There was a time when technology departments were just seen as technical support, district compliance (also known as “control”) and managers of information. It was the office filled with “geeks” who knew very little about teaching and preferred to speak in bits and bytes. It was often treated as a separate entity responsible for making sure equipment was working properly and protecting the data in the network. While the work of support, installation and maintenance are still a vital component of tech department services, it can no longer live alone in our 21st century learning environment.
“Tech support must combine with professional development, technology vision and strategic technology planning for successful integration.”
I believe there are three core services the technology department has to provide in order for successful technology integration in K12 schools/districts. And all three are equally important and can no longer be left without the other two. The three core services are Support Services, Professional Development, and Strategic Planning, Research, & Documentation.
The objective of support services is to maintain and install infrastructure equipment in the classrooms. Tech support is a thankless job often, and it requires a certain fortitude to be successful with mounting odds. I have seen some outrageous numbers of computer to technician ratios. Nevertheless, support services is a critical component to building trust in technology. No matter how talented a teacher is with technology integration, without working equipment, it could prove difficult. Timely and efficient support services goes a long way with school buy-in of technology. It is important as well to develop a tech support culture of empowerment and not control.
“Successful technology departments are not troubleshooting day-to-day tech support tickets, but rather empowering users and providing structured professional development.”
Putting technology in the classroom without proper professional development = money squandered. You can invest in tons of equipment, but without proper training and structured professional development, much of the equipment can sit there acquiring dust. Professional development is the key driver in any technology integration as it creates the culture needed for technology adoption. As a side note, the more technology proficient our K12 users are, the less tech support tickets are submitted.
“Implementing changes in technology requires thorough planning and strategy when dealing with such a diverse user base.”
Strategic Planning, Research and Documentation
With the rapid changes that occur in technology, the tech department has to be actively planning and researching what is available for K12 schools. There needs to be a continued focus in emerging technologies and a culture of life-long learning. In just the past few years, developments in technology have “changed” the game in how technology can be infused in the classroom. Without strategic planning with academic departments, the tech department can be left with programs to support that don’t align with technology vision. It is more and more critical that the tech department collaborate with other departments and develop plans that are aligned across all stakeholders.
The District Administration website released an article today titled SPECIAL TECHNOLOGY REPORT: The Changing Role of the CTO with a subheading of “District technology leaders are taking on greater responsibilities and contributing to the strategic vision of school systems.” It is with great affirmation that others are spreading the word about the changing role of technology in schools from an administrative level. As I have always said, the role of technology is rapidly changing and that there needs to be a new term given to the department. Below are the several posts I have written in the past related to the article above. Lets keep spreading the word!
There was a time when technology departments were just seen as technical support, district compliance (also known as “control”) and managers of information. It was the office filled with “geeks” who knew very little about teaching and preferred to speak in bits and bytes. It was often treated as a separate entity responsible for making sure equipment was working properly and protecting the data in the network. The thought of the technology department making decisions on any academic curriculum was as far fetch as teachers making decisions on technology infrastructure. How times have changed…
In recent years, those ideas above have quickly merged into what I call Education Information Technology, the concept of blending technology with education to build next generation schools and classrooms. The thought of separate entities are rapidly becoming the old model, where nowadays, decisions have to be jointly made between academics and technologists. In my humble opinion, the technology decision makers have one of the most critical roles in evolving the educational model for our schools and districts. With the proliferation of educational software and integration of technologies in the classroom, technology decision makers are dealing with far more implications than switches and routers. Not only are network considerations critical to support the classrooms, but the tools that teachers are using are sliding towards the technology pendulum at exponential rates.
The architecture now has multiple layers to evaluate and requires a more comprehensive systems perspective from our technologists. Technologists are now asked to understand how instructional technologies such as interactive whiteboards, online content, social media, and video cameras are integrating with information data systems and network infrastructure. Technologists are now asked to balance a fair acceptable use policy to answer security and safety concerns while providing teachers access to web 2.0 tools and other social networks. Technologists are now asked to understand student data points to build integrated systems to provide teachers dashboards of information. Technologists are now asked to evaluate tools and online curriculum to make decisions on blended learning models. Technologists are now asked to understand student and teacher needs for end-user devices to support 21st century learning. Technologists are now asked to facilitate professional development and developed a culture around 21st century learning. It almost begs the question…
Do our technology decision makers need an education background to support the next generation school? From my point of view, I have seen some amazing teachers handle all services in the technology department, and I have also seen amazing IT folks with compassion and understanding of educator needs. At the end of the day the head of technology needs a new set of skills to tackle the rapidly evolving 21st century schools.
I have written many posts in the past about what skills technologists need to be successful in the next generation K12 school environment, but recently I have came upon a framework that encapsulated many of my thoughts on Education Information Technology. CoSN has established a new framework called Essential Skills of the K12 CTO, which provides a comprehensive list of skills the next generation technologists need to be a “viable” decision maker for schools. I was very happy to see a framework parallel what I have been thinking these past few years and excited to learn more about the program. The framework breaks down into four categories of Leadership and Vision, Understanding Educational Environment, Managing Technology & Support Resources, and Core Values & Skills. Within each category, there are subcategories that CTO and technology decision makers will need to be a successful and critical member of the district/school. While I am envious that I didn’t come up with this framework, I am excited that my ideas matched with a major organization’s idea of a successful technologists.
