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EdTech Update





SUDs, BUAs, ID-10T errors and IDS

As a member of the AAAAA (American Association Against Acronym Abuse), I am reluctant to title a blog entry like the one above. But it fits.

Last week seemed to bring out vents, both on the LM_Net listserv as well as around our district about incompetent technology users. One person wrote to LM_Net, “Does anyone get as frustrated as I do of these teachers that can’t hook up a simple VCR????????????” (No question marks added from the original post.)

Ah, we “superior” technology users (those who have learned to do a thing 15 minutes ahead of the rest of the pack), have a number of pet names and terms for those who struggle with the simplest technology trouble-shooting skills. Here are a few:

  • BUAs. (Beyond User’s Abilities)
  • SUDs (Stupid User Dysfuntion
  • ID-10t error (spell it ID10T)

Linda De Vore from Arizona writes:

I have a Geech comic strip that I found in the newspaper years ago and which I shared with my tech department. It goes like this: A television repairman is writing up his bill and the owner asks, “What was wrong with it?” The repairman answers, “A mis-configuration of the power circuit.” Owner replies, “What’s that?” The repairman responds, “It’s what sounds less stupid than saying it was unplugged.” So, now whenever I have to go to a classroom and find that the problem is as simple as something not being plugged in, when I leave I tell them that “it was a mis-configuration of the power circuit.” They go “Huh!” I smile and I leave.

I call this inability of otherwise competent people to use technology “IDS” (Intelligence Deficit Syndrome) It’s a condition often brought about by a poorly designed user interface. My column Intelligence Deficit Syndrome from November 2000 explores this condition in more detail.

Personally, I think we (as librarians or techies) can capitalize on symptoms of IDS, by being both sympathetic and empathetic. As I wrote in the above column, “Good teachers have always known the difference between ignorance (a perfectly respectable, correctable state) and stupidity (a regrettable condition for which a cure is unlikely). An empathetic approach recognizes the difference and allows the learner to learn without feeling diminished. And that is important for both kids and adults.”

So, your terms for IDS, SUD, etc? And more importantly, how do you deal with the condition when it occurs?

By the way, my own symptoms of IDS have only grown over the years, not decreased. I now have a toothbrush that has to be programmed!



Previous comments:

There are a couple of terms that I’ve heard used that you didn’t mention:
e-tard and loose nut behind the control panel

I think you are exactly right - in dealing with folks who are not so technology literate we have to be both empathetic and symapthetic.

Comment by Mary Woodard — October 10, 2005 @ 11:59 am

I miss silly things when troubleshooting technology just enough to never be judgemental about anyone else. Like when we had a few computers last week not reaching the ‘Net and, after calling in the computer tech, one was found to not have its network cable in the port.

If I need to get something to work and am having trouble, all I have to do is admit it to someone and have him or her come over to take a look. The problem is usually solved while the person is walking over.

Thus, I have no problem being empathetic and sympathetic

Comment by Sara — October 10, 2005 @ 8:20 pm

My personal favorite is another Geech classic that it was a “PEBKAC” error. The Problem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair. I teach technology in a title 1 middle school and truly see both sides of the spectrum between the kids of families that can afford the technology and the kids whose families cannot.

Comment by Floyd — October 11, 2005 @ 9:41 am

While I’m living in the Bible Belt (and a wonderful community with about equal number of publishers of religious texts and pornographic bookstores), I simply can’t resist alluding to witchcraft when it comes to fixing technology. So many people used the phrase, “But I tried that and it didn’t work for me…” that I began pointing at electronic devices and telling them “it’s the nose.” If only I could twitch the nose like Elizabeth Montgomery and Nicole Kidman in the Bewitched movie. There is no logical explanation for why some things work when I touch the device and won’t for others. I use phrases like “the Risograph just missed me” or “the projector just needed some gentle touches.” When I was growing up the static was so extreme, that I could entertain my younger brothers by walking in front of the stereo and lighting up all the devices by waving at them. When people insist upon a logical response for an illogical situation, I’ve decided humor is my choice.

Comment by Diane Chen — October 11, 2005 @ 8:34 pm

Diane and others,

You might be interested in a “study” of X-file type behaviors of individuals having a strange influence over machines (usually bad) at




Is AASL Sexist?

Yesterday’s closing session of the AASL conference featured “a panel of leading figures in the school library media field” - a statement that would be difficult to dispute. Steve Baule, Keith Curry Lance, Mike Eisenberg, Ross Todd, and Ferdi Serim are all well known and respected for their writings, research, and vision by most of us in the profession. And they are all MAWGs – Middle Age White Guys.

Hmmm, a strange demographic representing an organization and a field in which about 98% of the practitioners are smart, if not brilliant, women.

One can’t help but wonder if there is, ironically, and underlying sexism present in the choice of panelists when there was not even a “token” woman participating in the discussion, especially when there are so many gender-superior leaders in the field from whom to choose. Where were Joyce Valenza, Debbie Abilock, Barbara Stripling, Alice Yucht, Carol Kulthau, Toni Buzzeo, Carol Simpson, or any of the other dozens of women who are as widely published and visionary as the “guys” chosen to share their views?

Perhaps there is another, more subtle discrimination at hand as well. There was not a practicing librarian on stage. OK, the topic was “the latest research on student achievement and how school library media specialists can use it.” But wouldn’t you think that somebody from the trenches sharing how she has actually put the research into use or practice would have been of value to an audience of people who need to do this?

For a good old girls club, AASL is sending some pretty strange messages. Men have cred; women don’t. Academics are worth listening to; the practitioner ain’t.

Or, maybe the strategy was that a female audience would just like to see a bunch of hunky guys up there on stage.

Your thoughts?


