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.
A couple weeks ago, I wrote a blog entry called The Evolving Role of the Technology Department, and detailed how the department plays an integral role in school/district organizations. No longer is the department treated separately as a “geek squad,” but rather shared decision makers on various aspects of education such as curriculum, professional development, and data assessment strategies. As schools continue to evolve programs and infrastructures to support 21st learning, the technology department is playing a more crucial role in rolling out these changes.
As I stated in a previous post It’s Changing Culture, Not Technology: We are not simply introducing technology changes in schools, but rather making cultural changes of how schools instruct, operate & function. And it is because of these cultural changes which is driving the thought of changing the technology department name. We are not simply dealing with just technology tools anymore, but the culture of our organization, and that requires more than technical proficiency. Our technologists are now required to posses leadership qualities in areas of professional development, marketing, collaboration, problem solving, and creative innovation in regards to what is best for school organizations. So why not call it the 21st century learning department, or perhaps the organizational efficiency department? What would you call this evolving technology department? Or should we stick the nerds back into their IT cubicles?
We are hiring an Information Technology Specialist for our public charter school system. Use the EdJoin process to apply for the position. Email applications will not be be considered. Thank you.
Position: Information Technology Specialist
We deliver 21st century technology learning opportunities that foster academic excellence leading to global collaboration, digital citizenship, and a love for learning.
–Provide customer service that supports the culture of learning, collaboration, and love.
–Responsible for the tech support system and administration of the technology network.
–Design, maintenance and installation of computer and networking systems.
–Troubleshoot software and hardware and all related components and peripherals.
–Conduct training for end users on the use of computer equipment and present technology strategy to various stake holders in the organization.
–Document and produce data reports on technology usage and support.
–Provide information technology expertise and collaborate with leadership on technology solutions.
–Research and implement best-practices on communication information systems, policies and procedures.
–Knowledge of operating systems: Windows XP, Vista, 7, Linux and Mac OSX.
–Knowledge of networking systems: LAN, WAN, TCP/IP, content filtering, servers, firewalls, wireless, thin clients, desktop virtualization, SSO, DNS, cloud computing, and routing.
–Knowledge of open source software
–Knowledge of data-driven systems a plus: Data Director, LMS, CMS
–Knowledge of edtech tools and 21st century learning a plus: Google Apps, wikis, IWB, videoconferencing, social media, blogs.
–Knowledge of scripting and programming a plus.
–Knowledge of SIS systems a plus: Zangle, PowerSchool, Genesis.
–Knowledge of ERate and school technology plans a plus.
–Bachelors degree in information technology or computer science related fields preferred.
–3-5 years industry experience with technical certifications preferred.
Ability to analyze and troubleshoot computer and networking systems and related equipment; ability to keep inventory; ability to perform skilled work according to plans, specifications and instruction; ability to establish and maintain effective personal working relationships; ability to lift and/or move related equipment; ability to work independently; innovative and patient; ability to provide effective quality end user service.
The common argument 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, hence the name EduIT. 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 EduIT specialist to lead our next generation school technology infrastructures.
Schools require a new breed of Information Technology than the traditional enterprise network. The corporate enterprise network model doesn’t seem to fit the nature of a K12 school. Obviously, we need to protect student information systems that house confidential data about our populations, but overall I feel instructional institutions need to embrace an open & collaborative environment focused on integrating technology into the classroom.
The traditional enterprise IT Director role may not fit the role for school technology infrastructures. Quite boldly: “Whoever is in charge of educational technology should be in charge of the direction of information technology at the school.” I still believe there needs to be an IT specialist who takes care of day to day technology support, but the Director of Technology should be an Educational Technologist who has classroom experience to bring to the table. We are at a point in education where technology is a paradigm shifting tool in our classrooms, and we need experts in both education and technology to lead the way.
Let’s call it EduIT (Education Information Technology). The EduIT director fosters 21st century skills and invests in tools & professional development that pushes the IT department to empower teachers to use technology in the classroom. Why keep two departments separate? EdTech should be driving the decisions on infrastructure, such as moving to a Google Apps environment for communication and collaboration. When we moved to this environment at our site, we saved money and time working on tech support issues while also creating an environment that supported effective real time communication.
The EduIT director will spend more time working with teachers and administrators to create the ideal integrated technology classroom environment. This will lend itself to focusing on tools such as student response systems, gesture-based computing, and technology data-driven assessments for classroom integration. It will also focus on collaborative web environments focused on wikis, micro-blogging, and other social media apps. The cloud computing sector has evolved to a point where traditional IT processes & job duties are no longer needed, and less time is needed to support our users. Moreover, the web 2.0 environment has evolved to make it easier for non-tech savvy users to integrate technology with little tech support. The role of EduIT director would focus on professional development training with understanding of technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPACK).
