Apr 17 2008

Walk on the Light Side

Sometimes a sense of humor is the best I.T. defense.

Sometimes a sense of humor is the best I.T. defense.

Some days (and weeks) it seems like school IT is all project management and troubleshooting. But there are side-splitting, jaw-dropping moments peppered through every tech director's career. Consider these the lighter side of IT:

Apparently high school students and IT folks define success differently. Freshly installed employee-investigation software made the headlines of New Castle (Ind.) Community Schools' high school newspaper just days after deployment. “The front page of the paper was all about how students came back to school and couldn't do anything anymore,” says Larry Koby, director of information services. Students listed a series of grievances in the article, including: “It used to be if class was boring, we could at least play solitaire.” “I can't download music files anymore.” “I can't change wallpaper.” Koby saw the situation in a different light. “We knew we were successful when students complained.”

Poor Margie Crawford, who is the media specialist at Daphne High School in Daphne, Ala., isn't sure whether vendors or teachers take the cake when it comes to tech know-how. She recently received an e-mail from a vendor asking for her e-mail address to send a quote. “I think this tops the usual teachers' complaint of ‘my computer doesn't work,' ” says the beleaguered media specialist.

One of technician Joseph Knight's most beloved colleagues at Georges Valley High School in Thomaston, Maine, happened to be a frequent caller. After she reported a “wavy TV thingy” on her computer screen, Knight made a personal visit. He immediately identified the issue: A small, cheap electric fan sat atop the monitor. “The fan is not electrically shielded and is interfering with the screen,” Knight told her. “Keep it completely away from the computer and you won't have any more problems.” One short week later, Knight received another worrisome call. Her ink-jet printer was printing garbage. It seemed like a simple fix: Clear all print jobs and print fresh. “When I walked into her room I knew I was facing a different problem,” recalls Knight. The teacher had pushed her computer and monitor to the left edge of her 6-foot table, stretching the printer cable to its absolute limit. The printer was placed on the far right side of the table. The source of the new problem sat on top of the printer, merrily circulating fresh air.

Technology and Literature: Perfect Companions

Are kids who plug in less likely to tune in to books? The answer is a resounding “no,” according to Scholastic Kids Family Reading Report (2006) conducted with Yankelovich. According to the report:

  • Four in 10 kids report using a technology device (such as an audio book) or platform (such as an MP3 player or computer) for reading.
  • Contrary to what might be expected, kids who use technology platforms to read or listen to books also tend to be frequent readers.

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