|The Media Center|
|We've Been NIMDAed!|
|by Mary Alice Anderson • Lead Media Specialist, Winona Middle School, Winona, Minnesota|
|MultiMedia Schools • March/April 2002|
Thousands of Web sites were
knocked out; thousands of computers were attacked. Thousands of teachers
were without grading systems. Countless students lost access to files and
online databases. And, hundreds of administrators and office staff could
not access student records. Three months later we were still coping with
A Missouri media specialist tried to remedy the loss of a circulation system by using a portable scanner, but was cautioned that more viruses could result and eventually stopped circulation for a while. Wichita media specialists turned to ALEC (Alternative Library Electronic Checkout), a Microsoft Access program system designed by their district office. Other media specialists reported discontinuing any circulation until the problem was solved.That was not an option for us; materials are there for students to use. The inconvenience is minor compared to the loss when students cannot check out materials.
Some positives actually
came of our inconveniences. Since students could not search the online
catalog, they asked for more assistance in finding resources. Media staff
devoted more time to helping students locate books. The increased interaction
with students turned out to be a nice side effect, and it was important
to maintain a sense of humor. After all, we were doing something that had
been done manually for centuries. Since I have experienced a few other
technology traumas, I knew everything would work out.
Instructional Down Time
Without access to our servers it became difficult to manage instructional activities, some of which had been planned and scheduled for months. An art teacher attempted to have students complete a project utilizing scanners and photo-editing software. Without the server to save to, the project was too difficult to manage. Students were disappointed, but a little disappointment was preferable to a teacher's frustration destroying any remaining sense of faith she had in technology. Less complex instructional activities—creating a small database and word processing—continued, since students could complete and print their projects in a class period. Like students attending a Washington high school, our students could not take their online STAR Reading assessment. One teacher chose to cancel his scheduled activities rather than cope with problems. I became concerned about the fallout of cancellations, knowing it would be difficult to reschedule and perhaps more difficult to convince teachers not to stay away.
Like Reggie Buresh, I felt
"kind of smug" when kids realized they had to depend on books for their
research needs. Students in the midst of an extensive research project
combed the shelves and contributed to the "stock pile" of reserves. Others
browsed through back issues of magazines instead of searching the online
database. But browsing through piles of magazines is cumbersome in today's
electronic information age; we had to go online. Within a few days
the router allowed us to "get out" even though our own Web server and its
curriculum resources were unavailable. Searchers could access InfoTrac
databases, and we directed science classes to World Book Online rather than
"regular" Web sites linked from our school Web site. Three weeks later,
the new virus protection had been installed and students were able to use
all resources and save files to their server space.
The fallout continues. Teachers all over remain frustrated with the lack of ongoing technical support and servers that still do not work properly. Barbara Allen, a library services program analyst from Tucson, said continuing problems include Web pages and z39.50 transfer protocols that no longer work, and research sites that were accessible are now blocked. A New York teacher reported ongoing bad feelings "on the part of some staff members and students because, to prevent future damage, we are blocked from using Hotmail andAOL mail." A California math teacher is gun-shy and not anxious to work on additional projects.
Three months later we still
are trying to cope with theintermittent inability to save to the server;
teachers are asked to document every occurrence. Our Web catalog is inaccessible
and a long-time wish for increased resource sharing is on hold. I cannot
access our district Web server remotely or trash outdated Web files. As
both district and school Webmaster, I face a major job cleaning up outdated
files when the server is 100 percent in order. Student keyboarding data
is corrupt, a problem we realized after spending too much time trying to
figure out what we were doing wrong. A public folder that holds applications
and utilities is no longer accessible, causing frustration for teachers
accustomed to doing their own installations. Some problems will continue
until our server is rebuilt with Windows 2000.
Many media specialists grumbled
that administration and central office people did not have to wait for
their support. Barbara Allen said, "On the administrative side, each site
was partially down less than 3 days.... Any attempt to get [media center
problems corrected] is answered with one word, NIMDA." I too, was frustrated,
when logic set in I knew that the school district could not function without
access to attendance, grading, financial, or food and transportation system
data. While teachers and media center staff were frustrated, our stress
level was quite likely less than that of the support staff and consultants
trying to solve the problems. It was important to keep everything in perspective.
At least we had a server and most of our computers worked. This could not
be said for many other schools including some in our district.
Of course we learned from our experience. Along with additional technical skills, I acquired more patience and a strengthened philosophy that disaster often results in improvement. As Kevin Flies noted, we all acquired a greater"realization of the required investment in an infrastructure; how weak our infrastructure was and how we are improperly staffed to manage the environment. We were lacking in a firewall, security, and up-to-date virus software." We gained an improved infrastructure.
Other districts came to appreciate the value of their UNIX servers and Macintosh workstations. Some said they had become lax about virus concerns because of their confidence in Macs not being susceptible to virus attacks. Many of us developed a greater appreciation for multiple backups. When a teacher's local hard drive crashed and she could not access duplicate copies on the server, she was in trouble. Amy Hart, a Massachusetts media specialist, noted, "I am running a backup nightly and storing it on my PC in addition to the tape backup. We are religious about anti-virus updates and scans now. We have made contact with our community's MIS staff and hope to continue working more closely with them." Other people learned the importance of a good printer cartridge as they decided it was wise to print out hard copy of daily circulation transactions. All of us need to be prepared.
NIMDA reminded me that media/technology programs exist for kids. They were still able to check out books and did not suffer greatly when they couldn't access their server space or online databases. The instructional time lost was an inconvenience and disappointment; some activities cannot be made up, but the total instructional impact is likely to be negligible. Our teachers are generally resilient and able to move on to Plan B. Life goes on with or without our now-routine access to technology. Technology is great. I would never want to manage a media center that is not automated, use paper indexes, or work in an environment that is not technology rich. But we need a perspective on what is important.
Note: I would like to
thank the many media specialists who contributed their NIMDA stories, especially:
Barbara Allen, Tucson, Arizona; Julie Anderson, Renton, Washington; Reggie
Buresh, Mahtomedia, Minnesota; Barbara Currier, Fresno, California; Amy
Hart, Lexington, Massachusetts; Lori Loranger, Kirkwood, Missouri; James
Lyon, Lynwood, Washington; Margaret Owens, Long Island, New York; and Meg
Schimmels, Wichita, Kansas.
Mary Alice Anderson is a frequent contributor to professional journals, a conference presenter, and an adjunct instructor in the College of Education at Winona State University. The Winona Middle School Media/Technology Program has received both state and national recognition and awards. She is also the lead media specialist for the Winona Area Public Schools and was a Library of Congress American Memory Fellow in 1999. Communications to the author may be addressed to Mary Alice Anderson, Media Specialist, Winona Middle School, 1570 Homer Road, Winona, MN 55987; e-mail: email@example.com.
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