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Tag: IT

Stripped Naked for the Meeting

I felt completely naked as I walked into the meeting at an undisclosed building in an undisclosed city. The reception area had stripped me of the electronic gadgets that I usually carry with me. Philosophic about this I thought no more of it confident that as promised they would be returned as    I left the building. It didn’t seem to matter, well not until the meeting started.

I had no meeting papers. Usually they are sitting there waiting in a meeting filing system that is fool -proof as indeed they had been when I carefully read them the previous evening.  All of my meetings are sitting on a virtual bookshelf in nice order thanks to a piece of software developed at Waikato University called Stellar Library. It is a lifesaver in a life punctuated with meetings.

But, no gadget, no papers. They printed off another set.

Then we reached a part of the meeting where I was asked for some detail about the project. No problem, I have a complete set of project papers with me. No! Wait a minute, they are in the same gadget as the meeting papers – different software but efficient nevertheless. But forget efficiency when you don’t have the gadget. I suggested that I phone the office for a set to be sent through to someone who was allowed a gadget. But of course I didn’t have the phone to send either a voice message or a text message.

They decided that it would be too much bother and take too much time and anyway the question didn’t matter all that much. This could have been a real problem but nothing could be done about it and we simply had to move on to the next topic.

It could be that we could set up another meeting. Well, that was more easily said than done – I didn’t have my phone therefore I didn’t have my diary, therefore I couldn’t ………

There is small amount of exaggeration in a quest to be apocryphal but not much – the basic facts are correct. What it underlined for me was the fact that we have become much more gadget dependent than we might imagine. There I was, by a simple request to hand over my iPad and my iPhone at the reception area, stripped of …………

  • my meeting notes;
  • my project files;
  • my diary;
  • my phone;
  • my access to text messaging.

But it doesn’t stop there. Because I didn’t have my phone, my watch no longer notified me of all those things that digital gadgets like to notify us of. All it could do was tell the time and state the date!  I often take notes on the iPad which can then be quickly shared with others. A quick snap with the camera on the phone can capture a diagram on the whiteboard or the screen and again save a lot of time.  These things are no longer gadgets, they are the tools we use.

You see the convergence of connectivity and our reliance on these things has changed the way we work, despite perhaps trying not to we have become very reliant on them. I remember a staff member saying to me once when we experienced a power cut that closed down the networks (actually it didn’t – just shut off the screens and the CPUs) that “We may as well go home, we can’t do any work!” That was quite wrong because at that time filing was still a physical process and there was plenty of that. There were people to see, and so on.

We live in this changed world in which we are greatly assisted to do our work in ways that we never imagined. We rejoice in this connectivity when it works for us but curse when it doesn’t.

Was the meeting a waste of time as a result of my confiscated gadgets? Not al all. I haven’t gone over to the other side completely. I pulled out my notebook (the old kind, lined pages between covers) and my fountain pen and all was well. Ah yes, belt plus braces.



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Talk-ED: Early days and IT

Stuart Middleton
4 September 2012


I was chatting with some people the other day about IT and the various contacts we had made back in the 1980s as a result of what was happening then. I had spent a year in England in 1982-83 and had been astounded to see the extent to which English teachers were using computers. The BBC has put a lot of resource into developing a machine for use in schools. I returned home with the BBC Serial B and, for the kids a Sinclair Spectrum.

At the same time an appointment had been made to the Secondary Teachers College of a “Computing” specialist – radical stuff. The use made of the machines was pretty ordinary. Because you have a plethora of fonts each page in a publication had a plethora of fonts on it. I amazed others by using a computer to print out letters to the marking panels of examinations that I ran and so on. Back in 1993 there had been murmurings of all this IT stuff and what schools were doing.

But it was in 1993 that excitement mounted when the Ministry of Education decided to take a great leap forward. As the financial year was coming to a close there was still $2 million in some “furniture fund” in Wellington.  It was decided to have a competition – these days it would be called a “contestable funding round”. Secondary schools were invited to submit proposals for how they would advance IT in the school if they were successful and secured one of four grants of $500,000.

Aorere College, Decile 2, South Auckland, where I was principal at the time, was one of those four lucky schools.

To cut a lot of few long stories short – the first thing the MOE did was to deduct GST from the money when it was paid across – some things are traditions that cannot be broken! The teachers then worked with energy to advance the ideas they had earlier promoted in a more sketchy fashion in the application. The total now required was about $2.8 million.

Clearly there was not enough money so a breakthrough was needed. It came when the staff realised that we would only get there if we based our plans on the needs of the students and if we worked together, across department boundaries, across classrooms, across each of  those boundaries that in institutions mark territory won and therefore territory to be defended.

A lot of very good things happened. Some of the issues that are still with us emerged early on. Which platform should we go with? The answer was all three PC, Apple and that wonderful platform the BBC or “Acorn” as it had become known by then. It was a great pity that this platform disappeared because it was very sound in its appreciation of learning. It had been a wonderful presence in England and I twice visited their headquarters in Cambridge UK, on one occasion to see how they had developed a network across an entire school community. It was a pity that their risc chip was so good that they turned to servicing the global mobile phone industry and moved out of computers!

One big difference between what we tackled back then and what seems to be happening now is that there was a clearer attempt to advance the curriculum through the use of IT rather than have IT become the curriculum. And there was a heavy emphasis placed on the uses of IT in industry and commerce. For instance the engineering department installed CNC technology, Geography used devices for measuring atmospherics and undertook real studies for the local authority, Social Studies had access to the urban planning data of the City Council, Commerce ran the Business Centre at the International Airport – all real world use of learning that still evades so many young peoples’ school experience.

And we had fun, teachers undertook PD in critical IT skills and worked towards getting the “IT Warrant of Fitness” – the mood was buoyant. Has it all got a little too serious? Well, cheer up and just imagine if Dr Seuss had written the computer manual!


                        If a packet hits a pocket on a socket on a port,
                        and the bus is interrupted as a very last resort
                        and the address of the memory makes your floppy disk abort,
                        then the socket packet pocket has an error to report

                        If your cursor finds a menu item followed by a dash,
                        and the double clicking icon puts your window in the trash,
                        and your data is corrupted cause the index doesnt hash,
                        then your situations hopeless and your systems gonna crash!

                        If the label on the cable on the table at your house
                        says the network is connected to the button on your mouse,
                        but your packets want to tunnel on another protocol
                        thats repeatedly rejected by the printer down the hall,
                        and your screen is all distorted by the side effects of gauss,
                        so your icons in the window are as wavy as a souse,
                        then you may as well reboot and go out with a bang,
                        cause as sure as Im a poet, the suckers gonna hang!

                        When the copy of your floppys getting sloppy on the disk
                        and the microcode instructions cause unnecessary risk,
                        then you have to flash your memory and youll want to
                        RAM your ROM,
                        quickly turn off the computer and be sure to tell your mom!


(Author unknown – but I am pretty sure that it was not Dr Seuss!)



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