Sunday, January 24, 2010

Back to Education

Back to Education

After being out of work for so long it is great to be earning money again. Around Thanksgiving I started working at a temporary Christmas store then switched to a temporary office job with a construction company, finally in January I secured a permanent job with a school district. The differences are startling.

The retail work of course was a lot of standing around and helping individual, with the occasional cashier work thrown in, I suspect I overcharged someone $700, because my boss made sure I was put on bagging and not the cash register after the first week. No real big deal the person got her money back and I didn't get fired.

At the office I was consulted many times on computer and basic desktop publishing issues. As a relative computer expert I showed the full time employees a few tricks and tips. The permanent employees were convinced that their office was 20 years behind in most technology. They were convinced that if the owners would loosen up the purse strings a bit they would have all kinds of great hardware and software at their finger tips and would be much more productive.

What they did have in the office was a computer, less than two years old, and sometimes two for every single employee. They had networked copier/printers with scan and email capabilities. Most people in the office were issued a blackberry synced with their email. Every desk had a phone and an extension. Each person had their own desk and I along with, obviously, one other person were the only people to share office space. When I started working and the IT department didn't have a computer ready for me someone yelled and I had one the next day, complete with desktop laser printer.

Back in the school system. I am sharing a temporary office with one person. I will move to two schools where I will generally share space with several people. Of course I will spend most of my time with students in the classroom so I will barely spend anytime in my shared space anyway. I might get a laptop, which will be very useful as I am working in two different schools. Currently after a week I am still borrowing an old desktop and I don't have an email. But really the stark difference I see is the printing scanning capabilities. Being able to access a central copier with hole punching, stapling, sorting, collating, and scanning abilities directly from the computer at my desk would be so useful as a teacher.

Basically, the so-called behind the times office just had so much technology we don't have in our classrooms it's staggering.

After spending the last two years reading, and thinking about the possibilities of technology in the classroom the realities are just so very different.
  • While some schools and even third world countries, are discussing the possibilities of one laptop per child. We still have a lot of schools in Illinois with one ancient eMac sitting on the teachers desk.
  • While some schools are using internet2 based WiFi we also have schools put-putting along with overstressed or non-existant connectivity.
  • While some schools debate the merits of open internet policies based on trust and human monitoring, other schools block any site with blog in the URL and don't even think about anything to do with Social Media.

The excitement I had about coming back to the classroom and implementing all the great, and often free for educational use, technology is being tempered a bit by the harsh realities of a lack of resources, a centralized bureaucracy, and physical limitations. I'm sure I will have a lot of fun once I finally get into a classroom and work with the students. I will also have a better idea of the technology and what I will be doing. I will have access to and be able to start pestering the IT department to start opening access to more sites, at least for my use.

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