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Question about responsibility...

PostPosted: Thu May 31, 2012 11:19 pm
by MayheM
I have not posted one of these serious topics in a while and wanted to get some feedback for your guys. Mainly because many of you are younger and I want to see if I am way off base with the way i view this stuff or if it is the students here and the way the administration runs the school...

So in the past few days I have faced and dealt with several issues involving students being ill prepared. Every student in the school is required to have a laptop. While the school will provide a Dell laptop for a minor fee, students are also free to bring their own laptops to school. Several students are Mac fans so they choose to bring their Mac in. Anyway...

Scenario 1. Last week seniors did their final presentations. Mac users needed to use on our LCD projectors and did not have the adapter to connect a MacBook to a VGA cable. The ASSistant head of school, who is the only Mac user in the entire school I might add, came in and said we should have adapters ready for them in case they do not have one of their own.

The way I see it. It is the job of our school to make sure these kids are prepared for the real world. Part of being prepared is having what you need to do your job. Since the students chose to use his or her own laptops to do their work, they should be responsible for having their own adapter.
Scenario 2. Today Final Exams began and most were administered using an online system for submission. One student, who happened to have a Mac, did not have a charger and her laptop was out of juice. I was first asked if we had any Apple chargers, we do not. I was then asked what could be done. I ran to my office grabbed a loaner and set her up so she could finish her exam.

The way I see it. Again this comes down to being prepared. The students knew they needed their laptops for the exam. It should have been either fully charged, or they should have had their charger with them. If I were the teacher I would have failed the student, or at the very least made them take a make-up exam but deduct points from her final grade.
To clarify, because I seem to be picking on Mac users. Students with PCs come in every day to borrow chargers, so they are just as guilty of being unprepared. In fact I spoke with the aforementioned ASSistant head of school and said I was going to start requiring students to leave their ID in order to borrow something. If they do not have their ID, they can not borrow anything. She said "you cant do that! If they need it for their work then we need to provide it!" This after she just finished saying I need to keep tabs on the chargers and make sure we maintain inventory levels. It is things like this which causes me to putt the emphasis on the first three letters of her position.

So, Like I said, I want to know if I am way off here, or if I am being logical. What would happen in your schools if these things happened? What do you guys think is fair?

Re: Question about responsibility...

PostPosted: Thu May 31, 2012 11:46 pm
by Major Banter
Scenario 1; I don't see why a few backups can't be kicking around. However, my old school never had those kind of funds - you forgot it, you couldn't present. 'Bring a backup' was the rule for a lot of these kind of things. Fact of the matter is that we all have USB sticks. I believe you are correct in principle, but it seems nitpicky either way.

Scenario 2; Again, very easy to get nitpicky. It's the same argument again - why not have them? But why should you have them?

In an art exam in my last year of school, I was using Source SDK. I'd booted it up connected to my home internet to avoid any 'Can't start Steam!' problems because we didn't have wifi or ethernet in the room. Totally prepared - but I forgot my reference pictures, which were absolutely vital. So I detail passed an area I was improvising on anyway, and during a short break went aaaaaalllllll the way home, got my USB and got back in the room just in time.

That's how my school worked. There just plain wasn't another solution on hand. I don't feel you should penalise people though when your entire school is based around a laptop - the fault lies with the system imo. You should supply the parts, but don't make it easy - your ID card solution is a good start. Make it a massive hassle to get something simple, and you cover both problems. It's still accessible, but the students would rather not go through it.

Re: Question about responsibility...

PostPosted: Fri Jun 01, 2012 2:38 am
by joe_rogers_11155
If these scenarios take place in a public high school, then I think there is little way (at least in the US) to avoid pressure from all angles for the public school system to provide the supporting equipment that the students need to complete their computer-based projects...even if the funding for such supporting equipment is nearly non-existent (at least in the US). To answer your question about who is ultimately responsible for providing the supporting equipment, I think it falls on the public school system. The reason I say this is because you have made laptops mandatory in the classrooms.

If you provide devices to students, then you must also provide the supporting equipment at all times. If students choose to bring their own devices, then I personally believe it is wise to have the students register those devices with the public school system and then the school system should provide the supporting equipment at all times.

