This past Thursday night into Friday morning New York City got MORE snow... so I got myself out of bed at an unsightly hour to get ready for work, figuring that at least one teacher would call out of work, and would need a sub. Of course (as is usually my luck), I got to work and they didn’t need anyone. I stayed in my Mom’s classroom for the day, and helped out with guided reading in the morning.
While in the office that morning, one of the Kindergarten teachers (who I had subbed for prior that week) was lamenting over the fact that her Smartboard didn’t work. What exactly is the point of buying and installing all this expensive technology if you can’t use it? I told her that I would come by and see if I could see what was wrong.
Don’t get me wrong- I’m no technological genius. I can troubleshoot. I can usually figure out what the problem is, and occasionally I can fix it. This mostly comes from being a product of the Information Age- I’ve grown up with computers and cell phones and iPods. So usually things that are blatantly obvious to me are like rocket science to other people. Most of the time with the Smartboards... I usually fail at fixing them. They are a new piece of technology. I haven’t really had a lot of experience with them. I love them- they really do open up a lot of windows in the classroom- but until teachers become more comfortable and experienced using them, they will be far under-utilized.
I headed out to the portable classrooms (where this particular Kindergarten class “lives”), armed with my notepad, installation CDs, manuals, and the expectation that I would at least be able to figure out what the issue was and why the Smartboard wasn’t working. Needless to say, after about 40 minutes of tinkering and restarting and hooking up and setting up and unknotting cables and wires- by something short of a miracle- I got the Smartboard to work. The fix wasn’t complicated by my standards whatsoever- but to someone unfamiliar with the way projectors, laptops, and Smarboards work when they are all connected- it was pretty confusing. Of course, once I got everything to work, I realized that two of the pens didn’t register with the Smartboard- the same issue that about 50% of the teachers in that school have with their pen trays. There must have been a defect when the boards were manufactured, or the way they were installed... and of course you can’t get customer service or technical support to fix anything without paying them a fortune.
Much to my happiness, this particular teacher told me that she would e-mail the principal and tell him that he really needed to hire me since I had fixed the Smartboard- wouldn’t that be nice??
Elated by my technological know-how, I decided to go into one of the 4th grade classrooms to try and fix that Smartboard. The board hasn’t been interactive since September. When the boards were installed last June, everything worked. All the boards were interactive, all the pens worked, the sound was fantastic... then school let out for summer. The custodial staff unplugged every wire from every Smartboard and every computer so that they could clean and sand the floors. Come September, 85% of the teachers can’t hook their computers or Smarboards back up. No internet, no printers, no nothing. I’ve subbed in this particular classroom a few times- and I love the kids. They really are sweet, and I enjoy being with them. They were thrilled to see me come in, but figured that I wouldn’t be able to fix the Smartboard. They have seen me try on numerous occasions to get it to work to no avail.
I re-installed the Smartboard drivers and hardware on the computer. Still nothing. I ran the troubleshooting steps through the Connection Wizard to see if I could get anything to work. Nada. The board projected the computer screen, but wasn’t interactive. Now, the Smartboards are nailed to the walls. You can’t move them. And everything- and I mean everything, is hooked up BEHIND the Smartboard. I couldn’t unplug and replug anything even if I tried. There are a few USB cables that are in easy reach. So I said, eh, what the heck. I might as well unplug these and see what works. And then- by pure chance and some kind of technological divine intervention- I got it to work. I let out a gasp of pure shock- the kids (who were taking a social studies test) let out a big cheer- THE SMARTBOARD WORKED! I still haven’t figured out why it doesn’t have any sound- but that is another issue for another day.
After I fixed the Smartboard I went back into my Mom’s classroom to help out the ESL kids with their Social Studies assignment. Two students from the class down the hall came into the room with letters that they had written- to the principal, telling him to hire me as a teacher! I pretty much cried when I read them. They really are sweet- and in all their glory, here they are for your enjoyment.
Perhaps I will stick them into the Principal’s mailbox on Monday... a few persuasive letters can only help my case- and perhaps in September I’ll be blogging about my own classroom full of darlings (and hopefully a Smartboard that works! )