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School Day:  Chapter 2

School Day: Chapter 2

Chapter 2

8:01 AM   Mrs. Burton has been a U.S. History teacher for 27 years.  She has been a model of consistency, and she has always shown a willingness to try the new instructional strategy du jour of the moment.

I can do this. They want “technology integration?”  Well, I’m about to blow some people’s minds this morning.  As a matter of fact, I think I’ll leave my door open, so anyone walking by can hear my technology integration or even see it if they pop their head in.  OK…so I just need to plug my laptop up to the projector…check…I hate trying to screw in these little nobs on the cord.  Projector on…check.  Blue screen…blue screen…why is the screen still blue?  Oh…right…”Select Source”…check.  Okey-dokey… pull up the website and take these kids on a virtual field trip back into the annals of history.

8:02 AM   Logan Conrad is a B+ student.  He is an admirer of graphic novels, European soccer, and Julie Hanson.  He is not a computer genius, but like most kids his age, he can navigate his way around a computer lab with no problem.

Oh crap…she’s going to try and use the projector again.  You have to give her credit, she has a fighting spirit after last week’s PowerPoint attempt with the 1990’s clipart.  I wonder if I tell her I can’t see the screen well if I can move closer to Julie?

8:04 AM   Mrs. Burton is ready.  She spent all weekend creating a lesson based on the virtual field trip.  She missed her favorite show Saturday night to create the activity sheet that accompanies the lesson.  She is in one of those Zen-like states of teaching where she knows she is about to really engage students.

OK, class.  We are about to embark on a journey to visit three important Civil War battle fields.  I’m sure you are wondering how in the world we can do this with our limited funding for field trips, constraints of geography, and a ninety minute class period?

Pauses to allow for laughter.  Two courtesy chuckles.

Through the power of the internet, of course!  We are going to take a (air quotes)“virtual” journey to see what the battlefields look like today, and there will be audio commentary that goes along with the pictures and videos.  I created a worksheet with questions specific to our journey, so answer them as we go along.  Any questions before we begin?  OK, then…away we go! 

That’s odd…why will the webpage not open?  “No internet connection found.”  What do you mean “No internet connection found?!”  I was just on the internet at my desk computer.

8:04 AM   Logan Conrad sees the problem.

I wonder if she realizes the wireless router isn’t on? Probably unplugged. I wonder if she knows what a wireless router is?  I wonder if Julie will sit at her usual table at lunch today?  I’ll have to practically sprint from the gym to get in line in time to try and get a seat at that table.  “Virtual journey”…well, at least we are not reading from the textbook.  Nope…I definitely don’t think she realizes the router is off.

8:06 AM   Mrs. Burton has gone from a Zen state of mind to a semi-road rage state of mind due to the technical difficulty.

Why won’t this website pull up?  I can’t even get Google to pull up.  “No internet connection…” that makes no sense.  Let me check my desk computer.  Just a minute, class.  I need to check something.  OK…click on the little blue “e” icon…type g…o…o…g…l…e.  OK…Bingo!  I knew there was internet in this room.

Several student heads swivel around in the direction of Mrs. Burton at her audible epiphany.

It’s that stupid laptop they issued me.  I get all the second hand equipment because I’m a history teacher, but they still expect me to “integrate technology” all the time.

8:06 AM   Logan Conrad finds himself at one of those challenging juxtapositions of adolescence.  Should he save the day for Mrs. Burton, or should he let nature take its course, as survival of the educational fittest unfolds?  All this while he contemplates the complex dynamics of paralleling Julie’s schedule and proximity as much as possible.

She definitely doesn’t realize the wireless router is not on, and that’s why she isn’t getting “internet” on her laptop.  Should I tell her?  Why is Julie whispering to Mike and giggling?  He’s an idiot.  If I tell her about the router, will I look like a brown noser?  Will Julie think I’m a know-it-all?  Mike Harper…what an idiot.  I wonder what they are whispering about?  If I don’t tell her about the router, will she just give us an assignment from the book?

8:07 AM   Mrs. Burton strides purposefully back to her A/V cart and addresses her laptop once more.

OK…let me try closing the internet window and opening it again.  “No internet connection found…” damn.

8:07 AM   Logan Conrad is bursting at the cognitive seams.

It’s the router…it’s the router!

8:08 AM   Mrs. Burton is not a novice teacher, so she quickly regains her composure and adopts a more logical perspective toward the problem.

OK…take a breath, Sheila.  Let me try restarting the laptop.  That always fixes it when I can’t get something to print.  Quiet, folks.  Just another minute.  Make sure you have something to write with to fill out your worksheet.  We are about to hit the ground, or should I say battlefield,…

Slight pause for laughter.  One and a half courtesy chuckles.

