That does not compute…

I’m a teacher, right? I need computers to supplement my educational programs, right? It is the 21st century, after all. Kids need to learn to type and do proper intarwebs searches and access appropriate information for their needs – none of which I teach, by the way.

But I do have four computers in my classroom. One is only for my use, a large desktop eMac. It’s just – large. But it does what I want it to and it’s pretty quick (except when the network is slow, which it often is because my school district recently switched to the same network that is all over the province and maybe even all over the country. Good idea, putting all the schools in the entire province on the same network. It’s not like two schools would ever be on it at the same time, is it? Wonder whose brainstorm that was???)

I have two PC laptops that run wirelessly, and they’re both for a computer program that my district has spent great gobs on money on in the past year. This program works on the premise that kids’ brains are pliable and easily “rewired” if they are exercised regularly and consistently. By having kids play a series of seven computer games, it purports to improve auditory processing and memory, sequencing abilities, attention span, awareness of visual and audio details – and maybe even solve the problem of world hunger. We had this program only since last May, so although the literature and studies (mostly done by the manufacturer, strangely enough) look good, I’ve not yet seen any hard evidence that it works wonders. I don’t doubt that it will improve these abilities, I just haven’t yet seen it for myself. We just haven’t had it at our school long enough.

I have also just obtained yet another laptop that will run wirelessly, and it’s earmarked for voice-activated software for those kids who have difficulty getting their thoughts down on paper. Which software? Don’t know yet. We haven’t purchased any yet. And how would we print out anything that a kid dictated to this computer? Don’t know yet. Don’t have a dedicated printer in my room (I have to share a printer in the room across the hall with about 6 other teachers). How do I boot up this computer? Don’t know yet. It’s still got someone else’s name and password on it, and no one has told me how to reconfigure it for me. It’s sitting in a locked cupboard now.

On Wednesday morning, I realized that one of the operating laptops was not uploading any information about the kids’ work to the website that the manufacturer has set up to track their progress. I mucked around with it a bit, but I’m not very familiar with PCs (I’ve always been a Mac girl, ever since my first computer back in the mid-90’s). I did see a minuscule message in the bottom right corner telling me that a network cable was unplugged and that the wireless signal strength was very low. So I unplugged its power cord and wandered around the school, trying to find a hot spot where the signal was strong. I ended up removing the intarwebs cable from my big eMac and plugging it into the laptop. Yep, strong signal. Nope, no uploading of information. Oh well. The kids could still work on their program, so I ignored the problem.

On Thursday morning, that particular program on the other laptop was gone. Just gone. All I saw was a screen asking me if I wanted to set up the program up or cancel. Where did it go? How can a program just disappear like that? No one did anything weird or upsetting to it to make it slip away stealthily in the night. Why was it not there any more?

I couldn’t ignore this one, so I marched to the principal’s office. He’s a bit of a computer trouble-shooter, but even he couldn’t figure this one out. He called the IT people. And no kids could work on the program on that laptop on Thursday.

This morning, Friday, I messed around with both laptops a little more. Lo and behold, the first one was uploading again. I think it was magic. But the second one still showed me the same sad screen asking if I wanted to set up the program or cancel. I decided to call the district person in charge of this computer program, just to let her know what I was dealing with.

She was almost silent on the phone. “I’ve never heard of the program just disappearing,” she finally said. “But I will call our own IT guy. Make sure the laptop is wired, not wireless. He won’t be able to restore the program unless the laptop’s physically connected with a cable.”

And this was how I learned that IT people can fix things on computers remotely, through the intarwebs, in about five minutes.

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8 responses to “That does not compute…

  1. I actually knew about that. The joys of having a computer scientist boyfriend…

  2. My geek quotient is very low. All I ask is for my PC to work. The rest is up to the gremlins that toil within it.

  3. XUP – We were also told that kids would LOVE this computer program, that they’d lap it up and beg for more. The reality I’ve seen is, well, not so much. When they HAVE to play the same games over and over every day for almost an hour, somehow they lose their enthusiasm.

  4. Like I said on your cell phone post, I think technology has gotten way, way beyond most users. We have the same sorts of issues here at work. We buy stuff that no one knows how to use, that there’s no training available for, that’s incompatible with our hardware, that has more glitches than value, that doesn’t work with our firewalls (firewalls cause a hell of a lot of problems btw and I’m sure your school network has a doozy). Also, didn’t Disney just have to eat crow about their Little Einstein programs that were supposed to do much the same sort of stuff the program you describes is supposed to do? I’m not convinced that parking a kid in front of a computer to play educational games makes them any more clever than interacting with real people in a learning environment would.

  5. Now I know something new too. All these secrets they keep from us.