Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Have you thanked your IT director today?

We use Microsoft Outlook for our email system.

The long pause was for all of the Google Apps for Educators users to finish booing and throwing fruit...

Over the past 3 weeks, we have had some interruptions in service. Usually, when we have an interruption in Internet service, it is due to a small power outage, a server switch getting reset, overly stormy and windy day that causes havoc with the alignment of our microwave dishes, website provider server crash, etc. For my 6 years in my current district, these are the first instances of the issue being actually on the Microsoft side.

If you would like to skip the diatribe that will follow and get to my main point, scroll past the section enclosed by the row of asterisks...


The first instance happened on the Monday before Thanksgiving. I was going to do some substitute professor-ing at a local university for a colleague of mine who teaches an evening course in methods of reading to pre-service teachers. I have been doing this every semester for the past 4 years and love the opportunity to introduce pre-service teachers to Web 2.0 and technology that can be infused into instruction to increase student engagement. The local university has been under construction and thus, the room where the class is held each semester has changed.

When my colleague asked me to talk with her class again, she sent me a calendar invite with the room number and the time she told the students to show up. I was ready. I had my interactive presentation ready, brief hand-outs, exit slip...these students were going to do some exploring and learning! I arrived at the university about 45 minutes before the class was scheduled to begin, park my car and check my calendar one last time to note the room number...that was odd, the calendar on my iPhone didn't show the event anymore.

I got out of my car and gathered my materials and walked toward the building thinking it must be something with my phone. I would go into the building and log into my web access email and verify the room number. Only problem was that when I logged into the web access email, the calendar was showing a date of November...of the year 2000! This was impressive on multiple levels, one being that for an instant, I thought I had successfully travelled through time, and the other was that I did not work for this district in 2000 and yet they prognosticated that I would grace them with my presence and had established an account for me 6 years before my auspicious arrival. Unfortunately, neither was true.

What had happened was that the authenticating time server that we use (from a US Naval base on Colorado) had an error and its clock got reset to the year 2000. (Those Y2K people weren't wrong about problems that would occur!) While I was in a mild panic, I was texting our IT director to inform him of the issue and see when it would be resolved and my colleague (who was on vacation in AZ) about where the room was.

Long story short, my colleague got back to me 8 minutes before class started with the room number and things went flawlessly for the rest of the evening. Unbeknownst to me and, I am assuming, everyone else in the district, our IT director spent the next 12 hours dealing with Microsoft and making sure that the issue was fixed for no noticeable issues during the next school day.

Most recently, last Friday, the email system shut down again and I received an erroneous meeting reminder that I was 15 minutes late for a meeting 15 minutes away from my office. After burning rubber out of the parking lot to get to the meeting, I found out the the meeting is in one week and I made it back to the office...slowly and sheepishly.

Our email system was just restored as of 9:32 am today. Our IT director and his team spent the entire weekend working with Microsoft to fix the issue, which was a corrupt administrative directory that led to the need to create a back-up of 80 GB of email at a rate of 3 GB/hr, then a defrag of the both the main and back-up servers (remember having to defrag your hard drive?!), and finally a reconstruction of the main server to restore service.


During this time, everyone was having some difficulty dealing with the lack of email and cursing the system, the IT department, and life in general.

Once everything was restored, I sent an email to our IT director and his team saying thank you for their hard work and long hours getting us back up and running. It got me thinking, how often do we thank people for the thankless jobs they do? If the technology is running properly, you may never have to deal with the IT department. When there is a political issue that is erupting in the newspaper, do you realize that the Superintendent has probably been dealing with this issue non-stop for the past 12-48 hours, speaking with the BOE, lawyers, key personnel involved, reporters, etc?

You might make the argument that this is what they get paid for or why they make the big bucks, but as an educator, doesn't that get under your skin when the general public makes statements about compensation for the work that teachers do?

November just ended and thus the 30 days of thanksgiving that was popular on multiple social networks. While I do not advocate for any religious group, in particular, we should take a moment to thank the people that make it possible for us do get through our day: maintenance, custodial, IT, clerical, and administrative staff, parents, students, etc. Let them know that their everyday work that usually gets overlooked or taken for granted is appreciated and essential.

YOU can make THEIR day!

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