School Technology: My Career
As with all stories it is best to start in the beginning. My career in technology began with a fire. I worked as secretary to a school district administrator. The name of the district will remain unknown to protect the intelligent. That statement will become clearer as my saga continues.
The District Office I worked in was the first in New York State to burn to the ground. Not a very admirable attribute but it is what happened. As a result of the fire we lost all of our equipment and insurance allowed us to purchase new IBM computers. They were light years ahead of what we had so it was obvious someone would have to teach everyone how to use the new computers. My boss, at the time, asked if I would be willing to learn and then teach the D.O. (District Office) staff. When I said yes I had no idea it would lead to a career in technology.
I began by studying about the new computer and its Windows Operating System as well as the new Microsoft Office Suite of the time. After studying and experimenting I began writing a manual that everyone could refer to when I wasn't available to answer their questions. The good news for users was no more DOS. Although DOS was still operating in the background users didn't have to worry about it anymore. Windows was a graphical interface and provided pictures (icons) for users to work with. This was back in February 1996. I offer this date just as a point of reference in the computer world and to point out we were using Windows 95 for our computers and Windows NT for our network.
This was a whole new total experience. Windows allowed the computer to run faster and introduced the right mouse button. Imagine not having the right mouse button? Go one better, imagine not having the mouse? Now we did. We now also had a Windows "desktop" with icons on the computer screen. Then there was this "task bar" on the bottom of the desktop. These things were all new to us. Our computers now had CD ROMS! What a thrill, no more "floppy disks". Of course with all the new advantages came disadvantages. People set in their ways were disturbed by all this new stuff and how the computer now worked. It was my job to convince them it was better and so I did. My first classes consisted solely of playing Solitaire . I know you're thinking this isn't very good office procedure but actually it was. It gave them experience with the mouse and how best to hold it, eye hand coordination, and how to move the pointer on the screen. Remember they hadn't used a mouse before!
In addition I got involved in the Technology Plan. I worked with a committee but in the end did most of the writing of the plan myself. I scoured the Internet and researched other school districts to see what they had in their plan. I reviewed our budget for current and future expenses and when all was said and done I presented a draft to the committee. To my surprise and delight my Technology Plan was adopted.
Teaching about Software
Miraculously my first class was a success and my manual a big hit. This led to other classes as we expanded technology throughout the district. During one class I observed a teaching assistant holding the mouse on the computer screen. "Is there something wrong", I asked? "I can't get the mouse pointer up to the top of the screen!" I told you the mouse was new to them.
Have you heard the "Press any key" humor or perhaps seen it on the Simpsons? Well, it actually happened in one of my classes. There was a time that you needed to hit any key to continue..after loading a CD or the like. I instructed one of my classes to "press any key" and saw one of the teachers sitting, staring at the keyboard. I walked over and asked if there was a problem (swear this is true), she looked at me and said, "I've looked all over this keyboard and can't find the any key anywhere!"
As technology began to grow the district administration decided it was time to include a new technology position called a "Software Specialist." Naturally I applied for the position. My part time staff training was starting to interfere with my full time position as Secretary to the Superintendent of Schools. With my experience teaching computer classes I was a shoe in for the job. Now I was a full time technology person. I continued to teach classes but I was also responsible for the newly created district web site and public relations which included taking pictures and writing a district newsletter and a "computer" newsletter. There were actually two Software Specialists but the story of the second specialist is a whole 'nother hub.
I began teaching more Internet classes and how to download and upload things from the Internet so that teachers could use materials in their classes. After teaching one group of teachers how to download I then explained the upload process and the difference between the two. As I walked around the room offering assistance I noticed one of the teachers had downloaded a photo of Johnny Depp. Not a problem, but on closer inspection I realized that's all she was doing -- downloading pictures of Johnny Depp!
I was in the Software Specialist position for two years when the District realized technology was growing and was definitely here to stay. They decided it was time for a Director of Technology position. I felt I had an inside track and applied for the position. After several interviews with the Superintendent and a hiring committee, I was chosen for the job. Again, though I knew I had experience I was surprised when I was chosen for the job.
Director of Technology
The Director of Technology position expanded greatly on my duties. I was to continue what I was doing (teaching classes, the district website, and writing newsletters) but additionally I was now responsible for technology in the district. That included anything and everything. In addition to all of the computer technology, any technology from telescopes and calculators to data administration. It seems they decided since data administration was done on a computer it was the Director of Technology's responsibility.
I was now in charge of ordering all of the technology - both hardware and software. I also coordinated these purchases with administration and staff in order to more comprehensively incorporate it all into the curriculum. I had three technicians working with me. I say with me rather than for me because I never asked them to do anything I wouldn't do myself. I took classes in computer networking and I loaded and unloaded trucks. We all worked together and formed a bond that lasted for the next ten years.
I quickly learned "computerese " and the true technical names of things. I began calling that blue computer wire - Cat 5 and knew our network was connected with a T1 fiber optic. I learned the difference between a cold boot (when you turn the computer power off to reboot) and a warm boot (when you use the Ctrl+Alt+Del keys to reboot). I learned about the topography of our network - that's the whole layout, computers, wires, networking, etc. I learned about de-fragging a computer to make it run faster (under system maintenance). The list goes on but in spite of all I learned I also learned I needed my technicians to provide their expertise and advice. I also learned the machinations of administration and how to play the game to keep my department alive.
My department grew to include a secretary and a person to take care of the website and when someone else retired, the telephone system. I worked closely with the Special Education Department as state mandates kept them (and me) on their toes. New technologies were often mandated and had to be purchased within a certain time to be in compliance with the law. It was certainly a learning job. Budget time was a challenge each year. In the beginning it consisted of preparing Power Point Presentations to justify asking for more money to buy new technology. As the years went on those presentations were used to prove why we couldn't stand a budget cut in technology. The budget boogie was certainly a dance I didn't enjoy doing. The technology budget was stretched across six buildings and it was my job to make sure the distribution was fair among those buildings. My legacy to the district was at least four computers in every classroom (some had more), a computer lab in every library, and a SmartBoard in every classroom. (I so wanted to say a chicken in every pot but I couldn't fit it in.) I have stacks of Thank You notes from teachers thanking me for teaching them how to use their SmartBoards and make them a part of their teaching. I know full well there are some teachers still using the SmartBoards as just whiteboards, but they are definitely in the minority.
All in all, I loved it. I loved the job, the challenge and the people I worked with but all good things must come to an end and so did my career.
Technology is an ever-changing field and anyone who chooses it must be prepared to continue learning, taking classes, reading, and practicing, then doing it all over again. Collaboration is a life saver in technology as is the Internet. It is absolutely vital to be on top of things including the messaging and shorthand students are using in email and what new Malware is coming down the pike.
When I retired I swore I was not going to work on a computer anymore. That lasted about one month until I found HubPages. Now my HubPage addiction keeps me on the computer almost as much as my Director job did, in all honesty it may keep me here more. I read, I write and then I do it all over again.
Copyright Tillsontitan - All Rights Reserved
Technology in Education
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