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Re: [school-discuss] "Educating Tux" + IT apathy

Marilyn, you nailed the process on the head that led to the current
mess. Sometime along the early to mid 90's IT in schools was seen as the
next big power playhouse. Anyone who had even vaguely seen a computer in
college was quickly promoted up the ranks. Since they were not "computer
people" by training they were in over their head (the real computer
people had no chance of moving up as "they were not management
material"). The natural solution, as is almost always the case (I now
work at Google where this is NOT the case!), is to keep the current
position secure by making certain that the next crop of underlings is
not going to threaten the upper positions by figuring out what the boss
doesn't know. That mentality is endemic (or should that be pandemic?)
and over 10 years the IT organization grows dumber. Next they try to get
entry level windows techs to try and admin clusters of high-end Linux
servers with hundreds of simultaneous users. 

Another factor of this is the experience of most teachers is with
Windows. And that experience is computers stink! Those do. Like rotten
meat on a warm day. 

I _really_ liked your banquet table metaphor. But the brown sugar is in
reality an artificially sweetened hypnotic cleverly designed to make the
worms more palatable.

On Tue, 2008-03-11 at 07:18 -0700, Marilyn Hagle wrote:
> In my opinion, part of the problem is the way the whole IT thing has evolved. 
> I don't know if it could have been prevented.
> I started using computers in the classroom in 1982, so I have been with it from
> the beginning.  Early on, only the very geeky sorts did computer things.  That
> was true of teachers and students.  The computers we had at first were DOS
> based, Apple II, and those Radio Shack flavors.  Eventually, we had Macs and
> Windows 3.  On the early systems to use a computer you did command line stuff,
> went in and edited config.sys (is that right?) files, whatever.  The kids ran
> bulletin board servers at home and in the early 90s when we first used the
> Internet, we used telnet, ftp, chat, and discussion boards.
> Computers in education were not mainstream. But the people who did use them,
> understood quite a bit about how they worked, opened them up to add memory and
> cards, knew where pin 1 was, and used pocket protectors.
> Enter the late 90s . . . the Internet is graphical and faster . . . more people
> are enjoying email . . . you hear about computers and the Internet in the news
> and on movies . . . and suddenly IT is COOL.  Consequently, now there are those
> in education who perceive that controlling IT is a way to gain personal POWER. 
> In the midst of those power-grabbing years, there are many who gain control of
> educational technology who do not know much about it.  But they have secured
> important sounding titles like "Director" and "Assistant Superintendent for
> Technology."  They are pleased with themselves.
> Also during this time we have the Windows generation of students and new
> teachers being trained.  They have not done anything with a command line
> prompt.  They have not opened up their computers.  They have only worked with
> pretty pictures, high resolutions, and wide screens.  They dislike a program if
> the colors do not match.  They do not understand the file system or how a
> computer works.
> Many in educational IT management - probably the middle managers who are
> misunderstood and struggling to keep everything running - are concerned about
> tightly controlling the teachers.  After all . . . they have been breaking
> copyright laws, pirating software, and inviting viruses and spyware into the
> LAN.  So now teachers everywhere are in lock-down mode.  Experimentation is
> thwarted, new ideas are discouraged, and creativity is scorned.
> Another situation is that the middle managers remember how it was such a pain in
> the ass to train all of those teachers in the 90s, and they certainly don't want
> to do it again!!
> Plus, in the U.S., we are so thick as to think that if we have not heard about
> it on TV, then it can't really be that good.  Also, the old saying, "if it is
> so great, why isn't everyone doing it?" holds true.  Most of the time when I
> tell someone about Linux . . . saying "it is great and it is free" they look at
> me like I am nuts.  I don't let myself get too upset about it anymore.  :)
> ***  I don't know if this could have been prevented!  ***
> The question is - what do we do now?
> Here is something I wrote in an email to another person some months ago that you
> guys might enjoy . . . . 
> ***********************
> Gwen,
> I have just one more thing to add.  Thinking more about this after I emailed
> you
> my article, I have to say that using Linux has been one of the weirdest
> experiences of my life, for this reason . . .
> It is like I am sitting at a long table with many people.  We are all eating. 
> I
> have a feast of many delicious international foods in front of me.  Everyone
> else is eating mush.  No one seems to notice or care about what I am eating.
> Occasionally, a worm pops out of the mush.  That person is disgusted with the
> worm, but just dumps it out and gets another bowl.  Recently, there has been a
> bit of brown sugar sprinkled on the mush, but it is still mush.
> Why?
> I don't know.  Maybe it is simply the power of advertising dollars.  
> This is not quite the same but sort of.  I drive a Geo.  When I started a job a
> few years ago with a long commute, my husband bought it for me on Ebay for
> $1500.  It consistently gets 50 miles per gallon.  But I hear ads on TV telling
> me I need to spend $30,000 on a hybrid car that gets 33 mpg.  Still, no one
> seems to be demanding that GM starts selling Geos again.  Twilight Zone stuff
> or the power of advertising?
> I am writing this at 2 AM, so I need to get back to sleep.
> Hope you have been entertained,
> Marilyn :)
> **********************************
> I guess that was a bunch of rambling.  Have a great day!
> Marilyn  3/11/08
> Quoting Richard Andrews <bbmaj7@xxxxxxxxxxxx>:
> > This seems to be a common theme I'm encountering in my research. I'd like to
> > call it culture shock but I don't think it is even that. There is a great
> > reticence among educators to entertain anything (in terms of IT) but what
> > they
> > already know. This is quite a shame as teachers should be constantly
> > learning.
> > 
> > I think part of it is an attitude that computers are a distraction from
> > teaching - wasted effort; causing problems rather than being the great tool
> > that was touted. This could be true - particularly with the headaches
> > associated with Windows PC. Perhaps after having been forced to incorporate
> > computers into classes, teachers are reluctant to put in another minute of
> > effort. Once bitten, twice shy.
> > 
> > Not being a teacher I'd appreciate teachers points of view on why there
> > seems
> > to be such apathy from teachers surrounding computers. If you have seen any
> > good ways to overcome it, even better.
> > 
> > 
> > --- jim stockford <jim@xxxxxxxx> wrote:
> > 
> > >     i read it and found the most interesting, informative
> > > info within the readers' comments on page three.
> > >     the "mixed bag" part has to do with teachers and
> > > administrators resisting any change away from what
> > > they've already learned (windows). as to intrinsic
> > > experiences with F/OSS, i read the article as presenting
> > > only positives, no negatives.
> >  
> > > >   http://www.itwire.com/content/view/16984/1141/
> > 
> > 
> > 
> >       Get the name you always wanted with the new y7mail email address.
> > www.yahoo7.com.au/y7mail
> > 
> > 
> > 
> :)
James P. Kinney III          
CEO & Director of Engineering 
Local Net Solutions,LLC        

GPG ID: 829C6CA7 James P. Kinney III (M.S. Physics)
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