Thursday, April 16, 2009

Talk to me, please!

Warning--Rant ahead. Read with discretion and an open mind.

I have grown tired of reading posts with complaints and inferences that administrators and technicians in education have conspired to "lock down" computers to the point of uselessness and have purposely "blocked access" to the Web rendering every useful educational tool unreachable. Now maybe there are individuals out there who have those kinds of control issues, but I would venture to guess that most of us are just not that way.

Yes, we do set group policies with varying permission levels for students, faculty and administrators. These are security measures, which protect not only the integrity and health of the computer and the network, but also you and your personal data. Such policies are necessary as well because in school environments tech staff is limited and in order to address problems quickly and efficiently computers and the programs on them are managed according to standards. Example: If I have some computers running a version of Flash, I need all the computers running that same version of Flash; otherwise, when I sit down at the computer to troubleshoot I waste time trying to figure which version I am working with. Therefore, if you try out a website at home and want to use it with your students at school, it's a good idea to try it out on a computer in the lab and if it doesn't work, let me know. I'll be happy to solve that problem for you in that lab and all the others in my network. It is not going to be good for you or your students if you get them into the lab, find it doesn't work and then complain and/or blog about it without having had a direct and respectful conversation with the tech staff.

Likewise, filters. In our district, and I suspect we are not unusual, no one person or group decides initially which sites will or will not be filtered. Filters come with managing software and algorithms of categories and the company who makes filter decides the filter criteria for those categories. Districts can select degrees of blocking and warning within each category and they can specifically allow or block individual sites. If there is something you need to teach with that you can't get to, let your tech staff know. If they don't have the authority to allow it, go to administration and describe your problem.

Sometimes administrators and technicians are bound by the constraints of limited resources as well as staff. Sometimes there just isn't enough bandwidth on the network, enough memory or processing power in the computer or the right compatibility across platforms and software for the exact thing you saw at a workshop or conference. That doesn't mean it can't be done, it just means we might have to do it a different way until we can resolve those larger issues. So please, please, please...just talk to us, show us what you want to do and we will work with you to bring meaningful and productive technology use to your classroom.

Steam over. All clear. Thanks for reading.

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