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Copyright

This afternoon I watched a pupil Alt+Tab between Google and Paint while he painstakingly redrew by hand a logo he had found on Google Images.

Either he’s never heard of copy & paste, or he’s taking respect for copyrighted images incredibly seriously.

Double-barrelled

I swear, when we get students who have two names that were already nigh unpronounceable to an English speaker, and the parents have combined them into a double-barrelled surname, they are just doing it to wind us up.

(And to make sure we have to make the ‘name’ box on all our MIS reports longer.)

On a related note, parents who give their children a first name that rhymes with their surname are sadists.

The Fixer

I was in our Reception classrooms earlier this week looking at an audio problem; turned out to be as simple as one of the children having sneakily switched the audio input from AUX to CD. I have yet to fathom why the morons at Promethean thought it would be a good idea to supply amplifiers for classrooms with 4 discrete inputs, but we’ve got almost a dozen of them. We had more until the capacitors started going pop.

As I was leaving, a little girl asked me “Are you a fixer?”

“Yes,” I replied. “I’m an underworld fixer.”

I’ve since been told that not all 5-year-olds understand my humour.

What’s wrong with this network port?

“We’ve plugged the laptop in,” came the call from the exam room, “but it’s not letting us log in… we think there might be something wrong with the network port though…”

Normally I try to discourage too much technical self-diagnosis from my users, but in this case, they were not wrong. See if you can determine what’s the problem is with this network port though a simple observational test:

What's wrong with this network port (apart from it being a single socket and being labelled 'RM')

Answer: click here.

Now, I’ve tried to replicate this ‘fault’ through normal use, and it’s not easy. The question is which little snotbag managed to do this in a room that is normally only used under exam conditions…

Bully

To any school bullies:

Contrary to what you may believe, the school CAN and WILL intervene in cyberbullying that takes place outside of school – just like any other kind of bullying. The law is behind us on this, so get used to it.

P.S. Your mates don’t really think it’s big or clever either, and are telling us exactly what you’re up to, so we will catch you.

To anyone being bullied:

Contrary to what the bullies would have you believe, the school CAN and WILL intervene in cyberbullying that takes place outside of school – just like any other kind of bullying. Tell your teacher. Tell any other member of staff. Get help from CEOP. They all know what to do and who you should go to.

Any school that is not prepared for the above would fail an Ofsted inspection, and is already failing its pupils. My school is not one of them.

Dear Year 7

Changing your fellow students’ desktop background to My Little Pony without their knowledge is only amusing in exactly one circumstance.

That circumstance is “when I do it.” *

If you decide to ‘borrow’ their password, log on in the Library when no-ones looking, and muck around with their account, that is what people in the real world like to call “an offence under section 1 of the Computer Misuse Act 1990”.

Stop it.

(And while you’re here, enough with the Wikipedia vandalism already.)

Love and kisses,
AngryTechnician

* as a friendly reminder when they forget to log off.

Immune

My immune system is a finely tuned machine.

Besieged by the daily onslaught of contagious children, my immune system can withstand the onslaught of any disease, fiercely holding it off until about 4pm on a Friday.

It can then, without fail, have the entire thing handily cleaned up by 9am on Monday.

Retort

Teacher: “When do you think they’ll finally make computers that never go wrong?”
AngryTechnician: “The same time they start making children that never throw up in your classroom.”

Teacher: “You must feel like your job is never-ending with all the things that go wrong.”
AngryTechnician: “You get a new class of kids every year, surely yours is never-ending too?”

Teacher: “Don’t you ever get sick of working with computers?”
AngryTechnician: “Don’t you ever get of sick of working with children?”

One of the odd things about working in a school is that the majority of the staff all have exactly the same profession, and almost all of them enjoy their job and view it as a career (except for the rare miserable git who is only still teaching because they’d otherwise be unemployed). Sure, there are specialist teachers for different subjects, but they are all teachers, and that makes it very easy for them to relate to one another. This mutual understanding breeds a mentality where they forget that it’s quite normal not to understand some of your co-workers jobs. They look at the rest of us with puzzlement, and begin to assume, even if only subconsciously, that everyone else in the school who isn’t a teacher must be unhappy in their job, or find it very frustrating.

Therefore, I must look at them and long to be a teacher. My job must be horrible, and be absolutely nothing like teaching in any way. In fact, there are some interesting similarities. We both spend all day attempting to convince our charges to behave and follow instructions – charges that are prone to sudden strops without warning, produce large amounts of hot air when there are more than a few of them in one room, and generally respond badly to physical violence (as much as we would wish otherwise).

For the first 2 years in my last school I was asked if I wanted to become a teacher on an almost fortnightly basis (often by the same people). It only stopped after I started responding, “No, I hate children. Why else would I work in a school?”

Automatically increasing the system font size in Windows 7

My first real technical support job was with a very large IT company that everybody has heard of, a far cry from the small 1-man IT operation I am now. Part of that job was issuing new laptops to quite senior technical sales bods, and ensuring that all their files were correctly transferred to the new machine.

That year, the top-of-the-range machines we were giving out to these undeserving gits weren’t coming with 1024×768 screens any more; they had nice, crisp, state-of-the-art 1400×1050 screens. While I thought they were gorgeous, not everyone agreed, insisting that the higher resolution made the fonts too small to read. This complaint was most prominent among the middle-aged salesmen who I quickly worked out were too vain to admit they were now of an age at which they needed reading glasses. Even in those days I did not suffer fools gladly, especially having had to wear glasses since age 9, and I almost certainly upset at least one of them by subtly suggesting they might need to visit an optician.

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How ICT Co-ordinators could save the IT industry from collapse

Over the weekend I read with great interest an article by Ben Nunney, an education IT specialist who I met briefly last year in one of his roles with Microsoft. I started writing a reply as a comment on his post, but it quickly ballooned into what I think is now the longest post ever to feature on this blog.

Ben’s blog post, A Lesson Worth Learning, touched on several important themes in secondary-level ICT teaching in schools, with some feedback from a current student named Kevin that was eerily familiar: “We don’t really learn anything,” he said. “One time I ended up having to teach the class because the teacher didn’t know how to.”

I’d like to take a moment now to quote from my own secondary school report from more than a decade ago:

“Young AngryTechnician approached any task in IT with immense enthusiasm right from the beginning of Year 7. By the end of Key Stage 3 he had greater skills than the staff, though he was always very diplomatic about the application.”

Regular readers will now be in stitches over my supposed diplomacy skills; I attribute this aberration directly to the innocence of youth. My point here is not to inflate my own ego, however much I might enjoy the extremely rare occasions on which I can quote that report, but to point out that Kevin’s experience, 15 years later, is almost identical to my own. I don’t believe either of us are IT savants, so how is it that after all that time, the situation is the same?

Well, there is a fundamental problem with IT in schools. I’ve seen it for years, and Ben’s post echoes my own feelings. As someone with a strong academic background in IT, I’ve long argued that the national curriculum for ICT is desperately unambitious, and is ultimately failing both its students and the industry that relies on them.

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