As our schools evolve and embrace educational technologies, it only makes sense that Educational Technology should merge with Information Technology.
This will require some changes on how we train our EdTech specialists who will be filling the role of the technology director. This is where I believe the EdTech specialist needs to evolve into a broader profession to include Information Technology studies.
I have a bachelors in electrical engineering, and have spent seven years working in the information technology industry. I have been in teaching (Masters in Education) for six years and have been the director of technology for four. 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.
Below is the technology mission statement I developed for our charter schools. It has been a productive summer developing the new department to serve our seven schools for the 2010-2011 school year.
We deliver 21st century technology learning opportunities that foster academic excellence leading to global collaboration, digital citizenship, and a love for learning.
- All students and staff can learn and should have access to current and relevant technology and support resources.
- Provide technology learning resources and tools to empower staff and students to participate in global collaborative environments.
- Provide quality support and maintenance of technology services.
- Research current technology best practices and provide on-going professional development.
- Encourage and promote 21st century skills and digital citizenship.
- All students can achieve technology proficiency using computers on a regular scheduled basis.
- There will be a staff technology core level proficiency framework. It is expected that all staff fill out the EdTech Profile provided by the State of California. The technology department will facilitate professional development on core level competencies.
- All students and staff will adhere to high standards of digital citizenship.
- Only technology initiatives/implementations collaborated with the technology department will be supported and maintained.
- Only school issued technology equipment can be formerly supported by the technology department.
- 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”
K12 schools often do not include information technology as a piece of the professional development puzzle for teachers. However, with the growing use of technology in the classroom, proficiency training is becoming a vital piece to successful integration. While it is evident that teachers who integrate technology are savvy computer users, there is still a growing list of tech support issues that correlate with more technology use.
As the Director for both information and educational technology for my schools, it is clearly transparent that professional development in computer troubleshooting skills is becoming a crucial part of successful technology integration. It is easy to beckon the call for Information Technology when tech support issues arise, but with decreasing budgets and computer technician to desktop ratios rising (I have heard 600:1), technology proficiency and agility is a growing need amongst all staff members. Does your technology professional development include basic computer operations and troubleshooting training?
Moving forward, I plan to blend aspects of information technology strategies into my technology professional development training. As much as we are pushing forth 21st century learning technologies, it is equally important that our staff also have the necessary troubleshooting tools to tackle the everyday tech support issues in their classroom. Often, tech support issues occur right in the middle of the lesson and IT support is not readily available. Arming our teachers with IT strategies and resources will go a long way to successful technology integration.
K12 Public Schools – Anyone working in the technology department of public K12 schools know the limitations of resources to service our school community. In fact, industry standards state that a IT support personnel to computer workstation ratio is generally 1:250. Unfortunately, I have seen far worse ratios up to 1:600. With the growing needs of technology in conjunction with budget decreases, how does a technology department continue to support the needs of our teachers, students, and staff.
CTE Vocational Programs – In a competitive industry such as IT technical support, experience is usually the key to landing a job in the industry. Many CTE programs teach theory and provide laboratory experiences with technical support. However, the programs are generally shorter than traditional degrees and they do not offer all the practical real world experience needed to land that key job. That is why many CTE programs offer externships for their students, where upon finishing their studies, CTE students are required to spend a certain amount of hours interning in the industry.
Creating a Win-Win Situation – As a teacher at heart, I decided to create a partnership with a local Computer Systems Technician program where I offer their students real-world experiences supporting a network infrastructure. As part of my partnership, I provide technology learning opportunities for interns to learn basics of troubleshooting and managing a network infrastructure. In return, the interns extend my quality of service by having more technicians on site for my staff and students.
The End Goal – Since developing this partnership, I have been dreaming of building an authentic technology learning center where CTE interns, teachers, and K12 students have opportunities to experience all aspects of technology. I have always believed technical professional development is the key to any K12 infrastructure. The more training and professional development, the less technical support will be eventually needed. The end goal is to empower our entire community with technical agility.
Working in both IT operations and EdTech makes it quite difficult to provide a balanced technology solution that offers robust instructional resources without putting a burden on technical support. In my previous post, I wrote about creating a Google Apps Virtual Desktop where students can log into their account for their web-based application services. As of now, it has been limited to the core Google Apps services of Docs & Sites, with additions of Aviary, SlideRocket, and Survey Monkey. I am still waiting for an education section of GAE to develop, and more instructional apps made available for free.
