I’ve waited a while to post this. To protect the guilty I suppose, but even so – I think the issue needs raising. Perhaps even debating: my views might be wrong – who knows?

IPD’s? Innovation prevention departments: a term coined by a colleague in Scotland. What are they, why do they exist and how do they function?

Well, all institutions need someone, often a large team of someones, to look after their various networks and their technological kit. This, in many cases (but before you shout at me – not all, by any means) is the IPD.

These are the girls and boys who make sure the bulb in your projector is working. They ensure that your Interactive Whiteboard is aligned with the projector and that the PC running both is connected to both. They install the necessary software and keep it updated (they even ensure that all necessary plug-ins are installed and updated). Don’t they?

These are the people that make sure no one can get onto the institution’s ‘systems’ without a proper security clearance, but who also ensure that learners and visitors can easily access the internet from the institution’s premises. Don’t they?

They work with learning and teaching professionals, and management to decide which, if any, web sites should be banned or black listed following carefully considered reasoning. Often, when asked they move certain sites for certain courses onto course specific white lists. Don’t they?

Well – no: not all. Not by any means! In many establishments, several of which I have visited over recent weeks, getting onto the Internet is nigh on impossible unless you work or study there. As a visitor, an invited visitor at that, it is often a real chore to deliver the work I’m invited to deliver. Whilst I’ve yet to hear ‘not on your nellie’ I have had many similar responses when asking for access to the Internet via an institutional network. Let me clarify that – I don’t want to go onto the network itself, just to use it to access the Internet. Now – I can hear the clatter of keyboards rushing to tell me that the security of blah blah blah, is their role and to let me onto their blah blah blah is a breach of that security but surely – having someone in the room log me into ‘their’ (the staff member’s) little bit of the college network is far more dangerous. Yet it happens all the time.

Why can’t these unenlightened IPD professionals realise that all I (and others like me) want is Internet access? Like I would get in Starbucks (I think Mick Mullane, who is a [learner orientated] techie and who advocates this progressive sort of approach, calls it the Starbucks approach). I would have to log in of course, but the login I’m given would not allow me onto the institutional network, only the Internet (and by logging in I would be deemed to have accepted the institutional AUP). What’s hard about that?

Then – what about the bulb in the projector? Do these ever get changed? Several places I’ve visited lately don’t seem to have changed the bulb (or cleaned the lens) at all: ever. This leads to an unsatisfactory learning experience. One recently, was so bad that we had to borrow another projector and project that on the ceiling to get anything like a clear image. That was partly because the blinds on the sunshine side of the building didn’t function well – meaning that the poor bulb had to struggle even more in the (in other circumstances, welcome) daylight. [This would of course be a lack of communication between ‘estates’ and ‘IPD’ – but I won’t go there] Bulbs cost money I know – but so do disengaged learners that leave the course. And don’t get me started on disengaged teachers who have to put up with it every day.

So may I pose a few questions to the IPD (I’ll provide my own answers but welcome others)

What’s your role? To support the business of the institution.

What’s the business of the institution? Teaching and learning.

Who is at the core of teaching and learning? Teachers and Learners?

What’s your role?

Part two – software, updates and web sites – maybe coming soon …