenges. I will post
again with more details of what we have learned, but right now I have to
get back to work.
> School Information Technology Discussion <[log in to unmask]> writes:
>>so if something goes wrong
>>they need to be able to recover and be up and running ASAP.
> I think this is the real crux of the issue. The more problems you open
> yourself up to, the longer the wait times for service can be, and the more
> frustration is felt by all parties involved. We have such sparse
> resources in both man-hours and physical resources that allowing our
> service to be as fast as the staff and students need is a challenge. So
> the first thing we look to is to restrict access to cause problems in the
> first place.
> Is this a mindset issue, a resources issue, or somewhere in between? Will
> removing the "please-install-my-software" requests suddenly free up enough
> time to deal with the "whoops-I-screwed-it-up" requests? We keep trying
> to dip our toes in the "lets free it up" waters, but are so wary of the
> potential fallout that we keep pulling our foot back. Maybe I'm waiting
> for one of you to pilot the all-free world and deem it safe before I
> The conversation keeps spinning around these ideal worlds where all
> teachers are tech savvy and gung-ho for cutting edge tools and integrated
> technology. The reality is that for each teacher who is really excited by
> the technology, we have another who is just as wary of it, and these are
> ongoing issues where repeated, loving professional development is heaped
> upon them but never retained. And to be honest, a lot of our restricted
> settings are to keep them in this safe, gated world where their computers
> "just work." I hear this a lot. "I just want it to work."
> Will freeing up the abilities free their minds? I don't have that answer
> but I'm very interested to hear your thoughts.
> Melissa Hayden-Raley
> Information Technology
> Milton Town School District
> Need computer help? http://helpdesk.mtsd-vt.org
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