With that said...I think that in Situation #1, a simple Q&A session could have discovered how many "unique situations" you could reasonably anticipate due to the hardware diversity out there (Apple products), and also could have discovered who would not have the equipment required to complete the project. Again, you have made laptops mandatory...but a decision like that comes with a series of second- and third-order effects, such as a need for students to go out and buy specialized equipment (things like a VGA adapter). These things should have been anticipated and discussed in the planning stages of the "Let's Make Laptops Mandatory" meetings.

However, I think teachers could play a role in developing good habits in the students. Every single day, students could be required to pull out certain mandatory items, and they get some kind of arbitrary "grade" based on whether they did or did not bring those items. In the military, we call it a Sensitive Items Check. For us, these things include medical equipment, radios, weapons, NVGs, anything really expensive, etc. For students, it would include the laptop, a mouse, a charger, a VGA adapter (for students with non-standard devices), etc. Whatever you think is prudent. These students will get into the habit of keeping all their stuff contained in one spot.

I would have to do some research to see what kind of discussions and decisions were already made in your area regarding the "mandatory laptops" program. For example, what area do you live in? How many laptops to you provide for students? What kind of hardware and software images do you run? How many students bring in their own equipment? How many students are simply not adapting to technology (if any at all)? Those things might add value to this discussion.

One of the most important things I want to say is that I do not think it is right to fail a student on his/her exam because they did not bring the equipment in...or such a decision should be counter-weighted by the student's previous academic record. For a well-to-do student to have a brain fart and not bring his charger, and then get a ZERO for his test because of such an ill-timed blunder, is not a justice to anyone. For a crackpot student to supposedly forget to bring his charger, and then get a ZERO for his test because his previous record indicates that he doesn't care much, is more of a justice. With that said, I think special attention needs to be given to such a student to understand what is making him tick and try to turn him around before he becomes a complete thug.

Re: Question about responsibility...

PostPosted: Fri Jun 01, 2012 2:44 pm
by zombie@computer
I think theres a difference between 'requiring to' and 'should'. Is a school required to supply these items if students fail to use the equipment the school advises? No, of course not. Should the school supply these? Well, if the demand is large enough, i think so. If 5% of the students has a mac and 95% has a 'real' computer, then it would be good to have, say, 10 items for normal lappies and 1 for crappy lappies in stock. Not like any of these items will impact the schools budget in any way. Especially if these items concern functionality a student rarely (if ever) uses at home. For instance, a mac2vga plug is something only very few mac users are going to need at home. For those things it would be far better if the school has these items.

Re: Question about responsibility...

PostPosted: Fri Jun 01, 2012 6:38 pm
by joe_rogers_11155
I agree with that, especially regarding the adapter. The requirement should have been broadcast to all Apple device owners that a VGA adapter would be required for the task. And even if it only costs $8-20 for a student buy one, I would expect the average American parent to get upset with the school for nickel-and-diming them.

To add to my list of questions that need answering, Mayhem: Who made the decision for laptops to be mandatory? What is done when a student cannot afford the fee for using a school-provided laptop? What happens when some poor destitute child is given an Apple laptop by his rich grandparents and cannot afford to buy the mandatory adapters and accessories?

Re: Question about responsibility...

PostPosted: Fri Jun 01, 2012 8:43 pm
by MayheM
Well this is a private school, so many kids are not strapped for cash. However there are many students who are on financial aid and they are provided computers as part of that aid. The decision to go to a one to one laptop program was made by the heads of school.

We do actually inform the students that an adapter is needed to use Macs with projectors. In fact it is in the student handbook. The parents have to sign a copy of it before the students start at the school. The big issue with having chargers for non school issued laptops is there are countless brands of PC laptops, and it is not like they chargers are universal. So if we offer Mac chargers, then we have to offer chargers for all other brands as well. So far I have seen HP, Acer, Asus, Toshiba, and several others. Sure they sell universal adapters with multiple connections, but should it really be our responsibility to get a universal charger? I could see that being an endless cycle of purchasing. Ironically this very point was taken up with our assistant head of school and she basically said that they needed to supply their own because the school does not provide anything but Dell chargers. Totally laughable!

