Today I came much closer to a catastrophic tech failure than I’m used to. And it happened live in class.

Now, as my loyal readers may have guessed, I don’t have many tech failures, beyond finicky overhead bulbs and such. (In fact, I get to play the Fonz quite a bit with my overhead. It must have a loose connection to the bulb, because if I’m a bit too forceful in my pointing with my pen, the bulb goes out. So then I whack it a certain way on the side, and it works again. I bat about .900 with the restoring whack, and I give the thumbs up, but none of them know who the Fonz was. They are still slightly awed in their seventh grade way. It’s even better when I do the backside kick to my class computer – it’s on the floor under my center table – to quiet the occasionally noisy cooling fan. They love that one. )

First, I am mostly religious about backing up data. My CPS databases are on a flash drive which is backed up to my space on the school server (which is supposedly backed up nightly) and every now and then to my home computer. My websites are backed up in several different places, and presumably my web host also has backups (for a fee). My sk8 videos and mp3 libraries are backed up on a whole ‘nother hard drive, and so forth.

Second, in my 12+ years as the “tech guy” at our school, I have seen just about everything that can go wrong tech-wise in a middle school classroom.  And almost always been able to fix it. Well, except for that stupid overhead. And my LCD projector that isn’t bright any more.

Third, I have a vast “junkyard” that spans several cabinets, filled with cables and routers and hubs and print servers and more cables and ram sticks and remote controls and adapters and patch cords and keyboards and mice and battery chargers and dvd players and printers and monitors and more mice and webcams and mics and speakers and vcr’s and laser disc players and an old reel-to-reel tape recorder and a record player and a 1987 Mac SE that still works (MS Word 2.0, baby! Still boots faster than any machine in the room) and AlphaSmarts and… So I am almost always able to create a “hardware hack” (as they say in the lingo) if a software one doesn’t work.


As my loyal readers also know, CPS clickers figure heavily in the day’s proceedings. In one of my morning classes, the clock had just run out on the first warm up question, when the CPS software flashes an error message. Uh oh. I had just added a new student to that class, but other than that I don’t think I did anything weird.

No worries. Close the software and reopen it. Hrrrmmm. It won’t close.

“What’s going on? Are the clickers broken? Do we get to skip the warm up?”

“Then you woke up. I always have a plan B.”


The Windows Three-Finger Salute: Control-Alt-Delete. I finally stop the program and restart it. Now CPS won’t recognize my database. Sez it’s corrupted.

Uh oh. That’s more than 150 warm ups, quizzes and exercises and all the scores associated with them. (The scores that count for actual grades were already entered into Powercheese, but still…)

“Is this Plan B?”

“Ummm. More like C.”

No worries. Use the backup on the server. I had just backed up when I added the new guy.

Start the warm up. End of first question. Error message. Kill the program. Try to restart. Corrupt database. D’oh!

“What’s Plan D? Watch a video?”

“Again, you seem to be dreaming. Plan D is old school: copy into your notebook and trade and grade. ZOMG!”

So they go back to work on the warm up, while I ponder what my next move is. Right before the James Brown scream that is the current warm up timer sound, I flashed on Plan E. So James and I said, Waoh! together, as several kids jumped.

I had another backup on the class computer that was only one day old, meaning I ‘d only be missing two period’s worth of data. Woohoo.

After lunch I was back in bidness, but the rumor mill had been working through the whole lunch period.

“I heard the clickers were broken. Noooooo! It can’t be? What happened? Noooooo! Can we watch a video?”

“Obviously if the clickers don’t work we can’t have class.”


“We’ll just take a group nap. Did you bring your pillow? Then we’ll have circle time.”