Technological woes plague BSM

Mike Geer

You may have noticed that some teachers have had to revert from Smartboards to the dark ages of hand-written transparencies, due to the multitude of technological difficulties plaguing the school.

Practically since the start of the year, technological glitches have been popping up on laptops, Smartboards, and Edline. Ironically, most of these problems have originated from updates designed to make the technologies better and faster, said technical consultant Nick Gamache.

A few days in early August before the start of the school year, junior high and faculty laptops were taken and re-imaged, which is basically “making sure applications and operating systems are updated,” said Gamache. In contrast to normal re-imaging procedure, the laptops were given directly back to the students and faculty without testing. Once malfunctions were noticed, the technology department knew they had a problem.

While some junior high and senior high classes were temporarily set back, the technology department searched for a solution. The problem was evident enough. “There was zero testing,” said Gamache. “Under normal conditions, students would have a 2-3 week testing process to search for errors. Instead, we jumped into it immediately.” Because of the immediate input of so many devices, the school’s wireless system was overwhelmed, which led to a slower connection or no connection at all.

After the various laptop and system errors occurred, a long needed test run was done. Re-imaged laptops were given to ten students and six teachers around mid-October. “It was a heck of a lot better the second time around,” said Gamache. “We were able to get an ordered list of problems, and fix them in a more timely manner.” Since then, technological mishaps have decreased, but teachers still remember their problems.

Even more problems appeared after the majority of faculty laptops were recalled a second time on October 14 for re-imaging. They were scheduled to be ready by the next morning. Almost immediately after being returned, teachers noticed that documents weren’t accessible, applications were lost, and Edline couldn’t be updated.

The problem that affected most users was that their laptops were wiped, as if the computer had not been used before. All personal comforts like bookmarks, shortcuts, and documents were gone and had to be reinstalled. Also, some applications refused to open up, such as Safari and Microsoft Word.

“It was as like I didn’t exist,” said Mr. Epler, “I couldn’t get email, voice mails, or documents. It was like getting a brand new computer and having to start all over.” Mr. Epler, the Latin teacher, wasn’t hit as hard as some other teachers who rely solely on laptops and Promethean boards to teach with. He was unable to use his laptop for four days, but, lucky for him, Mr. Epler rarely uses anything other than a white board for teaching.

The math teachers suffered the most inconvenience throughout this whole situation. With the implementation of Promethean boards in every class, the technology malfunctions hit the math department the hardest. When the laptops were hastily re-imaged, all Smartboard lessons were lost for a period of time. Ms. Glover improvised with this loss by using the Promethean as a basic whiteboard. She was not so lucky in avoiding other problems. “I couldn’t print or post to Edline,” said Ms. Glover, “There was no assignment sheet, but my students were OK with it.”

Mr. Picard dealt with other types of problems. “Everything just stopped,” said Mr. Picard, “I lost all documents and lessons, so I just switched over to my personal laptop.” In contrast to Ms. Glover, Mr. Picard was dealing solely with a hardware issue, which was attributed to wear and tear. Thankfully for him, his personal laptop has sustained him for the past few weeks.

Yet it wasn’t only math teachers struggling with the technological difficulties. Mrs. Green, a history teacher, faced teaching problems just like the math department. She teaches her classes mostly with PowerPoints, and students have grown accustomed to this style of learning.

“It was a bad situation, but I’m adaptable,” said Mrs. Green, who had to revert to overhead projectors. Thankfully, the students responded positively and didn’t whine too much. “My students complained, but they dealt with it,” said Mrs. Green. The students also did their part in solving the laptop problem by praying for them during prayer, and Mike Hansberry actually put his hands on Mrs. Green’s laptop to bless it.
As part of the re-imaging process, teachers received a 160 gigabyte external hard drive for the express purpose of keeping all files on another drive just in case the systems go down. Few hard drives experienced many of the same problems as the laptops, which is that they were wiped and did not work.

Although they succesfully saved some teachers’ documents from being wiped, Mrs. Jacobson the photo teacher backed up her files onto this hard drive. She also backed up her backup onto her home computer, which turned out to be her savior, because her hard drive ended up being faulty. Being a photography teacher, she would have lost all of her favorite digital photos, which would be “heartbreaking,” she said.

“With technology, there’s always problems,” said Gamache. “All we can do is manage it and prepare for the next disaster.”