Another thing she did that is laughable. She inquired about giving teachers a choice of either a Dell laptop or a 13 inch MacBook Pro. Her proposal involved getting external LCD monitors for everyone with a MacBook Pro because their screens are smaller than the Dells. She chose the 13 inch one because it was cheaper though... She priced them out, but left out the cost of Apple Care and tried to say it was equally priced. Meanwhile even without the Apple Care the cost was several hundred dollars more. Not to mention the need to order new software for every teacher. The need for several loaners in case of loss, theft or breakage. A Mac based server to store laptop images for fast replication. The list goes on and on. She is oblivious to the requirements needed to do such a thing and still maintain the level of service we currently provide to our teachers. The cost deferential is astounding! What I am getting at is the woman who is saying we need to provide these things to students is an ignorant twit. She went from being a grade school teacher to the assistant head of school in a high school. Huge difference! and she is honestly not qualified to hold the position she holds. She listens to to people who work at schools who do not have a IT Director that actually knows about how to run a solid network. She thinks she knows it all but knows nothing. She is a Mac user after all...

Wow, you can tell it is the end of the year and I have had to deal with her quite a bit lately. I am ready for the Summer!!!

Re: Question about responsibility...

PostPosted: Fri Jun 01, 2012 11:03 pm
by joe_rogers_11155
OK man, before I respond with fairness and equality I must inject this information which comes to you live from my deep subconscious (and you can take this with as much good or ill will as you want, it makes no difference to me):


Now, where were we?

So you work at a private school that mandates laptop usage for all students. That's fine. I think the ideal solution is to ban all personal laptops and strictly enforce school-issued laptops. It could hypothetically teach personal responsibility and accountability, and it also sounds like it could save you the headaches associated with having to service multiple brands, unique plugs, etc. Unfortunately, that is not going to happen (due to both student and parental bitching, I suppose). So in that case, I think you SHOULD take at least a FEW points off for not having the right equipment at the right time, especially when the students refuse school-offered devices in favor of their own.

Again, I think some case-by-case examinations should be applied before blindly deducting points from a student's grade. Although it is important to teach the importance of being prepared, they are not being graded solely on their ability to be prepared. They are being graded on their coursework understanding, and forgetting to bring a charger or adapter should only chip a few points off of an otherwise awesome academic performance.

Question: What does the School Handbook currently say about always bringing all required technological devices and accessories? Are there currently any negative reinforcements to not complying with the mandate? I guess not, since you posted here. But there should be!! Next question: Who writes the Student Handbook?

I also think your Assistant Principal lady needs to wake up and smell the reality of proper budgeting, even if it IS a private school. You guys are obviously trying to pinch pennies at the school, and she's not helping by trying to fudge the numbers on her beloved Apple products. You need to find a polite way of telling her to GTFO your business and allow you to shape the school's IT Program, Mandatory Laptops Program, and Device Loaning Program in a way that will not only save the school money, but also tackle the problems associated with students bringing their own stuff to class. Here are a few suggestions I can think of that might help you get into her head and change her mind.

1. Budget, budget, budget. Look up the exact same stuff she is looking up in reference to Apple products, try to predict where she can fudge the numbers (such as not including the cost of Apple Care, etc) and then make a really small PPT slideshow explaining how she is wrong to think that it is a good idea. Try to establish the school's budget. Try to come up with alternatives to Apple.
2. She is an Applefag. Try to understand why she loves Apple products so much that she is willing to compromise the school's budget. Remind her that she is favoring Apple too much for the private school's public image (or something like that, I guess I'm leaning on the "advertising" bent, like the "Pepsi machine contracts in public schools" controversy). Remind her that she is the only one in the school who thinks Apple products are cool.
3. Go around her. Is there anybody above her who might agree with you on points 1 and 2? Does she have any friends who might be able to convince her or order her to change her mind?
4. Play it smooth. Always use logic in your discussions and/or debates, and never lose your patience or raise your tone. If you present a mentally measured position, it just might succeed in front of the head honchos. Oh and by the way, you are the Subject Matter Expert on IT, and that is power.

I honestly am not too practiced at this targeted meddling, but I hope all this helps.