Tuesday, August 21, 2007

What Fresh Hell Is This...Redux

The beginning of the school year always seems to find me quoting Dorothy Parker.

Last year's quote was"What fresh Hell is this" - which summed up the
"District Convocation" .

This year the quote is again apt. That's really very sad since it's not a positive quote.

August, 2007 brought "The Teacher Institute". The idea was that we'd get to pick our own in-services so that we could go to what interested us. That way we might be a better audience (teachers are notorious for being rude). Then the district started requiring some people to attend some sessions and other other people to attend other sessions. By the time it was all over many people had no choice at all.

The site was one of the districts very large high schools. It was built in the mid seventies , a nadir for school architecture and at the zenith of the "windows, who needs windows" theory of building. The place looks like a large brick prison. Inside there a maze of wandering corridors that make no sense to anyone - even the maps don't work. The "A" hall is next to the "L" hall.

Oh, and did I mention the air conditioning wasn't working properly? And that the temps have been in the 100s? I did mention that the building has no windows didn't I?

The parking lot is totally inadequate for the number of attendees. Car pooling was encouraged but teachers don't car pool very well. They come all areas of the city, and being that most are women many have to drop a child off at daycare or run errands on the way home. Besides, this is Texas, home of big oil and big trucks. Real Texans don't car pool. That's only for wussy Yankees. Cars overflow= the parking lot and are spread far and wide throughout the surrounding neighborhoods. Some folks are getting parking tickets as their back to school present

I'm to do a presentation on "Blogging". I'm told to bring my own projector but that there should be a laptop set up and waiting for me. Being an experienced cynic , I pack the projector,and also a laptop, a very long extension cord, Internet cable, power strip and jump drive.

I find my room. On the teachers desk, an ancient Dell faces the wall. It's dusty. The desks are lined by row by row (and I'm thinking I'd like to go to
Flander's Field where the Poppies grow). A lectern lurks at the front on the room. The room screams "Sage on a Stage" and "Didactic Teachings R Us".

I unpack my equipment. A desk turned sideways, crowned by a box and a 4 heavy literature books becomes a computer stand. The orange extension cord snakes across to an outlet at the east end of the room, the Internet cable goes west. I plug in, hook up, configure and turn on. Lights come on, Windows sings its happy song and all appears to be going well till I click on Internet Explorer. Nothing happens. I trouble shoot, I re-configure, re-power and search for available wireless networks. Still nothing happens.

I stick my head out the door and spy our
Director of Library Services. He tries. Nothing happens. I catch a roving computer geek. He tires. Nothing happens. He gets a different laptop. Still no Internet. There is a strong wireless signal but the computer can't find it. We hard wire it with my 20 feet cable. Still nothing.

"Firewall" he mutters.

The clock is ticking...it's 8 and the programs begin at 8:30.

"Gotta go find another laptop" Dripping with sweat he dashes from the room.

That leaves me, with a presentation to give on Elementary Blogging and no Internet. The dusty laptop is on. I awaken the monitor to find that the teacher who owns it gets as much nasty spam as I do. Leaving one's e-mail open is a district no-no, as is leaving one's computer turned on and logged ion. But e-mail means the Internet is working. I restrain myself from sending tacky e-mails from her mailbox and find the USB port.

The computer can't find my jump drive. It's still running Windows 98, which predates jump drives (and many of the students who will be using it) and it doesn't "see" it. So much for plans A, B, C, & D and maybe E. I know my
presentation is supposed to be on the Ed-Tech web site.

I log on and yes, it's there. Whoo -Hoo - finally a bright spot. Only the ancient Dell is locked down and I can't D/L or save it. I can only view it on the web. Well, it's better than nothing.

I gather the class around the monitor and it's on with the show. 4 slides into it and we're interrupted by the geek, toting 2 more laptops. He hooks up , configures and powers up. No internet.

"Internal firewall".

He notices I'm sitting cross legged on the teachers desk and doing a presentation by monitor.

"I can hook your projector to that computer so that everyone can see"

Sounds good to me, I stop so he can once again hook up, configure and power up and down.
Nothing happens

"Windows 98, it can't find the projector"

"Or my jump drive "I chime in.

He does a little this, he does a little that, suddenly we have a projected image but now what is on the screen doesn't match what's on the wall.

"That's a Windows 98 thing - you'll get used to it".

He notices my presentation is via the Internet.

" You should save it to the desk top"

"Can't " I retort.

He tries.

He can't.

"Give me your jump drive!"

Reluctantly I hand it over. He scurries out of the room, saying "I'm going to save it to the server"

He leaves me with my audience and returns 10 minutes later. The audience by now is wondering if they are attending an in-service or an
Abbott and Costello skit. Not only does anybody not know who's on first, we aren't to sure about second, third or home plate either.

In bursts the Geek, my jump drive in hand.

"It's on the server, you can open it that way".

"Show me" I say, since by this time I am taking nothing for granted.

He clicks here, there, and everywhere and ten folders later finds my presentation.

We are ready to begin (again) and the intercom squawks to life.

"Good morning teachers, it's time to move to your next session".

So much for enlightening folks as to the joys of blogging.

The Geek looks at me.

"You are sure are flexible"

Well, it's either go with the flow or have a nervous breakdown.

I hope the class participants are forgiving when it comes to doing the evaluation.


MsAbcMom said...

Oh my...what a day. Sorry!

Anonymous said...

Your post title is most fitting.

Here in Orlando Fl we had a similar mass gathering of some 20,000 educators at the convention center.

They have air conditioning, and even windows -- but a lot of people missed it, due to sitting in gridlock traffic outside for several hours. Oh well!

Unfortunately I missed the action. I think I had a toothache that day. Or was it a migraine?

Mrs. T said...

THIS is what makes many shy away from using "technology" in the classroom. Can you imagine having 30 sweaty teenagers waiting oh so patiently while you did your trouble shooting? I always have a Plan B when I attempt to use anything techie. I admire your patience and flexibility!

Library Girl said...

Beautifully written. The only thing I have to add is that in my session, although it was "ok", most people didn't seem that keen on it, and to top it all off, I saw a guy with whom I had a "date from hell" in May, and I had to hide behind a monitor to avoid him. Double yikes. I want to say "no" next year when they ask me.

Barry said...

I am so so sorry that your time spent in the presentation room turned out the way it did. There was so much the audience could have learned from you (about blogging not troubleshooting). I admire you for working around as many problems as you encountered. I was spyed by several other presenters and was able to help them about as much as I was able to help you—nothing. One new laptop could not project an image through the projector because the laptop with that particular sign-on had not been “cloned” or “mirrored” to be able to work with a projector. That seemed like a useless default setting to me. One of the high school student interns figured the problem out and fixed it. I would say that if we could have found a high school student for your problem things might have gone better.

Oh, and Library Girl will be asked again next year!

ms. whatsit said...

Problems like yours aren't just about the technology. They're about attitudes. I would like to start a student blog as an experiement with my honors class. I am willing to bring in my own technolog, use a secure site, obtain parent permission; however, my district is being stubborn in "sanctioning" me to do it. What really stinks is that we all know, given the preponderance of MySpace, that kids would connect with an academic blogging experience. Such is the government!