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Doesn’t even need a plug on it any more…

It’s a common complaint in school IT support departments that they are treated as general dogs-bodies there to help with any electrical appliance at all. VCRs, kettles, microwaves, desk lamps… the saying goes that “if it has a plug on it, it must be IT”.

Today set a new low for that sentiment, when I was asked to supply new AA batteries for an electric pencil sharpener.

Not Very Good

It’s quite commonly accepted that being able to use a computer is an important part of many professional jobs these days, including being a teacher at a modern school.

It’s certainly important at our school.

So when you walk in to your first day’s IT induction and declare “I’m not very good with computers,” you’re basically walking in on your first day and proclaiming to your new employer “I’m not very good at an important part of the job you’ve hired me for.”

Do not be surprised if this adversely affects my opinion of you.

Dear School Trip Leader

When I tell you not to copy photos of children from the residential trip onto your personal laptop, it’s not just because there is a school policy forbidding it.

It’s not just to protect you from unwarranted accusations of impropriety regarding the photos of children you are storing.

And it’s not just because it’s a breach of the Data Protection Act 1998.

It’s also because your personal computer is a MacBook, and every time I have to spend an hour unpicking the vague error messages that iPhoto spits out when trying to export those photos, it makes me want to smash that MacBook over your head repeatedly.

Love and kisses,

Speaker Trouble

A few weeks ago while installing replacement workstations, I came across a ‘pair’ of speakers that didn’t work properly. The ‘pair’ were in fact two completely different speakers that happened to have compatible interconnects. They needed a 15V power supply, but had a 9V one. The 9V power supply plug was held in with blue-tack because it didn’t fit properly.

Nobody had ever reported this problem.


According to my collection of Minidump logs, there have been 257 Blue Screens of Death across our entire computer estate since Jan 2011.

Staff have reported the problem exactly 1 time.

Top tip for your interview as a Teacher

Here’s a little piece of advice when going to your interview for a teaching position: if you’re going to bring digital resources with you (such as a PowerPoint to support your lesson), don’t bring them on a USB stick that also contains the following:

  • 50+ MP3s of clearly dubious provenance.
  • Fake antivirus malware (that attempts to autorun, naturally).
  • Folders named Sexy, Porn, and xxx

If you do, virus victim or not, I will end up dumping a list of these files to the Terminal when I plug your USB stick into my Ubuntu laptop to rescue the PowerPoint file you need, and I will have a bloody good laugh about it with some colleagues later.

The Consumerised Future

For those of you wondering how school IT will work when the consumerisation of IT is complete, and us IT technicians are surplus to requirements, I got a glimpse of it today.

If you’re familiar with Edmodo, you will already be aware that even when the school has a domain setup for the site, pupils have to create their own accounts and join the school domain using a group code. This means that accounts generally get created in lessons with a class teacher, because the teachers manage their own groups and codes.

For proponents, this is the embodiment of consumerisation in action. The teacher does everything they need to (in the “Cloud”, no less) without any help from an administrator.

And for the most part, it works fine.

Then sometimes, you get an email from a teacher asking when a pupil’s Edmodo account is going to be created, because they’ve been having to email his assignments to him separately for the last four months.

Four months.



This week I received an email asking me how to do something in Word. It was something fairly trivial, but we have recently upgraded to Office 2013 and the process is slightly different, so fair question.

Or at least it would be a fair question, had the instructions for said task not been on the front page of our staff Intranet since the middle of December. You know, the staff Intranet that is set as the homepage for all staff in their browser.

It’s times like this that I really wonder why I bother.

Reading Comprehension

Why is it that the people who complain the loudest about students not reading the question properly in exams are the exact same people that don’t read the instructions properly on anything they click on ever?

“Yes, that field says ‘Email address’. That means you need to fill in your email address, not just your name.”

“The reason that help box popped up when you clicked ‘OK’ is because you actually clicked the ‘Help’ button, not the ‘OK’ button.”

“Do you see this big yellow notice that says the IT department isn’t responsible for fixing the photocopiers? You see, right here in the entire top half of the screen where you filled in a request for me to fix the photocopier?”



For 3 days, the attendance system was erroneously reporting to all form tutors that they needed to fill in a missing register for a day during half term.

Exactly 1 person reported this problem to me.

For 3 hours, the web filter was erroneously blocking Facebook access for staff.

I got 16 emails about it.