My district is the perfect reason why you want your IT and IS departments to communicate. One hand doesn’t know what the other is doing and doesn’t bother to figure how to work together to give our students and teachers the best learning opportunities possible.
To begin, my district doesn’t have a designated instructional technology department anymore. We used to. Before the whole technology revolution. But when we needed it the most, it was quietly disbanded. Instead, we have our IS department who are the gate-keepers to the outside world. Everything that we want access to needs to be run through them. We have to send them an email, cc our principal and then “someone” in IS will make the determination if that site is worthy to be unblocked. I get that we need to have a firewall. I also understand the need to have filters on our content…after all we are a K-12 district.
But here’s the frustration. We are a GAFE district. Hold your applause. It took a few people FOREVER to convince IS (and perhaps our Powers-that-Be) that being a GAFE district would actually be a good thing for the learning process. (This is not the blog post to go into the nitty-gritty, but let’s just say that THAT was an exercise in frustration.)
But I digress.
Here’s my frustration. My district’s firewall blocks Twitter. No biggie. So do a lot of other districts. So I found a tech tool that mimics Twitter but without the world-wide audience. That I could deal with. I teach middle school…I get it. Enter TodaysMeet. I’ve been using TodaysMeet for several years. I mainly use it as a backchannel to gauge student understanding and learning. I mostly used it when showing video clips so that all students had a voice. I found a creative way to get students engaged in the learning process because they could see a live feed of their peer’s responses (enter #hashtags). In TodaysMeet, I was able to keep transcripts for further review.
Last summer, during our week long PD session for my district, I introduced TodaysMeet as a backchannel for PD and also as a way for teachers to use it in their classrooms. I received positive feedback from teachers because they saw this as an easy way to engage students in the learning process.
I shared my student work in TodaysMeet at several PD sessions that week. I continued to tout the benefits of using TodaysMeet at workshops during the school year. I even used transcripts from TodaysMeet in webinars and sessions that I presented to educators outside of my district. In other words, I am a fan of TodaysMeet.
Then walked in reality. I was unable to access transcripts when the TodaysMeet rooms closed. But the solution was to purchase a subscription (at $5 a month) to have access to all transcripts basically in perpetuity. I decided that that was the best option since I planned to use these transcripts to not only document student learning but also as something to share in future PD.
Did I mention that I’m presenting at CUE next week? This is my second year and I’m so excited to share the hard work of my students. Then came the blow. I planned to use TodaysMeet yesterday with my students. I went to set up the classrooms and I found that I couldn’t log in. I figured, no biggie. I’ll just have my password reset. I waited for the email to arrive to my GAFE account. Nothing. I had the password reset email sent again. Nothing. Then it occurred to me…we cannot receive emails from outside of our domain.
That prompted me to send an email to our Help Desk (the gate-keepers) tell them that I cannot access my TodaysMeet account because apparently our GAFE domain “does not support connecting a TodaysMeet account.” But it used to. So, really what it should have said was “Your GAFE domain NO LONGER supports connecting a TodaysMeet account.” Did I mention that I have a paid subscription? And that I’d been using my GAFE account with TodaysMeet since September?
Door closed. Shut-out.
Oh, but I wasn’t done. I sent the email to the Help Desk and received what was probably an auto-generated email with my ticket number and the message that someone would get to me as soon as it is possible. Well, let me tell you…this isn’t my first time at the rodeo. “As soon as it is possible” could mean several days or even weeks…believe me, I’ve been there.
I don’t have that kind of time. CUE starts next Thursday. I’m presenting Saturday.
I decided to email a couple of people who are higher up than the Help Desk. My plea was that I’ve not only been using this tech tool all year, but that I have a paid subscription to something that I no longer have access to. I can’t even cancel my paid subscription. And perhaps more importantly, I need those transcripts as I planned to use them for my CUE presentation. I mean…is this seriously happening to me right now? (I didn’t write that last sentence in the email…)
Just when I think things are finally going in the right direction for my district (technology-wise), something like this happens. But I’m not giving up. I can’t.
But for the moment, I’m left waiting.