Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Things I can't do

This is not a post about personal shortcomings, but rather one about institutional ones. I have become accutely aware of the amount of time I spend everyday engaged in needlessly repetitive tasks. Telling students the name of the library's printer, or walking over to the computer to help them choose the printer is perhaps the biggest time-suck. And that is necessitated because I cannot set a default printer for all our users.

In the same way, I cannot set the library homepage to the OPAC or our excellent state-funded databases. Instead, when our students open the browser, there are immediately confronted with the blocking screen from our district's web filter. The MSN site, because of its social aspects, is out-of-bounds for students, but they are constantly re-directed there since it is delivered with the machine.

I was reminded of how innured to all of this I have become over the weekend at Educon 2.3. I was admiring some of the great digital storytelling tools like MixBook and Scrapblog that the incredible Joyce Valenza uses with her students, but knew immediately that the requisite plug-ins would be a prohibitve issue. I cannot update anything, and though our district does push some updates out, sometimes these machines don't have enough disk space to load those. Because I cannot defrag the disks, or delete the temp files, or free up the space occupied by the profiles of the hundreds of students, many of them long graduated, who ever logged into that machine.

So I came back from SLA frustrated, and not just because all of our students don't have the same sort of supportive learning environment, but because there are so many barriers to the tools they need to be even minimally successful.

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