Finishing touches

Here is a short (one question) quiz:

It's the finishing touches that make the difference. The artist Patrick Boswell at work.

It's the finishing touches that make the difference. The artist Patrick Boswell at work.

What do the following have in common:

  • a computer lab or set of laptops or tablets that is untidy/grubby/insufficiently charged (delete as appropriate)
  • a school’s computer technical support room with a workbench covered in bits of wire, cannibalised computers, mugs that look like they’ve never been washed and an old 308z on the floor just inside the door, making it impossible not to trip over if you didn’t know it was there
  • a set of digital cameras that have no instructions and look like neither the lens nor the bodies have been graced with a cloth since they were taken out of their original packaging?

What they all have in common is that they look horrible, and by so doing they deter you wanting to use them. It may be that the computers/laptops/tablets/cameras work brilliantly. It may be that the computer lab houses the fastest computers that money can but (within a school budget, naturally). It may be that the technicians are grand masters of the techie world.

But they all look horrible and/or uninviting.

To my mind, what they each lack is finishing touches. Like it or not, people really do judge by appearances. (If you don’t believe me, try turning up to your next job interview wearing wellingtons and a pair of shorts; I have never tried this myself, so for all I know it may mark you out as a maverick, an original thinker who the school absolutely must have. But I suspect not.)

So what conclusions do I draw from this?

  • Whatever facilities you have for pupils and other staff to use, make sure they not only function well, but that they look good.
  • When you are next called upon to write a report for the Governors, Academy Trust or Senior Leadership team, don’t just hand them a couple of sheets poorly printed and with a staple in the corner. Do a “Normal” or “Best” print on good quality paper, have a cover sheet, and if the report is long enough consider putting the copies into slide binders.
  • Whenever you send a memo, report or any other communication, use your own Computing letterhead and logo (see The importance of branding for ICT in schools).

Appearances matter. And frankly, if you think that it’s a waste of time, or not important, then all I can do is throw back at you a quote from that great philosopher Long John Baldry, taken from his seminal work “Don’t try to lay no boogie-woogie on the king of rock—n-roll”:

If you feel that you just can’t dig it,

you know, you don’t know what it’s all about.

And that’s telling you!