Bad practice

8th September 2000 at 01:00
In the first of a regular series of columns, Jack Kenny ignores all those wonderfully useful and clever practices and takes a good look at all that's bad and how to learn from it - with extra items on our websiteI

The trouble with good practice is that it is often so good as to be intimidating. Many teachers view virtuous practitioners with a mixture of admiration, disbelief and cynicism. Bad practice is closer to home, and much more prevalent. We know it, we've seen it, we've done it! The danger is when we tolerate it and allow it to be repeated elsewhere. Shouldn't we learn from it? Nothing you read here will startle you. To twist what they used to say on the old TV series, Dragnet: only the names have been changed to protect the guilty.

Control freakery

For the very first time the head of English could see a way forward with ICT in the department. She had been on an in-service course and had seen a software package that excited her. She knew it would suit the way that the department was working and be the basis of some creative work. She returned to school and for the first time asked the ICT co-ordinator, who was also the network manager, if the package could be bought in. Too expensive. She offered to pay out of the English budget and was then asked a great many technical questions to which she didn't know the answers. Eventually she was told that it would open the network to hackers and permission was refused. Result: the English department returned to the belief that ICT was not for them.

Where next?

A drastic move is to take away the ICT budget from the ICTco-ordinator and distribute it to all departments. That way the ICT people cannot spend anything unless it comes from departments. Departments take a real interest when "their money" is being spent. The ICT people will be compelled to consult and listen and the ICT will reflect the needs of the school rather than the enthusiasms of ICT devotees.


"Going into there would be like going into the boys toilet." The speaker, a clever 16-year-old girl in a mixed school, was looking into the main ICT room at an after-school ICT club. Some boys were clustered round the ICT teacher and the conversation was about servers, ADSL, Linux and the best way of downloading pirated copies of Doom. ther boys were trying to hack into a site in Russia.

Where next?

There are no easy answers; 50 per cent of the population of that school is disadvantaged. That this situation has grown, probably means that sexism is deep in the school's culture. It will take someone brave to confront it but they will need high level support from senior management.

(Mis) managed services

A trainer was hoping to do NOF training with some librarians in a secondary school. The course was due to last six weeks and the trainer had the software installed well before the first session of the course. Next day, at the beginning of the second session, it was discovered that the software was no longer there. It had been removed. It was explained to the angry trainer that this was a "managed service" and the managers, a prominent educational ICT company, swept the servers clean of alien software at the end of each day. All software had to be approved by the company running the managed service.

Where next?

Tell the company that they should fit the system to the school, not the school to the system. There should be a renewal date on your contract, remind them of that fact.

Mr Jobsworth

"We've solved the problem of the Internet," he said. "How?" "We don't let them search."

"Why?" "They get into trouble: porn, violence, chasing their own interests. They just get swamped. Lose focus." "Isn't teaching them to search important?" "In theory, but in practice we just download a few important sites chosen by teachers on to our intranet and keep them to that." "What happens when they are out of school?" "God knows. Not my responsibility."

Where next?

You can't blame people for playing safe, but information skills need to be exercised in the real world. This is another occasion when the whole staff should discuss the issues and create a policy for searching.

We are looking for more genuine examples of bad practice. If you know of any, please email details to Jack Kenny at jack.kenny@who.netThe purpose of this is to encourage good practice, there is no intention to pillory any school or individual. All material that we use will preserve anonymity.Bad Practice will feature in future issues of TES Online and will feature extra material on the TES website.

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