I agree - I thought it very odd that it was so male dominated, given that probably 90-95% of conference attendees were women. I was a little disappointed with the final session, to be honest - it was something of an anti-climax…

Comment by Claire — October 9, 2005 @ 3:12 pm

I agree. I missed the last program and, hearing that, I’m glad.

Comment by Faith Williams — October 9, 2005 @ 5:35 pm

I can see why each of the men were included; they each had a part of the “pie” that was our dessert after a many-coursed meal of a conference, but it was stunning to see a panel of all men walk up onto the stage. Before the program, I had read their names and looked forward to hearing from each but was really taken aback by the visual effect of having an all male panel. After all, I had just participated in workshops led by so many very intelligent women. Sitting with Joyce Valenza, Francey Harris, Debbie Abbilock and Doug Achterman, I was heartened (but not surprised; Doug is very astute) that he turned to me before the women did and expressed his immediate shock. And I’m also not surprised that you felt that way, too, Doug. Whew!

Comment by Sara — October 9, 2005 @ 5:54 pm

How about, in addition to the women mentioned, a panel with Vi Harada? Or Gail Dickinson? Just browse the AASL blog and names pop out at you.

Comment by Sara — October 9, 2005 @ 6:09 pm

Two thoughts:
1. Since the topic was *research* and the impact of school library programs, surely some of these names could/should have been on that panel: Carol Gordon, Susan Ballard, Jody Howard, Su Eckhardt, Annette Lamb, Connie Champlin, Nancy Miller, Nancy Everhardt, Marjorie Pappa, Hilda Weisburg, Diane Chen, Pam Berger …. and that’s just for starters!

2. Why do TPTB *end* the conference with such academic programs? Why not end with a rousing motivational pep-rally type program that sends us all back to work revved up and ready to do great things, rather than snoring through more serious speeches of sonorous statistics? We need cheerleaders, not suits up there!

Comment by Alice Yucht — October 9, 2005 @ 10:42 pm


The Ethical Conference Attendee

Sometime during my library school days, I am sure I was introduced to the issue of being an ethical librarian. I’m sure I learned what I needed to know for the test. Administrators for whom I worked have never seemed to overly scrutinize my professional ethics as a librarian, nor were professional ethics ever topmost in my thoughts as I was struggling to run a program.

Had it not been for a series of editorials by Lillian Gerhardt (1990, 1991) that appeared in School Library Journal, I don’t think that I would have remembered that there is a code of ethics for librarians.

In these editorials, Gerhardt interpreted the Code of Ethics of the American Library Association in its application to the practice of school librarianship and service to children. This business of right and wrong was clarified, and she asked me to think about these issues in my daily work.

Whenever I attend a professional conference, I ruminate about ALA Library Code of Ethics Statement VI: We do not advance private interests at the expense of library users, colleagues, or our employing institutions.

In a school setting, I never get much chance to violate this sixth standard. I’ve never been offered a huge sum of cash or an exotic vacation in exchange for purchasing a grossly inferior encyclopedia instead of the World Book or Groliers. Probably just as well.

But Gerhardt in her comments on this statement also asks if accepting vendor purchased meals at conferences or adding vacation days to out-of-town conferences violates this ethical standard. What about skipping a conference session to attend a “shopping event?” Ever go on a conference tour that had only a marginal connection to your job? How about partying so late at night, you miss (or can’t focus) on the first session in the morning.

These infractions seem to be small potatoes in a world of political “contributions” and school boards being wined-and-dined in luxurious settings by big technology companies, but if your school district is paying your conference expenses and considers your days at the conference as paid contract days, a person ought to think about whether s/he is making the most of a conference.

I am keenly aware that anyone who writes about or advocates for high standards of professional ethics is held to those standards themselves (dammit). And yes, you may have seen me sipping a glass of wine or eating a meal provided by a vendor. I hope, at least, I had a guilty look on my face.

Where and how do you draw the line about free meals or free time at conferences? I need guidance!


Hi Doug,
Earlier this year, the vendor who won the bid for two Opening Day Collections in our system invited the two librarians and our supervisor to see their operations in a mid-western state. The vendor paid for everything–hotel, limo rides, airfare, meals–and although this was set up completely after the contract was awarded, I still felt guilty for going. I felt more guilty when a friend/co-worker told me that she wouldn’t have gone, citing ethical reasons. Your post has me wondering about it and feeling guilty again.

I know this is a different situation than a conference, but I look at a conference the same way I do a regular work day–after my 7 1/2 hours of contract time, anything else I put in is extra. If I go overtime one day, can I take a little back the next? I think that at a conference, I can. Hope this doesn’t open the can of worms further!

Comment by Jann — October 9, 2005 @ 9:55 pm

Aha! I find aspects of the ethical debate everywhere in society. It even showed up in an earlier episode of ER regarding pharmaceutical companies. Makes you think! I have talked to vendors about this issue in the past when I told them I wasn’t a customer or wouldn’t allow a good meal to influence future spending. (Fortunately when your budget is cut in half, discretionary spending opportunities for unethical use disappear.) Vendors insist I am still welcome. My cynicism is always handy. Lately I have found myself selecting items from certain vendors that I can happily “share the brand.” FOr example, I love the NASA stuff that was at conference taking many things for my science teachers, but also asked ABC-CLIO for post-it notes since I no longer purchase them. If you ask at the end of the conference, many will gladly allow you to carry them home instead of them having to pack and ship. I haven’t bought post-it notes since Midwinter in Philadelphia. I was laughing about this once with a drug rep in a hospital elevator and he handed me some post-it notes to use which advertised an anti-anxiety med. Those I used with teachers!

Comment by Diane Chen — October 11, 2005 @ 8:44 pm