A Helping Hand

I think all classroom teachers need a person on staff they can go to for troubleshooting issues whenever they need it. Technology is a beautiful thing....when it works.

Perfect example: A fourth grade teacher at my school wants to do a voicethread project with her large class but there are only two desktop computers to use. So I say, "No problem, we can use our cart of Mac laptops and get your whole class to record their thread at the same time. It will only take 20 or 30 minutes."

So, Day One, I go to the class and set up the wireless routers and show the class how to record their voice with their image in voicethread. As I begin to set up the laptops and have kids log on I realise the signal is weak. It takes at least five minutes to load a site. I try to attach two to land lines eventually and they are doing the same thing. By this time, it has been over thirty minutes and the teacher needs to move on to preparing the kids to dismissal. So I pack it all up and set up a time to return the following day with a plan.

Day Two, I head back to the class with a much less ambitious plan. Main goal is to help this teacher get the project done, so I hook two macbooks to the land lines and try to set up voicethread. Once again, the loading of website is taking forever and failing. After ten minutes, I scrap the idea of using the macs and run back to my office to get external mics to use the desktop IBMs. I'm sure that now...it will work. Log in, go to site....and the SAME PROBLEM.
I finally realize that all student ports are not allowing the use of voicethread. What?!? I call the Technology Help Desk in our county and they tell me that student computers will not allow you to upload any content on the web. Ugh! In the meantime, everytime this class sees me show up they look at me with expressions like, "Maybe today, she'll let us do it." Sigh.
Day Three, I show up before school with the intent to not leave this classroom until they have completed their voicethread. I bring my own laptop this time because I know it is A) a teacher computer B) I can log in to a teacher port and C) I have recorded on voicethread with my computer in the past, so I KNOW it works. I log in easily and call over the first student to get started. She reads what she wants to add to her image and when we replay it... no sound. Really! I have to then send her back to her seat while I proceed to troubleshoot sound settings and then sit on the phone with Technology Help Desk for 40 minutes while they screen share my computer and try to diagnose the problem. I end up with a "ticket" for someone to come out and look in person. (I'm sure at this point the teachers in the classroom are wondering why I have this job!) I borrow the laptop of the teacher in this classroom and log in there and WA LA - it works! No problem, easy peezy. I have the whole class done in under 20 minutes. If you want to peek at their thread you can do that here.
My point to this post is that if I were the classroom teacher in this case, what are the chances that I would have given up and not finished the project? Would I want to do this project again? Who would I call for help if there wasn't a technology person on staff? These are the reasons that I begged to take on this job. I hope I can make a difference.


Melissa Ross said...

lol- only you, Melanie.

Anonymous said...

Would you like to come and work in my building? We do have a tech person in our building but they are so caught in hoarding the equipment, and not making it accessible that if you don't have your project done within the school day--she leaves at 3:30--you will have to wait until another day. It really has made me frustrted this year, because I have been reading posts such as yours and realize I could do so much if only I had access to equip and positive support. thanks for listening

Sorry about your situation! I have been in your shoes myself and when there was no one to go to for help I turned to twitter.com There, I found a PLN that can troubleshoot anything! And...feel free to email me if you ever have a questions - maybe I can help! holtsmanm@duvalschools.org
Thanks for reading and commenting :)

Mrs. Cowan said...

I understand your frustration with load time. I have been told (by the Destination Success reps) that the county does not have enough bandwidth which is causing the slow load. Luckily, I have not had that problem with Voicethread. We do have that problem with Destination Success though. 2 computers out of 20 were able to get on it the other day. The rest locked up. Frustrating!

Boy, do I know this story! There is nothing more frustrating than a great idea, that you actually try out at home to make sure it works, and then you get to school - to find a million problems. Just recently I wanted to show a class an actor reading a book that is part of our author study - very simple technology. Checked it at home and then got ready to show it in class with another teacher's computer. After waiting and waiting and waiting, I fianlly realized it wasn't going to come up - totally lost the class in the waiting. I called someone to come from the Media Center. They come -God bless 'em! - and spend 30 minutes trying to load something so it will run and then finally say the computer is so old that it just can't handle the site. We get a ticket for that computer and I bring in mine, which is a little newer. Second day, we wait and wait and wait (tried it on my computer the night before at home) and we finally just give up - there was something wrong with the network that day. I try one more time. The third day I get it up in class before the kids get there, but... when the time comes to actually show it to them... nothing! I call for help again. They come again and spend another 30 minutes finally getting it up - only now the kids have gone to lunch. The class never did see that video... I wonder how many times this happens before you just give up... At some point, if we really want to teach our children, we're going to HAVE to invest in the personnel and the equipment...

David said...

Dayle, can I just suggest - for this particular instance - download the video file onto your machine beforehand and run it directly from there. You can even transfer it to your classroom machine via a USB stick or similar, but make sure the software is present on the machine. VLC media player will run almost any video or sound file with no issues, I highly recommend it.

You're highly likely to have network issues even with everything working well, unless you know that everything is extremely reliable I'd always go with downloading it. There are loads of freeware applications and browser add-ons for downloading videos from websites, well worth investing a little time in learning about them. A little video can add so much to a lesson, and it's a real pity when they have to miss out. Download the video - they'll never miss out again.