The Fundamental Things Apply — As Change Goes By

My wife (the big-time network admin) and I have great conversations in the morning as I drive her in to work. We’ve got two cars, but we both enjoy the time together, and we’re worried that there’s too much fossil fuel on the planet and we want to do our part. So each day I get to hear a little about the madness of life in a large school district and how the inmates are expected to keep the computers running with no money and little respect.

dooley_wilson10Today’s story revolved around a new printer control system (I’m gonna call it OOPS-Print, to protect the guilty) that their IT Director decided was the bee’s knees last year. It was so cool that it had to be installed on every single box in every single school in the district. (It’s pretty amazing — it lets you select a printer to use with your machine.) (Yes, I’m being sarcastic.)

The folks in the trenches weren’t very impressed, but like the guys flying the Kamikaze airplanes, nobody wanted their feedback on the flight plan. So they spent months and months planning, deploying, installing, troubleshooting, and generally getting this POS (Printing Organizational System) ready for the start of school this fall.

My love was a key piece of the puzzle, and worked long hours to make it happen. She then spent lots of time teaching the 30+ technicians who support the schools how to use it, how to install printers, how to troubleshoot — trust me, she’s ALMOST as good as I am at training. (If I get hit by a bus, she’d become “The Best Damn Trainer In The World”)

“Houston — We Have A Problem!”

So she was a little bit surprised, yesterday, when one of the suits in the Admin Wing walked in to the server room and announced to God And Everybody that OOPS-Print wasn’t working at an entire school. And it was all their fault.

Unaware that his life expectancy was now measured in seconds, my wife asked him for details. Where were the individual “trouble tickets” that everyone was required to file? Who had done the troubleshooting? What had they found?

Weeeeeeelllllll. Turns out there were just a few tickets. And the local tech closed them before they ever escalated to NetOps. Didn’t fix anything, just “closed” them.   (Smoke begins wisping out my sweetie’s ears.) So she and a couple other top level administrators drop the actual work they’re doing, saddle up, and head out.

Turns out that the techs had installed the OOPS-PRINT client on the machines, but failed to select a printer. I asked her if this was the version of the software with psychic powers that could reach into the user’s mind and determine which of the many networked printers they wanted to use. No, she said, they hadn’t purchased that plug-in.

For one reason or another, the techs assumed that because this was new software there really was no reason to even attempt to try any basic troubleshooting steps — like, could the computer “see” the printers? Could it print a test page? Could it print locally? Was the freaking cord plugged in? Were their underpants pulled all the way up to their ears?

This morning, The Only Woman I Will Ever Love will be in a meeting with lots of suits and network friends. I told her to start out the discussion with a suggestion that just because you put on new shoes doesn’t mean you should completely give up any future attempts to walk on your own. She told me sarcasm doesn’t help anything.

But in all seriousness, I see this often in education. A teacher gets a new ActiveBoard, and thinks all the rules of learning have now changed. Someone teaches in a Webinar and suddenly believes a 60-minute droning lecture would be a great idea. Or someone’s e-learning class uses stupid little games like Jeopardy and Match Game for low-level retention and they call it real learning.

Sam had it right in Casablanca. The fundamental things apply.