by David Colarusso - January 27th, 2007
The high school finished undergoing refresh a couple of weeks ago, and I still don’t have a login. Refresh is the council’s name for upgrading all of the schools’ computers. In theory it’s a grand idea. Unfortunately, it’s also resulting in the out sourcing and centralization of computer services, which seems ill equipped to meet the idiosyncratic needs of individual schools. Check out what a computer teacher across town has to say about it. Unfortunately, the powers that be have decided to base logins on payroll numbers. As an exchange teacher still payed through my American school, I have no such number. I’ve been told, half jokingly, that it should be sorted by June. It’s not like I need my computer to work. Heck I don’t ever need to write up reports, create worksheets, or enter attendance. This week, however, they did finally get me a login. I can now pretend to be someone else, my exchange mate. So far I have exhibited great restraint in not reading her email. At least I can turn things on and access attendance. For another “cheery” Midlothian perspective, check out my mate John’s posting on the issue, “How Re-freshing.” Keep in mind he is at a different school than me. So this is not an isolated problem.
What I find most bothersome about the new setup is the lines of communication between the network’s new non-governmental centralized overseers (BT Syntegra) and the local users. For example, when the students where given their new logins things hadn’t quite been bolted down yet. That is, the shared staff folder on the network was visible to some students due apparently to work done by BT. This folder contains everything from student reports (like report cards for my American readers) to confidential notes on students with special needs. Oh, and did I mention, some of the SQA qualification exams (NABS and the like). However, we didn’t find out about this from a breach of any of these or an email from BT. No it was the posting of photos from last year’s staff weekend on a blog. Some student(s) accessed the folder and decided that pictures of teachers in fancy dress sitting down to a dinner with wine on the table made for scandalous material.
The breach was quickly addressed by our capable local staff. However, it was complicated by the fact that they were not immediately given full administrative privileges to the network.
Problems are going to arise any time there is a large overhaul of equipment and networking. However, in both America and here, I get the feeling that teachers and students are almost viewed as a nuisance to those implementing the change, and they are rarely “kept in the loop.” There is no excuse for our local staff not having admin access to the network as soon as it was in place. Unfortunately, the contract struck between the council and BT seems unbalanced. For example, had we not gotten something right on our end of the refresh BT would have charged us for the misstep. If they error, however, by say giving students access to confidential data, we have no such recourse.
I have no doubt that eventually things will run smoothly, already the network is delivering greater speed thanks to the upgrade. I only wish that communication and service could undergo a similar overhaul. The new BT contract, however, means that we no longer have local technicans. Instead members of senior management are now our system administrators, and we have to pay to talk to someone at BT. Hum… we’ll hobble the users’ ability to deal with problems on their own (removing their staff and limiting their access), then we’ll require payment when something goes wrong while avoiding a reciprocal disincentive towards making our own errors. Whoever negotiated that contract earned their pay.
General Observations, Technology in Education