…running.

8:08 AM   Logan Conrad is forced to exert the wisdom of Solomon in addressing his current predicament and the instructional calamity unfolding before his eyes.

Seriously?  She just rebooted the laptop thinking that was going to fix it.  If I don’t tell her, will this end up being homework?  I was going to go to the mall after school to just “happen by” the cell phone case kiosk where Julie works on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  It’s the router…it’s the router.

8:12 AM   After four awkward minutes of rebooting silence, Mrs. Burton is ready for another valiant attempt at integrating technology.

STILL “No internet connection found.”  Damn, damn, damn.  My whole lesson for today is based on doing this stupid virtual field trip.  Cory, will you please close the door?  Thank you.  I will have to get Mr. Tompkins down here to fix this.  Class, get out your textbooks and begin doing some background reading.  Start on page…let’s see…274.

8:12 AM   Mike Marshal is a C- student, starting forward for the basketball team, and lover of fish stick Fridays in the cafeteria.

How far do you want us to read?

8:12 AM   Mrs. Burton is visibly upset.  The students haven’t seen her this way since the copy machine ate a master copy of a worksheet she had been using since her first year teaching.

Just keep reading until I say stop.

8:14 AM   Mrs. Burton sees that there is nothing left to do but email the school technology coordinator, Dave Tompkins.  Although the teachers have been told multiple times by Mr. Tompkins and the principal to send all technology troubleshooting requests via the official Technology Repair Request form, Mrs. Burton deems this an emergency situation that supersedes the protocol of the hand written form.

To: Tompkins, Dave

From: Burton, Sheila

Subject: EMERGENCY! URGENT HELP NEEDED IMMEDIATELY

Mr. Tompkins,

The internet is broken in my class.  For my lesson today, I’m doing a virtual field trip.  It worked on my laptop when I was at home this weekend, but it won’t work now at school.  Please come ASAP!

Thank you,

Sheila

8:16 AM   Dave Tompkins has been in education for 13 years.  He started his career as a computer and multimedia teacher, but the last 3 years he has been the School Technology Coordinator.  Mr. Tompkins looks up from the stack of the Technology Repair Request forms he is shuffling through and prioritizing to his computer screen after the telltale “ding” of a new email sounds.  Mr. Tompkins skims through the email.

”EMERGENCY…internet broken…won’t work now…ASAP!”  (Sigh)…I suppose submitting the requisite Technology Repair Request form goes out the window when the “internet is broken” and the welfare of mankind hangs in the balance because a virtual field trip is involved.

Mr. Tompkins runs his hand through his somewhat curly, vintage Silicon Valley length hair.

I might as well go down there now instead of catching hell in the teachers’ lounge later.

8:16 AM   Logan Conrad:

It’s the router…it’s the router.

8:17 AM   Mr. Tompkins is walking down the hall to Mrs. Burton’s room when his cell phone chirps to let him know he has a new text.  He pulls out his phone and reads:

New Text

Sheila Burton: Did you get my email about my technical emergency?

The sigh that comes from Mr. Tompkins this time starts with a physical lifting of his shoulders and is exhaled all the way down to his New Balance sneakers.

8:18 AM   Mr. Tompkins knocks on the classroom door, and three seconds later Mrs. Burton opens the door and strides back toward the A/V cart with an audibly relieved remark of:

Thank goodness you are here!  I’m ready to drop kick this laptop out my window.  

8:18 AM   Logan Conrad sees that Mr. Tompkins has arrived to salvage the situation.

Well, this will be interesting.  Even I know that teachers are supposed to submit the Technology Repair Request form.  I wonder if Julie will be online tonight?  I think we made a real connection the other night when we both commented on the same picture on Facebook.  I wonder if I should just point to the router for Mr. Tompkins.  He’s a pretty cool guy.  Nah…it will take him about three seconds to figure that out.

8:19 AM   Mr. Tompkins approaches the A/V cart holding the projector and laptop with a genial expression a professional poker player couldn’t read. It was a combination of patience, irritation, and acceptance of the “protocol be damned” nature of the universe.  

Ok, Mrs. Burton.  What seems to be the problem?

8:19 AM   Logan Conrad:

It’s the router…it’s the router.

8:20 AM   Mrs. Burton:

We can’t take our virtual field trip!  I worked on this lesson all weekend, and it all worked perfectly at my house.  We are all set to go, and it just keeps saying “No internet connection found.”  But, there IS internet in this room because I just got on it at my desk.  It’s this stupid, old laptop they gave me.  The internet is broken on it now. 

