Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Lack Of Clarity In A Connected School

With the events of today happening right before many of our eyes and in some cases our ears I could not help but ponder the following: What is the deal with a lack of adequate bandwidth in schools? Why aren't all schools connected to either cable television or satellite television? Why is so much money spent on more and more equipment, but not on the infrastructure to support the use of that equipment?

I reached a dizzying level of frustration at school today. During my planning for the day's events and seizing the many teachable moments that were destined to occur I was met with a complete disaster. Despite my many attempts to stream the Inauguration into my classroom, first with many computers and then ultimately through one computer, my students and I were left with a simple audio feed of the Inauguration. I wondered how can a school and district continually discuss the need for more technology, more computers, an increased use of these tools, and greater use of Web 2.0 applications yet we could not even adequately stream one of the most important events in recent time.

Not to become too distraught I immediately reached for the television and figured perhaps I can get a signal so that we can simply view the day's events on a small television. After all something was better than nothing. As soon as I pushed the power button our anticipation, excitement, and fervor was met with, static. I even feebly attempted to maneuver the antenna delicately making micro adjustments in the hopes I would get that one slight signal. Some signal, any signal, just let me get an image on the screen so we can see the excitement of all attendance in Washington DC. We wanted to get the classic picture of the President taking the oath of office and then delivering their Inauguration address. My hopes were crushed and we were left with a periodic audio feed.

Thus, leading me to this blog posting and the aforementioned questions. With all the talk about tech in schools, it is imperative that talk includes infrastructure. No matter how technologically advanced a school is or has a vision to become, it will only be as good as the network infrastructure it most likely already has in place. Bandwidth pipes are only able to handle so many connections and unless you have a situation where the network can be expanded along with the increased technological load schools are actually doing their teachers and students a disservice.

In addition the television troubles had me thinking, in the event of an emergency how would I get my information? Yes I have a cell phone as do most of my students. But when a major catastrophe occurs, are most looking to their cell phones for information or the television. No matter how effective twitter, SMS, and email can be, but to not have a reliable television connection is not appropriate. Of course I can see it now, if we set up cable or satellite in all the rooms the teachers will just show television rather than teach, hmmm are the teachers adults that need to be babysat or are they highly educated trained adults that are fully capable of managing things for them and their students without a need for ridiculous innuendo and interventions?

Seems to me safety, connectivity, accessiblitily, and reliability are more than just key technology vocabulary words. They need to be applied to all facets of the school infrastructure with a plan for scalability as well as proper implementation.
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This Mom's Photo Story said...

I have been a laggard in coming to the 21st century, shameful, I know. But 10 yrs ago I had extra budget money and bought a tv, my school had Channel One then thus cable free. Yesterday as my fellow teachers were trying to figure out how to stream the inauguration or get their hands on a tv. I sat back and gloated. I had the tv and cable and was able to watch it all as were my students. In regards to your comment about teachers being able to police themselves; I think most can but I know that some will abuse the situation and invariably this will lead to all being punished.

Sharon Elin said...

You make thoughtful comments about the infrastructure, laying it all out in simple form. It seems assumed by most that if schools have internet connectivity, their speed and bandwidth are adequate for the demand -- but the reality is that many schools that were set up with internet connections years ago are not equipped for the media and large-file streams, as well as the sheer volume of information, that is transmitted today. Updating the infrastructure is just as important as creating it in the first place! Here's hoping President Obama's technology initiative (http://is.gd/gJ9D) will address some of these concerns. In the meantime, televisions with cable connections should be a staple within schools, at least in the media center and main office if not in every classroom. In the school where I taught for many years, every classroom had cable TV, and it was useful for broadcasting schoolwide student-produced programs and special events such as the Olympics, the national Spelling Bee, and presidential addresses. Teachers were reprimanded if they simply had the TV's on for unapproved programs. This rarely happened.

Mrs. Robin Martin said...

That must have been very frustrating.We got an email from out tech director not to stream it live because we didn't have the bandwidth. So at least he warned us before hand. So most classrooms here had the tv on. It is a crime that your classroom does not have a working cable to your room. Sounds like your kids must have been very disappointed. Hope you were able to show some of it today. I agree with Sharon about Obama's tech initiative plans. It can't happen too soon for many schools.

Joe Corbett said...

Kenneth, I think a lot of institutions that are part of a larger government controlled network experience these problems because changes and upgrades take forever to be implemented. I'm currently having that problem at a public high school in Georgetown where I'm helping to organize Government 2.0 Camp. Anyway thanks for adding yourself to the list of Ed Tech Tweeps going to NECC 2009.