Friday, 10 February 2012

Taylorism In Edtech

I've just taken over as the tech-support teacher for my high school after a brief absence.  I don't generate technical problems, so I was right out of this jet stream until I came back in to manage it again.

Our first issue involved our student database system (Maplewood) being programmed to drop inactive students after 90 days of not logging in to the network.  Why 90 days?  No apparent reason.

In semester one you might be taking shop, phys-ed, co-op or food school (amongst many), and find that you are never asked to log in to a school machine in the course of your studies.  Or you might simply have followed the board's new BYO-device policy and use your own machine.  Semester 2 rolls around and suddenly you don't exist and are unable to login, and neither do hundreds of your colleagues.  On the first day of class you fall behind.

The emails started on the first day back and didn't get resolved until three days later.

The purpose of automation is to reduce repetitive, pointless work and make us more efficient.  This particular piece of automation created pointless work and reduced efficiency in teachers and students across the building, not to mention my time and our technician's time.

Why not set the shut down to six months, safely moving you into semester 2 before doing the automatic account shut-down?  Because the people who set up this system are not educators, they have little or no idea how the schools they service are scheduled.  If you don't know (or care) how something works, you're not likely to support it very effectively.

It's a kind of interdepartmental blindness that results in the left hand having no idea (and no patience) with what the right hand is doing.  This kind of systemization might seem cheap on the surface and satisfy an accountant's spreadsheet, but it's hardly efficient or effective.

In order to support a system, the person operating it should have lived with it.  There are plenty of teachers who understand school needs that don't necessarily want to teach in the classroom.  I'd rather see them managing our network than someone with no ED background who has little or no idea of even simple needs.

Efficiency isn't always about hiring the least educated (and cheap) person possible.  You can actually save money with quality.