Monday, December 9, 2013

Sorry, The Internet is Down

Over the summer, our school district spent substantial funds to improve the wiring, wifi, and networking capabilities at our school. These updates were highly anticipated by both staff and students. Over the past two years, we have added iPads for every teacher, a second iMac computer lab, a ChromeBook cart holding 32 computers, a Project Lead The Way classroom with 32 high powered laptops, a third Read180 lab with 10 iMacs, a second Intensive math class with 10 thin clients, an additional 12 thin clients in various classrooms, and numerous other teacher classroom computers. Our networking needs and wifi capability were in need of substantial upgrades to both host these devices  and to prepare for future technological initiatives. We were very excited for the open roads on the school's digital highway. We didn't expect the gridlock. 

To say that the past semester has been a technicological challenge would be an understatement. This is not to knock the efforts of our tech team, both at the site and district. Everyone is working together to solve the issue. The DO purchased additional Aerohives. HR supported a 33% increase in hours for our school site tech guru as well as additional hours for personnel in the district tech department. I've sent numerous emails and participated in many tech meetings where we brainstormed solutions and solved some of the smaller concerns. That said, if you're a teacher in a classroom with 30 eager-to-learn middle school student and about to present a dynamic lesson that relies on a stable Internet connection, hearing "I'm sorry" and "we are working on these issues" by an administrator doesn't soften the blow nor erase the loss of instructional time. We ask our staff to implement Google tools for education and then suffer crash after crash, disconnect after disconnect. After a while, the staff begins to lose faith in the technology and faith in their administrators.

I don't think I ever truly understood our teachers' frustration until a recent staff collaboration. Here, I was finishing explaining the importance of gratitude when I switched gears to the main attraction: a video that would bring it all together as we pushed ahead toward the Thanksgiving break and beyond. We clicked on the video and received the dreaded failed internet connection icon. It turned out that our wifi signal had gone out and would not return. I did my best to maintain my composure as I began to explain what the video would have shown if the Internet had been working this morning. Our staff began to shift in their chairs; I felt like I was losing them. After admitting how frustrating it was to have this technological failure, a staff member remarks "imagine if you had 32 middle school kids in the room." They were right. It would be a nightmare. 

Since that morning, we, as a district, have continued to work on fixing our Internet issues. There have been some improvements but we are just aren't where we need to be, not as educators, not as twenty first century learners, and not as a school community. A recent hire of a chief technology educator for our district will bring some much needed support. Our teachers continue to be patient as they work with us to solve the issues instead raging against the machine. Our parents and students also remain supportive and interested at starting the conversation of what a 1:1 campus would look like. I too am excited for this eventual possibility but until we figure out this wifi walking stage, we aren't ready to run. 

Our teachers, with training, will be ready. 
Our students are clammorring for wifi hotspots and tech professional development. 
Our admin team is preparing and planning. 
Our district supports the work we're doing as well as where we want to go. 

All we need now is for the infrastructure to catch up.

Edit: Since this post has was published, I've received only positive feedback from our staff on their wireless connections. Many thanks to our IT department for continuing to look for ways to improve the wifi at our school. (12/13/2013)

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