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School is back, shame the network is still on holiday! July 17, 2007

Posted by davidit in Education, Education 2.0, ICT Integration.

There is an axiom here, but I am having trouble identifying it.  The start of the term has not been the best.   We all came back raring to go, well that is the myth, privately I think that we all needed at least another week each!  Evidently the network was of the same opinion and on Monday half of the school was down and refused to be cajoled into life.  After a long day running around in the rain trying to identify the fault, (we thought for a long time that the fibre connection between the two sites had been damaged in some way) we discovered the fault was a loop.  It was a classic ID10T fault. 

It turns out that a teacher who had decided to come in the holidays and have a bit of a re-arrange of her room, plugged both ends of a stray LAN cable into two outlets, in an attempt to make the cables nice and tidy!   That will be one for the weekly spectacle awards on Friday! Easy fix once found, but for the duration of the fault I had to endure no end of hassles from staff wanting to get on with their work, access their files, get their mail and access the Internet.  I am assuming that their students would have been part of that demand too, but you never know with teachers sometimes.

This fault illustrates our growing dependence upon all things related to computers, even our most reluctant users of ICT want access to their e-mail  and Internet banking and they want it now!  It is not until something is taken away that you realise just how much you either need it or depend on it.  So the question arises how do we ensure that as teacher/student demands and expectations grow, the quality of always on service is just that, always on?

The axiom it seems is that as the integration of ICT increases then the expectation, even demand of reliablity increases too.  I am continually balancing the need to put resources in front of students with the need to ensure that the invisible and dull network infrastucture is meeting needs and is reliable.  Fortunately we do have a reliable network, but have been bumped a couple of times recently by some big electrical storms that even our UPSs could not cope with.

Now the ID10T fault was followed up today by an incredibly slow Internet connection.  I was running a lesson in the lab with some Year 4 students showing them how to comment on the following blog.  The lesson was fruitless as the children spent a huge amount of time waiting for a text page to load.  I called our techs and got them to locate the source of the problem.  Their diagnosis was that it was likely that there were too many users on our network trying to access the Internet!  At this point I was ready to explode, but then I thought that if that was genuinely the case it means that we are really hammering our network. It means that the students are on the machines doing work, the fact that our network was running slow was infact the indicator of a good thing.  Now I need to ensure that we have a bigger pipe coming to our front door, the demand is there and it will only increase!

So far from being a negative, this week the staff have eloquently demonstrated that even though many of them profess to hate ICT, all of them missed it when it was not there.  When it was there my power users are using it so much in their classrooms that the systems can not cope!  Now I have to ensure that the systems are improved and expanded to cater for the growing demands of our demanding users.

All I need is money!  I also need tech companies to start to recognise that schools do not fit a business model.  Schools push the envelope of network architecture, our range of resources that we use, the quantity of logged on users is larger than many medium sized companies and quantity of data that we wish to pull over the network is not limited to spread sheets and documents.  It is time for our suppliers to get creative with our needs or at least listen to our needs and stop foisting ‘business solutions’ on us.  I think that far too many tech companies regard education as the Cinderella account.  I believe that they can learn a lot from our needs and pass those learned solutions onto their more lucrative and conservative business clients and not the other way round.



1. Marnie - July 18, 2007

I fully understand your frustration David and I really felt for you when I saw you running round like a nut trying to fix the network on Monday. I think it is great more people are on, but in a selfish way I wish we had been quieter about the possibilities so it was faster for my class now!!! 😉
Bring on free fast internet from the government – I know, dream on. This way of teaching is the way of the future so IT funding in schools needs to be enough to cater for speeding up networks. With web 2.0 tools being free to use it needs to be recognised that internet speed is becoming more important than buying library books, stationery etc!!

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