Computing belongs to the young

An IT coordinator at a one-campus school district shares stories of student and staff views toward technology

My first career path was teaching high school science, which eventually morphed into my second career as the IT coordinator for our one-campus school district, which when I began had just purchased about 100 computers and distributed them throughout six buildings.

The job kept me busy because there were a large number of requests that could not be handled remotely. I spent a great deal of time traveling between buildings every day. The tech issues were varied, and encounters with end users ranged from the frustrating to the humorous. But some of the more memorable ones included hearing a student's viewpoint about technology, which could be very different from an adult's. Here are a few that I think of time to time that exemplify those generational differences.

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The adult's view: 'Not my problem' One day I was at a far end of campus busily doing a repair of some kind when I got an urgent call from the unit office. An auditor was visiting, and she needed to use her laptop -- immediately. I asked what the problem was and was only told that she couldn't get power. They wouldn't tell me anything more, just that I needed to come help.

One day I was at a far end of campus busily doing a repair of some kind when I got an urgent call from the unit office. An auditor was visiting, and she needed to use her laptop -- immediately. I asked what the problem was and was only told that she couldn't get power. They wouldn't tell me anything more, just that I needed to come help.

I stopped what I was doing and hurried across campus. When I arrived on the scene, the laptop was just sitting on a table. I asked what they needed.

"She wants to plug it in," was the reply.

"Does she need to connect to the network?" I asked.

"No, she needs to plug it in, and we didn't know where an outlet is," I was told.

There were exposed outlets all around the room, but apparently nobody bothered to take a look. Instead, they called me. A computer was involved, after all.

The child's view 1: 'I think I can!'

One of my favorite experiences happened when I was called to a third-grade classroom to fix a frozen computer.

I entered the somewhat chaotic room -- three adults were standing around chatting while the students worked on projects or visited. As I approached the troublesome computer, a third-grader came up to me and said, "I fixed the computer for you."

"Really? What did you do?" I asked.

The "IT helper" said proudly, "I turned it off and back on again."

The child's view 2: It was always thus

I was working on a computer in one of the campus' computer labs. I'd noticed that a student sitting at the next computer had been watching what I'd been doing.

Finally, he asked me a simple question: "So were you good with computers when you were in high school?"

The truth was, we weren't granted much computer access when I graduated in 1967!

It can be interesting to see the ways some people from different generations view things. And, like the third grade "IT helper," it can be nice to talk with someone who has not yet developed the "not my job" attitude some adults seem to practice.

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This story, "Computing belongs to the young," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more crazy-but-true stories in the anonymous Off the Record blog at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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