Technology Changes

In a stack of papers called Technology.

  • May
  • 27
  • 2006

A few interesting things have happened at my school this past week. I finished grading 4 sets of in-class essays; I dropped a performance final on my guitar class; I enjoyed a Friday without seniors; I nearly set my building on fire by leaving the broiler on in the faculty lounge (yeah, we have an oven in there and a dishwasher, too).

But the really interesting changes have to do with technology on our campus.

Server Change

My school’s Web site moved from a Mac OS X server to a Windows server a few weeks ago. This is not worth noting except that moving to a Windows server means that I’ve lost the ability to do a few things that I need to do (change permissions on files from my iBook, if you’re curious). It also means that a few things I put in place 3 years ago no longer work and really have no possibility of working in the near future.

Essentially, this is just to say that the move makes a difficult job (doing cool things on an outdated server with district-office-imposed limitations) even more difficult (many of those cool things require that I change permissions on files).

Though I’ve been lauded for the way I’ve massaged the school’s site into running, that power was stripped away from me with a simple, “Oh, and by the way…” email notification. I didn’t find out about this move until the day my login no longer worked.

Because of all this, I suggested that we simply buy our own domain, pay for hosting on another server, and run the site that way. It would be much easier for me to maintain the site in my spare time if I could keep doing things the way I had been doing them in the past. I made it clear that I would abide by all district policies, even the ones I find restrictive and counter productive. I would create an FTP account for the district computer guy and I would work to do everything that the district needed to do with the site.

The term “preferred vendor” was dropped and my plan went out the window. None of the preferred vendors offers anything less than a complete, pre-packaged solution.

That’s no good for a control freak like me.

Hosting Change

After an administrative meeting, which took place in the middle of seventh period making the invitation extended to me seem rather moot, it was decided that my school will go with CampusGrid. That is to say that they decided to spend $600 a year on a system that I said I could set up for $200 a year. In the grand scheme of things, $400 isn’t that much, but I could certainly find a better way to spend that money.

Image Change

At that same meeting, after a discussion of ways students use MySpace to make fun of other people, the decision to remove an administrator’s picture from our home page was made. Never mind that I got that picture from a local newspaper’s Web site to begin with, that the administrator’s picture is on at least 1 other page on the site, that a Google Image Search for that administrator turns up the removed image along with yet another picture, that all images used by the media in the future will be available, and that anyone with a camera can snap a shot to throw online. They took it off the home page. However, instead of telling me about that decision, they just went in and made the change. Again, I was given an, “Oh, by the way…” notification about this.

Let me say, for the record, that policies made in the face of fear are destructive. Typically, such decisions are knee-jerk reactions to a situation and do not take into account all possibilities, seeking to allay fears more than treat the problem. I hope this doesn’t set a precedent that there will be no pictures of administration on any home pages. Things like MySpace only become damaging when we let them.

Let me also say that I am opposed to CampusGrid for a school our size and with our talent. But, since I won’t be working on the school site next year, I guess it doesn’t really matter.

Webmaster Change

That’s right, after 3 years of working with the school site to make it do things that it never did before and to recreate it as the beginnings of an actual resource for our community and students and teachers, I will no longer be even informally in charge of the site. The activities director will, which actually makes a whole lot of sense to me and is something that I tried to push for from the beginning. Moving to CampusGrid may prove a fair choice as students become directly involved in updating the site. The move for activities to take over the site is one of the smartest things we’ve ever done with our online presence.

My Change

And so what about me? What will I do to fill in all that spare time? What on earth will I do with myself? Never fear, dear reader. There has been a little space carved out just for me, something that apparently was in the works a few months before I knew about it. I will be the technology coordinator for my school.

What does that mean!? Well, I was hoping someone could tell me, but this is all I have so far: “the person assisting our staff to infuse technology in the classroom.” Translation? I’ll be available to my colleagues to figure out ways technology can assist in their teaching. I’ll be promoting the use of School Loop and United Streaming, along with any other cool sites I find, likely through a account or something. I’ll help develop lessons that make use of technology we have and skills students need. I’ll take stock of our resources and work to get systems updated.

And I’ll do all this during one period because I’ll have a resource period for this. While it’s normal at my school to teach 5 classes with 1 prep period off, I’ll teach 4 classes next year, with 1 prep period and 1 resource period for technology. No extra pay, but only having to teach 4 classes instead of 5, which means dealing with a mere 130 student papers as opposed to 160, is a very compelling incentive.

This is all very exciting for me, but also very daunting. Honestly, I don’t feel like I’m a teacher that others think to come to for advice on such things. Sure, if they have problems with their computer they’ll come ask me. If they need a new keyboard, they’ll email me. But no one asks me for help with curriculum. To be put in that position is kind of frightening. I just hope I can do it and that folks even think to look my way with such concerns.

If you were in charge of “[infusing] technology in the classroom,” what else would you see yourself doing? What resources would you use? What technology would you infuse? Dealing with a very limited school Web site, would it be wise for me to buy a domain and hosting separately so that I can do all the cool things I want to do on my own without going through CampusGrid?

Title Change

And now we come to the part where I turn the title of this piece around on you.

As technology changes, we all need to change, too. I’m so happy to see my school start down that path and can only hope that our whole district experiences this same shift. To have a teacher do anything other than teach classes is a bold thing and I am flattered that my principal took that chance on me. We need people on school campuses who can help integrate technology into the natural flow of classroom activities.

But as technology changes, irrational fears often prevent adoption, especially when kids are involved. So it’s no surprise that education is the slowest to embrace new technology. Yet students are graduating high school with skills for a world that existed anywhere from 10 to 50 years ago. A student who doesn’t know preposition from participle will likely be all right, but one who doesn’t know email from Web site may not be. One who cannot use a mouse and keyboard certainly will not be.

Encountering curriculum, technology changes the classroom by altering the way things are taught and the content presented.

How has technology changed your teaching or learning?


1. Ben says:

[6/1/2006 - 10:54 am]

Now that’s a lot of changes Todd! Sorry I didn’t comment earlier, but I think you should go with your own domain and hosting to provide resources to your staff. It sounds as if you would have a difficult time gaining the access and abilities you need to have on the server in order to perform everything you had it doing before. That and when the web server is changed again in the future (with or without your knowledge) it won’t be the surprise it was this time around.

I believe that Tom Woodward is doing a separate site for his middle school teachers at if you haven’t seen it yet. He did exactly what you were talking about, with a blog, tagged bookmarks, and a space for his teachers’ classroom blogs.

2. Todd says:

[6/2/2006 - 8:40 pm]

Tom’s site is a good example. I’ve actually popped over there a few times just recently to grab some graphic organizers.

About getting my own domain and hosting, my fear is that to ask permission is to seek denial. But I’m sure the district office’s ears will be at full attention when they hear that I’m at the helm of any technology on campus. I’ve made some suggestions over the last few years that have not been warmly received. And to set that up without telling anyone about it might be seen as disrespectful.

Anyhow, you’re right that I should create a site for all this. Since it won’t be associated with the main school site, I don’t think I’ll have to abide by any rules or regulations or restrictions. However, because of all that, I’ll almost certainly have to pay for it all myself. I’ll be saving receipts for the tax write off.

But I’ll only be able to do this once I figure out the best way to avoid raising any alarms. Political savvy has never been my strong suit. I usually just do what needs to be done and those that don’t like it be damned.