8:20 AM   Mr. Tompkins does a quick assessment of the situation.

Let’s see…yep…the wireless capability on the laptop IS enabled.  Where’s the router in this room…there it is.  Yep…there are no power or signal lights on.

Mr. Tompkins walks over to the wireless internet router sitting on top of a filing cabinet against the wall.  He sees the power cord dangling down the back with the plug six inches away from the wall outlet.

Yep…I should have gone into computer programming like my dad tried to get me to do.  But instead, I wanted to “change the world.” And I find myself playing tech repair guy in a building where it is apparently an exercise in futility to expect adults to plug in the equipment.

Mr. Tompkins plugs in the router and gives it a minute for the connection and broadcast lights to stop blinking to indicate it is transmitting the internet connection.

Ok, Mrs. Burton.  Give it a try.

8:23 AM   Mr. Burton clicks on the little blue “e” and, instantly the school’s website blooms to life on the screen proclaiming the “Home of the Springfield Privateers” (The slogan a result of the school board resolution recently enacted to change from the less politically correct and too ominous mascot name of Pirates.)  She clicks on the Bookmark tab and chooses the address of the virtual field trip.  The video laden homepage haltingly appears.

You are a genius, Mr. Tompkins!

8:23 AM   Logan Conrad:

It was just the router…the ROUTER.

8:23 AM   Mr. Tompkins was faced with three responses all tearing at the fabric at his professional being:

  1. Oh…no problem, Mrs. Burton. That’s what all those years of undergrad and graduate education were for…figuring out that plugging stuff in makes it work.
  2. If by genius, you mean the uncanny ability to plug in a router, then you are absolutely correct.  Feel free to completely circumvent the tech repair request procedures next time you need me to come plug something in to avert a crisis.
  3. If you email me to come down here again to plug something in, I am going to send a virus to your computer that will use your PayPal account to purchase a subscription to Play Girl and have it mailed to school.

Instead, his better nature overrides his baser instincts, and he replies with a fourth response:

No problem at all.  However, to help avoid delaying a lesson in the future, you could ask the students to help you check some things out to make sure you don’t accidently overlook something. 

Mr. Tompkins looks pointedly at Logan.

With all you have going, it’s easy to miss a simple fix sometimes.

8:23 AM   Logan Conrad:

I knew it was the router.  I wonder if Julie will hang out in the parking lot after school today and talk to her friends like she does sometimes?  She is parked two spots down from me, so I could talk to Tim and causally make my way over to them.

8:24 AM   With the technological balance restored in the class, Mrs. Burton is feeling much better about trying new things, and she remains oblivious to the easy solution that was at hand.

You are welcome to stay and join us on our virtual journey to Civil War battlefields, Mr. Tompkins.

8:24 AM   Mr. Tompkins:

Thank you, but I have to get back to my office and finish going through the Technology Repair Request forms teachers have submitted.

8:24 AM   The wry comment flies several feet above Mrs. Burton’s head.

Well don’t let us keep you.  Thanks again!

8:25 AM   Julie Hampton is an A student, a member of the drama club, and consistently parks within 2 spots of Logan Conrad.

Why does Logan play so hard to get?

[6:34 AM] Jay Masterson has been the custodian at Springfield High School “Home of the Privateers” for seventeen years.  He does a fantastic job keeping the classrooms clean.  Jay does extra things like dusting the teachers’ computers and cleaning the windows, and the teachers love him for it.  This morning he decided to wipe down the countertops and filing cabinets in Mrs. Burton’s class, so he methodically removed the books, stacks of paper, and other resources and placed them on student desks.  Task accomplished and a medicinal citrus scent wafting in the air, he returned everything to its proper place…with the exception of plugging the router back in.

Well, that looks better.  Mrs. Burton loves that Mega Orange disinfectant cleaner smell, so she will notice right away when she gets in this morning.  She’s a great teacher, and I’m glad I can help her get her day started off right.

Technology can be a beautiful and useful thing…when it works…or when an educator has been given sufficient training to use it and accomplish basic troubleshooting.  Can we fault Mrs. Burton for not knowing that her “emergency” could be fixed by simply plugging in her router?  Maybe…but is it fair to expect teachers to be technology gurus on top of instructors, counselors, fundraising experts, and pseudo parents?  Some would say “yes” because technology permeates our culture now.  Some would say “no” because it’s a handful just to use the stuff and change student lives in the process.  Actually, the whole concept of “technology integration” might be oversold since it is so easily subverted by adolescent crushes and fastidious custodians.

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This Post Has One Comment

  1. Love this. I’m a tech teacher too, among the thousand other hats educators wear on any given occasion. How do you deem what students are thinking in your reflections?

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