Thursday, November 06, 2008

Technology in Mr. Bloomberg's New York

Thank goodness we agreed to come in on Election Day so we could get down to the important work of--well--whatever it is that we're supposed to get done on that day.

At our school the focus was on technology, and we learned many things. First, we got a lecture about computer tablets from the very same guy who lectured us about computer tablets last June. There were a some minor differences. For one thing, he didn't trash smart boards, as we were due to receive instruction on smart boards that afternoon. Once again, there was no time to actually use the things as he spent the entire session repeating all the important things he'd told us the last time. Naturally we, the exact same group, were thrilled to sit through this crucial lecture a second time.

Technical glitches abounded, and I watched seven minutes pass as he booted up his computer. I wondered what an observing supervisor might write about me were I to do that in a classroom. But I didn't need to worry.

One new nugget the guy shared with us was that a TV had been stolen from the trailers, and that my students and I would never, ever be able to actually use any of the technology I'd spent all day being lectured about. I've been teaching over 24 years. Only once did I have a computer in a classroom. That was when I was assigned to teach word processing. On the first day of that class, only one computer worked, and not all that well. On the second it joined its companions in death.

We have wi-fi in my school, even in the trailers. I asked if I could bring my laptop and hook it up to the school network, so that we might have internet access--we could look things up in the encyclopedia or the dcictionary, for example. I was told that was too dangerous. I could infect the whole system with a virus, and then we'd have to blow the whole school up and start from the beginning (Oddly, Holiday Inns let me use their networks whenever I wish). I told them I practiced safe software, but it was a no-go.

If I don't go to the trailers I'll be assigned to half rooms with no room for my kids, let alone technology. So it's the dark ages for me and my kids.

Thanks, Mayor Bloomberg. It's just one more feather in your cap.

What I fantasize about is a whiteboard, a low tech marvel on which I can use a pen rather than chalk. I find my handwriting is actually legible on a whiteboard for some reason. I had one for a short time, but the guy across the hall from me, a high-level, key-toting assistant to the social studies AP, claimed he was allergic to chalk and had me booted out. It was disappointing because his room didn't have AC--only a noisy fan. The second day I was in the room he stole the noisy fan for his air-conditioned room.

I often wonder how he survived that deadly chalk allergy during his first twenty-five years of teaching. Alas, he retired at the end of the year and now I'll never know.
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