This post answers the 26th question from my TeacherToolkit Thinking page of Thunks. You can see my other top-Thunks here. Thunk 26: ICT geeks in my school, by @GripWeed1… by Subject Leader for ICT, Jon Bridgeman:
I’m a geek. I might as well admit it. I have a Doctor Who mug. My staff lanyard has a Google Chrome badge pinned proudly above my ID card.
(Pushes glasses up on nose, with Tardis mug in other hand and Game of Thrones Blu-Ray on the TV)
When pupils are struggling with something in a lesson, I have been known to point to the numerous Yoda “Do or do not, there is no try” posters that adorn my classroom walls. I once did a binary joke in a leaving speech. I’m an ICT teacher as well, so I guess I may as well have a flashing neon sign above my head, screaming “STEREOTYPE”
But I’m not the only one. Every school has their own ICT geeks. In my experience, there are what one might describe as “50 shades of geek!”
Some take ICT-geekery too far – I don’t miss the ICT technician whose obsessive desire to protect “his” beloved equipment, led him to glue the balls into the mice to prevent them from being stolen. Great idea, if he hadn’t used so much glue that rendered them useless!
Some don’t go quite as far – a colleague of mine recently organised a department night out, entirely using Google Docs – even going as far to set up a spreadsheet to calculate the bill in advance.
Or was that just a neat way of doing something that’s usually so complicated, that we’ve had it written into our school’s numeracy policy?
Then there’s the “fiddling-with-complicated-stuff-that-no-one-else-understands” geek.
We have two networks in our school – the main, regular school network that everyone uses – and the ‘Elephant in the room’, that is the D&T network; lovingly tended by a bearded, corduroy-clad gentleman whose only job is, I believe, to keep it going.
There has been talk of ‘joining the networks’; though I fear this will have the same effect as ‘crossing the streams’ did in Ghostbusters.
It is spreadsheets that separate your run-of-the-mill-Star-Wars-mug-owning geek, from your “hardcore” geek. You will have one in your own school – someone so Excel-obsessed, that they give their home address as a cell reference. Our own “Spread-Head” is an Assistant Headteacher, who was in charge of data. His weapon of choice…
The pivot table.
I can only imagine his howls of grief when his role changed from data, to behaviour-guru; though I must say, I have enjoyed the attractive cell shading on the detention lists since he took the job on.
For as long as I can remember the word “geek” has had a negative connotation – I have fallen into the same trap during this thunk. The OED defines the word thus:
“an unfashionable or socially inept person.
[usually with modifier] a knowledgeable and obsessive enthusiast:
a computer geek”
Not exactly something you’d want in a reference is it?
But does being an ICT geek – or indeed a geek one of any description – have to be a BAD thing? I think it’s time to to reclaim the word; give me your huddled masses, most of us wearing glasses… In the spirit of this, I’d like to subvert my own thunk for a minute and look at the word in a broader context.
I like what Simon Pegg says about being a geek – to borrow part of a quote from him;
“Being a geek is all about being honest about what you enjoy and not being afraid to demonstrate that affection. It means never having to play it cool about how much you like something.”
I have seen the word geek a great deal in recent months – used in Twitter and blog biographies especially – and in just about every case it has been used by someone whose work and words I have found to be hugely inspiring. I’ve heard a few colleagues in the staffroom at my school, describe themselves as such and – gasp – none of them are ICT teachers.
They all, however, fit the the Pegg model.
They are, above all, teaching and learning geeks.
In each case they demonstrate that affection – no, actually, sheer, unadulterated love, is a better description – for what they do – on a daily basis. The geeks I know are main-scale teachers, Subject Leaders and in SLT. They don’t hide their passion for finding new ways to improve the learning of their students – or indeed for leading their colleagues into new pedagogical pastures. It’s about POSITIVITY and when I think about it, the folk I know who have embraced their inner geek, are among the most positive people I know.
So next time you’re in the staffroom and there’s someone there with an “I ♥ Spreadsheets” mug, why not go and sit next to them. Find out if geekery is infectious. At the very least, you might finally get to understand how look-up tables work.
Jon Bridgeman (aka @GripWeed1) is Subject Leader for ICT & Computing at Finham Park School in Coventry and has been teaching for 16 years. His fledgling blog can be found at http://talesfromthecastironshore.wordpress.com/
This is the 4th Thunk by a member of Finham Park School.