Interview with Mr Slowe

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Mr Slowe the previous Network Manager left back in December of last year, before he did so we were able to have a brief chat with him about his time at Rainham Mark and some of the changes that had taken place to the ICT system during his time with us.
The ICT technicians are more of the unseen support staff without which the school would simply not function. Mr Slowe as network manager was responsible for the entire school network and computer facilities. Supported by Miss Robson & Mr Burrows this trio were there to deal with all your technical needs, from forgotten passwords to broken machines.

Now Mr Slowe has left, Mr Burrows has stepped up to network manager, and is training a new network manager ready to take over in September when both Mr Burrows and Miss Robson leave to study at university. The new network manager will be supported by more gap-yearing student(s).

We asked Mr Slowe about his time with us, and the full transcript of our conversation if found below.

-1- In the time you've been here a lot has changed in terms of our ICT resources and setup. What would you describe as the key schemes have you implemented in your time here at RMGS?

The main one that most people will see is the migration away from the Novell network operating system to a purely Windows platform. This has improved stability immensely (server, not including network connectivity, downtime has only occurred once this term rather than the once or twice a week it was before).

The other fairly big project has been the wireless implementation which is due for completion at the beginning of next term. This will allow users is any classroom access to the school network and the internet.

Less obvious changes include deploying various Linux servers which most users don't even know are there. They provide services which help the network run a lot better as well as provide everyone access to the internet, email and the like (which used to be done by a creaking old Windows 98 computer).

-2- Moodle is a system which holds great potential for Teaching and Learning at RMGS, however it appears to us that currently its not being used widely enough to reach full potential. Are there plans to rectify this and use Moodle more for other subjects apart from ICT?

Moodle involves a huge shift in teaching style. A lot of teachers are unwilling/unable/find it hard to make that transition, although a lot of them are experimenting with it. The obvious wish would be that all courses students take are backed up by resources available through Moodle, but this may take some time to permeate into areas outside of ICT.

-3- We understand you're currently teaching a Year 13 group, would you say you are enjoying the experience of teacher and has it inspired you to pursue teacher in future occupations?

Yes I have enjoyed it; it has been quite a learning experience for me. Being constrained by a timetable is quite a novelty as, most of the time, support staff try and work around the timetable rather than in it.

Although I am not going into a career in teaching at the moment, it's certainly something I have not ruled out in the future.

Thank you to my one Year 13 class for being nice to me (most of the time).

-4- With the rate of technological development ever increasing, how do you see schools being able to keep up with "modern technology"? Are there any limiting factors that prevent schools from keeping up?

Wow, that's a big one.

Schools, in general, are notoriously bad at keeping up with the times. This is usually because the people who do the teaching are (usually) somewhat detached from the world of industry where they have been in the past. This means that they know the systems they're used to and create schemes of work around those. When the industry moves on, that means an awful lot more work for them to update their schemes of work every time, for example, there's a new version of Dreamweaver. The 'easy' answer is just to keep the slightly older one until it's obsolete.

The other answer is "if it ain't broke, don't fix it".

-5- A common problem with subjects such as IT in schools is a shortage of skills - with those most able in the field preferring the higher paid jobs leaving the less-skilled to try and teach the next generation. Is this something that you've experienced at RMGS? Do you have any suggestions as to how RMGS and other academic insitutions can try and attract the more highly skilled professionals?

I think this problem is already being addressed on a more national basis. There is a lot more emphasis on "life long learning" which not only applies to students but to staff as well. To this end, staff are encouraged to look beyond what they know into the new developments of the industry.

So long as the staff themselves are willing to make that effort, the system works :)

-6- You've been with RMGS for some time now, was there any trigger for you deciding to leave your position?

The main reason for my choice to move has been the commute from where I live (near Canterbury) to Medway. This journey has got quite arduous recently with the relentless roadworks on the M2 and no viable alternative route. Also, I'd like the chance to be a lot more specialised in the areas in which I work in IT -- the position I am going to will allow me to do this.

-7- Are there any particular experiences at RMGS which stick in your mind for whatever reason?

Not really -- my time at RMGS has been full of interesting events from Charity Week to the time at the end of the last academic year when we had a small fire in the N block.

-8- Having worked at RMGS, would you ever considor taking up a similar post in a secondary school again?

Yes. Maybe teaching, maybe not. We shall see.