Getting Students Started with Technology

This first week of summer school, I put my high beginning and low intermediate adult ESL students in Talk ‘n’ Tech on Blackboard and Gmail.  The basics went relatively smoothly.  The problem I ran into was that returning students could not log in to the programs, not because of language issues or a lack of computer skills.  On the contrary, the students were able to follow my oral instructions well aided by my projected computer screen which enabled them to simultaneously watch a step-by-step demonstration.  The difficulty was that our school has the policy of changing both email and Blackboard passwords every 180 days in order to protect student privacy and security.  While it is true that it sends out several email warnings to the students advising them that their passwords will soon expire if they don’t change them, it is also true that until this semester, these students neither knew how to use either Blackboard or Gmail nor ever used either account.   Regardless of that, all passwords were already expired when the students tried to log in this week for the first time.  I assured them that the problem wasn’t due to their poor understanding of English or to their ineptness at using the computer, (which is generally where they put the blame), but rather to an institutional policy.  I would like to suggest to IT that they not change student passwords unless the student accounts have been previously activated.  Activation would suggest usage and a probable need to change passwords occasionally.  Otherwise, no.

Our HELP desk techs were sympathetic and kind, and corrected the problem with just a phone call, and I was able to move ahead the next day.  The situation only held us back a day for each new program.  However, it did reduce the students’ immediate thrill of learning to use the computer, and it also made them apprehensive about their future as technology users.

Now, what have I learned from this? I promise to always (try to) smile (arghhh!) and model positive behavior for the students in the face of future technology challenges.   I’ll also avoid disheartening students before they even get started on technology by trying out the student accounts first myself prior to putting the students on the computers.

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