I have had a blog post idling on my computer for a week, but I could not post it as it was just too angry. I am passionate about what I do and I do not apologize for getting worked up when my school district sets us back 5-10 years in the technology arena. But I also recognize that just going off on an angry rant about it will get me no where.
I walked into my building to find that a great number of computers have been removed from my school building, not because they were not working, just because they are 5 years old. I would have no problem with this, but there will be no more replacements for two years. I just don't understand taking perfectly good computers out of the hands of students.
Our state has added a new web filter. Right now it blocks an awful lot of sites, but they have a very simple Click here feature that allows you to justify a site. They are very fast about re-rating it, but then it still seems we are blocked at a district level. I can't get to a number of blogs. I can't Twitter. I can't download anything. I can't get to ANY multimedia site: YouTube, TeacherTube, streaming audio, even clipart! Web 2.0? I would be happy with just a few of these open! How am I supposed to teach my multimedia learners like this?
If that wasn't enough, I have received two notes letting me know I am exceeding my server quota by almost 13,000%. Since when do we have a limit? And that limit is 250 MB. Are you kidding? So, frustration getting the best of me, I decided to just take EVERYTHING off the server only to find out that when they re-imaged my teacher computer over the summer, I no longer can burn CDs. So I shot off a message to the help desk. I also made it clear that I don't think it is right that they are recommending teachers purchase their own thumb drives to store data. We work for the district, shouldn't they provide a place for us to store our files? Is 250 MB reasonable? Luckily, I had burned all my files in the spring and I just dropped the new files right onto my computer today. I have dumped everything else. I am no longer a bother to the server.
By this week I was ready to throw in the towel. I switched teaching positions so that I could lead by example and show teachers how to integrate technology into the curriculum. Fat chance! My hands are tied. Yes, I have classblogmeister set up, but now they are getting ready to dictate to me what blog I can use. They are not sure they want me using my wiki. Maybe I should just ask what may I use, please?
Thankfully, yesterday was the first day of students. Many of my 8th graders were surprised to see me as an 8th grade English and Social Studies teacher. I was a computer teacher for 10 years. I was greeted with hugs. Many of those that are in my core were cheering and many who didn't get me expressed disappointment. It doesn't take long to remember WHY we do this job. I need these kids probably more than they could ever need me. By today I was already starting curriculum. And they got right to work. We wrote a short poem today and not one of them complained. I love being a teacher!
So where does that leave me? Do I believe I can teach 21st century learners with 21st century tools? Not really. I have a lot of new curriculum to learn. Do I have the energy to fight this fight? Do I have a choice? Next week my kids are going to be using the computers. They are going to be as frustrated as I am. What am I to tell them?
Fighting this in my district is going to be tough. We have a lot of new administrators this year. They have a learning curve of their own. I understand that. Are they going to be willing to take on a tough fight? Do I dare take it to my school board? Man, can't that get you fired? How about taking it to the media and ultimately to the public. Pretty risky. I remember when I went in my classroom and just taught my kids. Life was simpler then. I can't go back to that now, but need to figure out how to go forward. One thing is certain though, I am not in this alone. Many, many other teachers are feeling the same way I am. When I put my neck out, I am confident there are others behind me. Teachers uniting for a cause should be a force to be reckoned with.
Will it work or will I be looking for a new district to teach in???
UPDATE: I greatly appreciate all the feedback I have received and it has been most helpful.
Doug Johnson made a reference to Mars and Venus and has helped me see that part of the problem is communication. We speak different languages. For example, the fact that I received a notice telling my I was almost 13,000% over my 250 MB limit on the server caused me to panic. Yesterday, I had a reasonable conversation with a young lady in the IT department that said that we were nearly filling our servers and that there was a lot of data that could be put on discs freeing up the space. They are making the quotas bigger for teachers that request and justify why they need more space. It was practical for them to set one limit and send that to all. For most of our staff, it was taken wrong (myself included) and we felt like we were being told that our materials were not to be given a place to be stored. I reacted strongly and pulled ALL of my stuff off the server. I had a genuine reason for most of what was there, but there was also a number of files that could have been archived to discs, freeing some of the space they needed. I think it is in the language in which the requests are presented.
The same, I believe is going to hold true for a number of the sites that are blocked. Many of us are putting together a list of the tools we would like to use, a reason why we would like to use them, and a rationale for what they will add to our curriculum. While I struggle with having to defend my every move, I also recognize that our IT department IS trying to ensure the safety of our students. Hopefully, we can meet in the middle.
Thanks for all your suggestions and help. I will be searching through the many blogs I read to take guidance in the tools you are using and how they are working in your classes.