It was just after Thanksgiving break and I was giving my blog some necessary TLC with some updates when it all happened…
My website screen turned entirely white.
The words “Fatal Error” flashed on the page.
I saw intimidating lines of code.
My website was gone.
Not only that, but the website I used to control my website was gone!
That’s when the real panic set in. I always talk about “the size of the problem” with my students, and this was decidedly a 5 – full-blown panic of a problem. HOW WAS MY WEBSITE GONE? Certainly the fatal error message wasn’t a good sign. Fatal means dead – gone forever – six feet under - never coming back.
I then had my father’s voice in my head saying, “It’s okay, just restore it from a recent back up. You are backing everything up, right?” This was always my problem as a child. I never remembered to save my Word files until they were completely finished, and if the computer crashed, I was screwed. Of course, old habits die hard, and I hadn’t set any regular backups for my website, nor had I saved all of my articles on my computer. I was flying by the seat of my pants… no backups and everything to lose!
So why is this important?
Well, clearly since you’re on my website, you can figure out that, after many email chains, a loving, helpful husband, several live chats, some coding, a new computer program, and a few glasses of wine, the lovely people at Bluehost (I've since updated, but nevertheless) were able to use an automatic backup of my website to restore the file. Without them, I’m fairly certain I would’ve had to start over from scratch. The whole process reminded me of 2 important rules:
1. Backups are similar to voting – backup early and backup often
Things are continually being edited on my student’s devices – buttons are being unhidden, fringe vocabulary is being added, the new social phrases are being recorded, and so much more. Today, I had to add the phrase “Bah Humbug” to my student’s device because he saw it on my shirt, I said it out loud, someone else laughed, and he asked to say it too! The point is, just like other children their age, kids with complex communication needs are continuing to grow and evolve their language systems. They’re changing all the time! Because of this, frequent backups are important, particularly with high tech devices.
I encourage you to explore what options are available for backups for these AAC devices. I know many of the AAC systems and apps have easy backup options over Wi-Fi to cloud-based options, such as Google Drive and DropBox. I would love to see more automatic backup options built in, just like you can do with your phones! Having a frequent backup is critical, because you never know what may happen, and you would hate to lose all of the small changes and edits that come with an ever-evolving communication system.
2. It’s not “if technology breaks,” it’s “when technology breaks”
I can’t count the number of times I’ve said this in regards to high-tech systems, because it’s painfully true. Technology has provided us with opportunities that we could never have imaged 15 years ago, and that’s evident in the AAC community. However, technology breaks. That’s just a fact. This is coming from someone who continually buys the accidental warranties on her technology because she gets her money’s worth on them.
This mindset is critical because it reminds us that high-tech AAC systems must come with their necessary partner – low-tech backup systems. There will always be a time when high-tech isn’t the best option: the playground, the pool, horseback riding, the bathtub… the list goes on! There will also be plenty of times when a high-tech system isn’t available: the iPad screen cracked, it didn’t get charged last night, the sound won’t turn on, the vocabulary file mysteriously disappeared, the app version isn’t compatible with the latest iOS…. and these are just the one’s I’ve encountered in the past couple of months. This stuff happens because life happens, and that’s okay! We just need to remember that these kids need a voice still, and a low-tech communication system is vital part of that. So, have a low-tech backup. Be prepared and you’ll be fine.
So, in summary…
Technology breaks. It’s a part of life. Back up often, and have low-tech backups. It’s not if technology breaks, it’s when it breaks. If you’re prepared for “fatal errors,” they’re not so scary!
Amanda ML Samperi
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