So today marks the third straight day of rain and I’ll be honest, I’m getting a little sick of it. It’s especially bad because not only is it wet, but it’s cold. Yes, I know, it’s October and that is kind of par for the course, but this is a bit too much, a bit too quickly. Heck, less than two weeks ago I was sweating in jeans and a t-shirt while we were exploring the pumpkin patch, and today I was shivering in jeans, a t-shirt, a sweatshirt and a hoodie.
Another thing that is driving me crazy lately are the school firewalls. Now, I know they serve a purpose. I don’t want kids looking up pornography on the computers (and I know they have tried). I am not keen on them trying to find ways to make meth or bombs or anything like that either (once again, I know they have tried). However, I think our blocks border on the absurd at times. A fellow teacher came to me with her hands thrown up in the air because it had blocked a site she wanted to use. The category it fell into? Educational. Yeah, um, that makes no sense.
I get really excited when I get a new idea for a lesson plan. When I find a website I think will be perfect for a webquest, research, a game, or a cool video for my kids to see, I set right to work to add it to my Moodle site. However, about half the time when I get to school and try it out, I can’t get past the firewall. Or worse, I can on my teacher computer, so I think things are great, but when my kids go to try it…no dice. So, I am without a lesson and have to roll with it. Granted, I’m pretty good at improv (I did do theater for years), but I am not always good about hiding my frustration with the situation.
We have a process at school where we can ask that sites be unblocked. The techies go in and judge whether or not we get to use it (I should point out that only one of them was ever a teacher). If we are lucky, they unblock it. However, half the time, even when they unblock it, they only take part of the blocks off, so instead of being able to view the site, we see a distorted mess. This is the case with IMDB (which I use for Film Lit), several of the international newspapers I use (for Journalism) and our online school newspaper. Yup, that’s right, because my kids can’t get school server space, they set up our online paper as a blog. It’s really cool and visually interesting, but our student body can’t view it correctly from the school computers because blogs are a blocked category. They have unblocked our site, but it displays all wonky. I am trying to negotiate another fix, but we’ll have to wait and see how long it takes and how successful I am. I’m not holding my breath.
What I am learning to do is to have students beta test things and then always have a back up plan. It is frustrating as all get out because it means I have to plan two lessons, but it’s better than having 80 minutes to fill with nothing. So, I keep hunting for new sites, displaying them from my computer (on the overhead) and begging the tech gods to open sites up.