Into the classroom…

I’ve just spent the past two hours leading a session with a group of BTEC Level 2 Diploma students. Not something I do every day. In fact, something I hardly ever do – I’m not a teacher (but please don’t hold that against me).

My objective? To illustrate how our college employs technology to meet our strategic aims. Being provided with a very clear description of the learning objectives was massively helpful to me, and although I am sure my planning might have left much to be desired, feedback seems to confirm that the session was valuable!

Once everyone had sorted out a pen and paper (suitably underprepared this group were, but worked together to equip each other!), I started off by making things relevant; exploring the idea of the home computer with a little help from this Radio Shack commercial.

How different is this from today? Really different! The group quickly picked up the idea of how there has been an explosion in the number of new technologies entering the home in recent years (and given that most were around 16 years old, much of this happened before they were around). I was really impressed when we started to talk about how much technology was around us; surprisingly many among the group identified simplistic technology (home appliances and conveniences) before what I expected would be very obvious examples (satellite television box, network router). We talked about how the home appliance, being dedicated to a single role in the home is analogous to a dedicated appliance that forms a part of the network infrastructure. It’s so rewarding when you can really see students making connections and understanding concepts.

Part of the requirement was to communicate how the help desk / service desk / support desk (or whatever you want to call it) operates, ably assisted by the now famous One Ronnie sketch.

I showed this after talking the group through the concept of a help desk; initially there wasn’t much response, but once I explained just a little, the message was understood. Homework: go and watch the whole thing; see if you can draw more comparisons (acknowledging of course, that we don’t all wear brown overcoats)!

Over the remainder of the session, we talked through security. The firewall and it’s place in the network appeared something that hadn’t been fully considered before, particularly when you relate this to other network security measures like anti-virus, content filtering and email filtering. I think (and hope) that I adequately communicated the wider importance of these services.

Surprisingly, a couple of students really grasped the idea of how we collected information during the application and enrolment – even so far as to realise without prompting that after we have gathered key data, we are then required to feed this back to one or more authorities. The idea of data analysis provided great opportunity to talk about other factors we must plan for; classroom space, physical accommodation, transport and more.

We had a good discussion at the end of the session about whether it was ‘okay’ to circumvent our security systems. Of course it isn’t – that’s why we have a policy. Perhaps there is scope for another conversation along these lines. However, what I also communicated was that done the right way, providing constructive assistance and feedback to a technical support team may be valuable and earn the individual praise and recognition.

This particular group of students aren’t enrolled full time at our College yet, but (hopefully) will be next year. It would be great talk with them about similar topics, and to offer them a chance to find out more about our infrastructure. Maybe they even to contribute to our activities.