Archive for August, 2017

A day in the life of a small school techie

August 15, 2017

OK, so it actually was several days.  Thursday last week I went to my office to do a little work.  Yes, it is summer break but I usually go to school at least three days a week to see what went wonkers (“wonkers” – a highly technical term to replace the less technical term “weird shit happened”) over night.  I have a blue screen of death.  A brief message tells me something is corrupt.  After a few minutes of Googling on a second computer I find that I can restore the corrupt files through the BIOS.  I restore the corrupt files.  I reboot.  It reboots.  No blue screen of death.  No, wait.  I cannot log in.  “Domain controller not found.”  Golly, gee, shucks or at least words to that effect.  I log in to the local computer account with success.  That works.  I try to join the domain.  All sorts of interesting DNS errors.  I am back to golly, gee, shucks.  Time to go home and have a beer.

I wander in Friday to do some work.  The computer fairies did not fix my computer overnight.  Nuts, lazy little buggers.  I tinker.  I ping.  Everything is pingable.  I am confused.  Of course the browsers are dead but I have internet because I can ping Google.  It is Friday.  I go home.  There is beer.

I come in Monday.  Still no computer fairies.  (I am starting to suspect they do not exist.)  I am going to figure this out.  I discover one of my domain controller servers is off.  Actually unplugged.  What the heck?!  I fire it back up hoping that, for some odd reason (usually having to do with computer fairies), that that was the problem.  Nope, still DNS errors when trying to join the domain.  I have an epiphany.  I call my computer guru.  He comes in.  He is puzzled.  We tinker.  I have not tried a browser in a while.  Chrome comes up telling me it cannot connect to the internet due to either the firewall or antivirus product.  This is a new error.  The firewall is off.  We turned that off first thing.  This computer has run just fine with this AV product for years.  It cannot be the AV.  I uninstall the AV.  I try and join the domain.  The computer joins.  I log into the domain profile.  It works.  My guru and I stare at each other.

So here are the lessons learned.

  1. Computer fixing fairies may not exist.
  2. Never trust the fact something that has worked for years on the computer just fine will not go bonkers. (Evil computer fairies?)
  3. Have a guru. He may not be able to fix it but confusion deserves company.
  4. Always have beer in the fridge.

Comments on retaining CS teachers

August 8, 2017

This post started as a comment to Alfred Thompson’s post on “How to Retain Computer Science Teachers” but it started to get a bit long and wordy.  Long and wordy is more suited to a post of its own, especially when it is one of those posts where I wave my hands above my head for effect.

This may sound a bit weird but could the problem be that the people being hired to teach CS know too much about CS and not enough about teaching CS?  The chemistry, biology, Earth Science teachers are not leaving education to work in industry, at least in those fields.  Could that be because they are not specialized enough in those fields to be chemists, biologists or petroleum engineers?  They are generalists specializing in teaching these subjects, not field experts that are teaching.  They know a little about a lot.  CS seems to be backwards in education.  We are getting CS majors with a lot of knowledge in the field, enough to actually work in the field, and turning them into teachers.  Unless CS is supposed to be job training the teachers do not need that level of knowledge for K-12.  It would be nice but not necessary.  CS for education needs to less specific.  When getting an Education degree with a Math emphasis a pre-service teacher takes a lot of low level math courses and courses on how to teach math.  They do not take a lot of 300 and 400 level math courses like a math major would.  Since there are so few paths to teaching CS CS teachers end up with CS degrees.  This sort of leaves them totally unprepared to teach 5th graders and prepared to look for higher paying and no 5th graders jobs in industry.  CS Ed should be training teachers to teach CS K-12 which is a completely different education than a CS major would get.

If sounds like I am saying to retain CS teachers that it is necessary to dumb down the education that CS teachers are getting. What I mean to say is if a person is going into education, they do not have time in a 4-year education program to reach the skill level to be qualified for industry.  A teacher actually looking for a teaching job has to diversify their education.  Someone coming out of college with a CS degree and an education certificate is going to be fairly unemployable in most schools.  There are not many schools that need a pure CS teacher.  In Montana there are NO full-time CS teachers.  They all teach one or two sections of programming and something else.  So in that 4 years a pre-service teacher better be looking at a couple of teaching minors so they are more marketable.  So much for the time to get that a CS degree that industry wants to hire.  A CS Ed teacher should also be fluent in some languages that are not too hot in industry; Scratch, Alice, Small Basic, RobotC, and so on.  More time out of that CS degree.

Alfred makes some excellent points on strategies to retain CS teachers.  As the school IT guy these are all on my priory list.  Keeping teachers happy keeps them teaching.  Removing the hassle out of their already insane day keeps them happy.  Happy teachers keep teaching.

My feeling is that the CS teachers that left for industry would have left the education field anyway.  They are not teachers but CS people who have a desire to work in their field (and incidentally make a lot more money).  This is not a good thing or a bad thing, it is a logical career choice.  Retaining teachers in any field is a problem.  The money is not great and there is quite a bit of stress.  If we want to retain CS teachers we must have CS Ed programs that train teachers first and CS qualified teachers second.  And maybe biggest of all is let teachers teach.  Eliminate the paperwork overload.  IEPs, daily progress reports, constant disciple issues, and working with teachers that are in the field for the 3 months of summer.  (Do not get me started on tenure).

I better quit.  When I start waving my hands above my head I cannot type very well.