Friday, October 14, 2005

Notes on Networks

The introduction of shared network resources has already made a huge difference this year at WMS. Today we discuss some of the new opportunities that the network brings to our teaching and learning...and some of the challenges of sharing and storage that we will face in the next few years.

The (re)introduction of student network folders -- and the accompanying hierarchy of network folders for teams and classes to store and share student work -- has made it easier to move ongoing projects and digital documents from lab and library to classroom. As a beneficial by-product of this move away from disks and towards student use of the school network, students have lost less work over the past week.

Student shared folders on the network have been so successful, in fact, that at the suggestion of the Science team, we have created a shared space for teachers as well.

These new network folders are designed for idea-sharing between teachers of shared interest and needs. Want to share MCAS-related work and other curricular materials with your subject-area peers on other teams? Have a link or word document to pass along to the other members of your team?

The addition of shared network spaces makes it possible to think of the network as a communal resource, a hang-out space and professional lounge, where we can share ideas and materials despite a lack of common availability. All of us have the ability to create new folders, so be creative about how you want to use this space – they sky is the limit!

To access these folders, simply log on to a computer with your own username and password, go to “My Computer,” and open the new folder called wms_teacher_shared. Inside, you’ll find folders for all-school use organized by type of document, and a folder I’ve already created for Science teachers. You can even download and install the new smartboard software from the “shared software” folder.

Neither students nor teachers can access the school network from home, of course. For now, as long as we continue to assign digital work as homework – and, by the way, watch for this, as a small minority of our students have no computers at home, and are thus at a severe disadvantage when assigned digital work for homework – we’ll need to keep using disks.

Disk drives, of course, remain unstable. Though diligence in reporting technical problems will continue to be the best solution to this problem in the short term, finding long-term solutions to "the disk problem" may require broader thinking.

And we are already beginning to find that the disk drive is becoming a thing of the past. New computers these days do not generally come with floppy drives, and thus, ironically, many of our most technologically adept students are least able to continue working on digital documents as part of their homework.

In the next few years, new technology at WMS will be better able to interface with new storage media -- USB cards, removable drives, iPods, etc. -- that student bring from home. In the meantime, please remember that student work stored on the network can easily be “dropped to disk” from ANY school computer – so if a disk drive is not working, just move to the next computer over, or send the student to the library, to get their work home.

As we move forward, please keep thinking about the possibility and pitfalls of shared access. Pass along, especially, any ideas or inspiration about how to better include student home environments as a part of the emerging world of virtual storage. And, as always, if you have a tech tip to share or an instructional subject to ponder, let us know!


Blogger boyhowdy said...

Aside: When network use for students was introduced at our recent faculty meeting, there had been some concern about the increased potential for plagiarism. Interestingly, however, I am pleased to report that, although there was subsequently one incident of students borrowing work from one section of a class to another, the highly visible nature of student computer work in this school made it VERY easy to catch the plagiarism mid-project.

In fact, in this case, the teacher noticed that same day...and, simultaneously, other students thought the plagiarism so egregious that they brought it to the teacher’s attention immediately.

It would seem that although plagiarism is made easier by the very fact of student work being so proximal and, simultaneously, easily cut-and-pasteable, the fact that student computer work is done exclusively in public settings here at WMS makes it almost impossible for teachers NOT to see plagiarism long before the due date of an assignment.

We might suggest that the very nature of the technology that makes it so easy and tempting to plagiarize also makes plagiarism so obvious that a) most students don’t bother, and b) those who do are quickly ratted out by their peers. Thus, a potential problem is addressed by the very aspects of the technology that created the potential.

10:29 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home