By Charlotte Fourie

When I close my eyes, I see P@ssword1. When I struggle to sleep, I think P@ssword1. When I forget to concentrate, my fingers type P-@-s-s-w-o-r-d-1 on the keyboard. Why am I being haunted by this example of a very bad password? Well, because I chose it as our default password for the Office 365-accounts *.

If this is your first time reading about my struggles, I must give you some background information: I am an Afrikaans speaking, twenty-something IT teacher at a public school in Johannesburg and the responsibility of implementing Office 365 in our school this year has been thrust upon me after a difficult two-and-a-bit-year’s effort. I have started writing about this journey because it seemed that shouting about it into my pillow at night, does not help.

It seems that trying to convince my colleagues that technology is good, was not the frustrating part of the struggle!

The heart of the problem

After some involuntary, in-depth action research about why it is so difficult to implement this model of teaching and learning in our school, I have found the heart of the problem: remembering passwords.

Besides IT, I also teach Computer Literacy to grade 8 and 9 learners and I only see a class once in a 6-day cycle. They have their own accounts on the network in my class and then another account (with a different password) for Office 365. For the first four cycles, I spent an average of 20 minutes in each period just to reset passwords because most of the class could not remember theirs and couldn’t even get into the computers. “Juffrou, ek sit die regte password in, maar die rekenaar sê dis verkeerd!” No, the computer does not reset passwords just for the fun of it – you forgot it. At first, I forbade them to write the passwords down (for safety reasons, you know?) but I caved – they HAVE TO write it down now.

Unfortunately, I have no solution for this password problem – but maybe, someday, I will find one and I will tell you.

Let’s get back to my struggle with Teams / Outlook / computers / anything that is electronic.

After trying to motivate my colleagues to use Teams in their classrooms by giving them sweets, I only won about 15% of them for my cause. So, I tried a different approach – I reminded them of the age-old principle of “if you don’t use it, you lose it” – and WOW!!! It seems that my colleagues are more afraid of losing their computer with Microsoft Word which they are so reluctant to use, than you would think. I could barely teach for a few days with most of the teachers coming to me with their computers to help them sign in to Office.com (again the password problem). I also created Teams for most subjects and grades and just added the learners and their teachers and said: “There you go – add some resources and assignments before the end of term OR ELSE”.

We also organised a training about Outlook, sharing files and creating/using forms and one of our teachers – accounting – said (after being instructed to click on the link to collaborate on a shared spreadsheet): “ag, ek is te oud hiervoor!”

Infiltration from within

The Teams-revolution has begun, and I tasked my IT-learners with the following: whenever a teacher hands you a paper, ask her politely to rather add it on the Team site. We will be victorious! Together, we will infiltrate every classroom and every subject!

Yes, even you, Accounting.

* This is not actually our default password – for obvious reasons I am not going to publish our real one 😉

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    1. This is as much an issue to learners as it is to teachers. I am in the teacher training space and you will not believe the number of queries I get from teachers, especially in my follow-up training sessions, who come to me and say “Can you help me remember my password?”, and I am like: “I wish I was that intelligent!” 🙂

    2. Simple…
      Your birthday month and the month you change password: J@nuary03, and just change the month every time. Provided they don’t go and bleat the algorithm to everyone, they’re pretty safe with this one.
      Pick a clever word and change the number each time. It usually works.

    3. What a lovely read. I used to run accounts for 500 kids and it was driving me batty so a tip was I kept a box of cards with learner name – user name (it differed) and the password. This was handy if I was teaching and “I can’t remember my password”. I could give them the card and then just re-file.

      • Yes great idea. I have an excel spreadsheet cos I always have a device with me. 😉