PostScript: This entry is inspiring to write a post about why we should no longer call it The Technology Department?
5/4/11 – Here is the post Should we even call it the Technology Department anymore?
- K12 information technology is NOT enterprise IT.
- Successful technology departments are not troubleshooting day-to-day tech support tickets, but rather empowering users and providing structured professional development.
- The more technology proficient our K12 users are, the less tech support tickets are submitted.
- When I am focused more on educational technology, I know information technology is doing its job.
- Putting technology in the classroom without proper professional development = money squandered.
- Just paying for tech support = adding more cost down the road. Tech support must combine with professional development, technology vision and strategic technology planning for successful integration.
- EdTech specialists should evolve to learn and experience aspects of information technology.
- IT administrators should observe classrooms and understand the needs of our teachers.
- “Geeked-Out” teachers + “Education-Minded” IT admins = Happy Medium!
- Content filtering is a must when dealing with federal dollars…but that doesn’t mean IT shouldn’t listen to their teachers about what you block. Both sides should be knowledgeable about CIPA.
- Responsible management of equipment by our teachers will go a long way to preserving the technology while lending a hand to the IT department.
- When purchasing technology, don’t forget their is a total cost of ownership which adds maintenance, warranty, training, and support costs.
- 250:1 workstation to desktop support technician is what I have seen typically in K12. But I have heard cases of 600:1…yikes! In comparison, a typical corporate enterprise would have a 25-50:1 ratio.
- Flexible desktop virtualization & cloud computing will save costs down the road while providing teachers content for engaging educational technology.
- Technology departments should be one of the models for 21st century learning. We need to empower our users to be constant learners, collaborators, and innovators.
- Majority of tech support tickets are user errors. I have even been told up to 80% by other technology administrators.
- The more we open our technology infrastructure to our users, the more important digital citizenship becomes a key component.
- When offering technology professional development, remember The Boiling Frog Syndrome metaphor.
- It is possible for a teacher to run the technology infrastructure of a school. I know many teachers who take on this role.
- Provide technology tools and avenues to empower users to share information and collaborate.
- The skill of patience is a necessity when supporting diverse groups of users. Don’t make assumptions about technology use, there are diverse experiences and attitudes towards technology.
- Implementing changes in technology requires thorough planning and strategy when dealing with such a diverse user base.
- Even when you are confident that change in technology is better in the long the run, there tends to be a resistance to change that dampers the process. One needs to be build a thick skin when making school-wide technology changes. Keep pushing forward and try to win the few resistors over.
- Not all users will read your first email or update, differentiate how you disseminate technology changes to the staff.
- Tech support is a thankless job.
- When users are not hollering, is it safe to assume there are no tech support issues? “All Quiet in the Western Front” or should tech support be worried that it is too quiet.
- “I didn’t get the email” = “you didn’t read the email”
First I want to state that I have no degree in educational technology. However, I have a bachelors in electrical engineering, and have spent seven years working in the information technology industry. Moreover, I have been in teaching (Masters in Education) for five years and have been director of educational technology for three. My experiences in both education and technology has brought me to the conclusion that we need a new hybrid degree for the next generation EdTech specialist.
As schools become more integrated with tablets, interactive whiteboards, and smartphones, building a school infrastructure that supports this environment will be key to success. Furthermore, as schools become more dependent on web applications and cloud computing, network demands will be pushing for more security, collaboration and accessibility.
The new EdTech specialist will not only need to have their basic understanding of technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPACK), but will also need to have a fundamental understanding of information technologies. And within information technology studies, their needs to be a fundamental understanding of the engineering design process. According to wikipedia, the engineering design process is:
“the process of servicing a system, component or process to meet desired deeds. It is a decision-making process (often iterative), in which the basic sciences,mathematics, and engineering sciences are applied to convert resources optimally to meet a stated objective. Among the fundamental elements of the design process are the establishment of objectives and criteria, synthesis, analysis, construction, testing, and evaluation.”
By studying the engineering design process, our next generation EdTech specialist will have fundamental understanding of system design. If the end goal is transform schools by having a fully integrated educational technology solution, how can an EdTech specialist not be included in the design process of technology infrastructures. I often find that IT departments do not include EdTech in decisions regarding infrastructure because of the perceived lack of technical expertise. But if the end goal is to service teachers and students, it is absolutely critical that the EdTech specialist be part of the design process.
The common argument I frequently here is that EdTech specialists are not technical enough, while IT specialists have no clue what teachers need. My hopes is to eliminate this issue by creating a new hybrid degree in EdTech/IT. I call it EdIT (Education Information Technology). This program would enhance the already strong EdTech community by giving EdTech specialists an opportunity to study engineering and IT fundamentals. It will prove beneficial if this new specialist will have understanding of security, programming, and network design systems. Armed with this knowledge, who wouldn’t want this new EdIT specialist to lead our future school technology infrastructures.