While Google Apps provides our schools with real-time communication and collaborative tools, I still felt a key missing component to my desktop virtualization solution. This is where I have been investigating solutions to eliminate the everyday desktop technical support of security updates, software installations, and user operating system errors. I have researched solutions such as Citrix XenDesktop 4 software and VMware.
Then I asked What if…?
What if web-centric Google Chromium OS allowed me to combine VMware capability with Google Apps? In my dream world, my students will use thin clients to boot up Chromium OS from a shared server. The Chromium OS will launch Google Apps and other web 2.0 apps on the thin clients, and students will be able to save all their work in Docs.
From an IT perspective, it will reduce cost and time of managing & maintaining individual desktop machines that are prone for user error. The thin clients will simply act as a graphical user interface connecting remotely to the shared server or drive that boots web-based Chromium OS and Google Apps. Using this configuration will free up time to focus on professional development training, while allowing me to maximize instructional technology resources in a virtual environment. One device to rule them all…Would love to hear your budget K12 solutions?
In an ideal world, school technology budgets would provide each classroom with 3D projectors using interactive tablets loaded with complete software suites. Instead many schools face a hodge-podge of legacy equipment that force IT personnel into constant firefighter mode. Optimizing a school infrastructure is often quite a daunting challenge, especially with yearly decreasing budgets. The Journal brought this up recently with the article: You Want Me to What?
I have been exploring alternative technology solutions to bring down costs of integration, without sacrificing clear needs of instructional and information technology. I have decided to come up with a list of technology solutions for school organizations on a serious budget. Thanks to the #EduIT community on Twitter who helped with this list. This list will continue to evolve and most likely change as new technologies come to fruition. In the meantime, equipping your schools with these open sourced, low-cost or free technologies will help provide the solutions until you score that million dollar grant.
Operating Systems – Ubuntu or the education version Edubuntu will provide all the necessary OS needs for your school computers. The 2Go Convertible Classroom PC allows you to run Linux OS. It will provide the interactive tablet capabilities on a budget. We shall see how the iPad survives the classroom durability test. For the alpha geeks, here is a list of 10 more alternative operating systems.
Communication and Collaborative Tools – Forget running your own email exchange and web servers, migrate all your communication needs to Google Apps Education for free. According to their site, there seems to be no limit of how many accounts you can ask for. I have heard sites asking for 5000+ accounts from Google. Without going into too much detail, GAE provides real time communication tools with their plethora of application services ranging from Google Docs to wiki technologies in Google Sites. From an administrative IT point of view, scaling and tech support has never been simpler. Using GAE will eliminate most of Microsoft Office needs. However, as an alternative, Microsoft does have a couple solutions to GAE with Small Office Live and Live@Edu. Another alternative communication solution that is gaining followers in the web 2.0 space is Zoho.
Microsoft Office - Despite the plethora of alternatives, Microsoft Office still lingers as the predominant solution. It reminds me of the times I use to work in the networking industry when we use to say “you can’t get fired for buying Cisco.” Although Microsoft continues to dominate, it is a great time to start looking at alternative solutions. On top of the solutions above, Open Office has been a steady alternative to Microsoft. It will be interesting to see what happens to Open Office with the recent acquisition of Sun Microsystems. ThinkFree, SSuite and AjaxOffice are relatively unknown, but provide word processing, spreadsheets, and presentation software. As individual applications, there has been a explosion of web2.0 apps that provide collaborative capabilities on Office technologies. For example, presentation software have evolved to replace PowerPoint with web2.0 apps such as Sliderocket, Prezi, and Ahead. Another Microsoft tool that I use to love using was Visio, but I have replaced it with web2.0 app Creately.
Adobe Creative Suite – The expensive design suite has sparked an abundance of alternatives that provide solutions for the education market. It may not provide all the professional tools of Creative Suite, but it gives young inspiring graphic designers cheaper solutions to start with. Photoshop is probably the most famous of the Creative Suite, and the open source community has a stable alternative with GIMP. If GIMP is too much of a learning curve, try these other alternatives to Photoshop. InDesign page layout software can be replaced with Scribus. Illustrator can be replaced with InkScape. Flash can be replaced with Synfig. Dreamweaver can be replaced with Nvu. Premiere can be replaced with Avidemux.
Content Management System – In the education market, CMS is clearly dominated by open source solutions. I have seen websites run entirely under open source solutions such as Joomla, Moodle, and Drupal. Others may call this space as Learning Management Systems and Virtual Learning Environments. There are a host of others, including WordPress, but the three above seem to be the most used in education.
Student Information System – SIS can eat into a budget quite easily as most companies charge per student. There are open source alternatives out there, but have gained little traction in the education market. I for one would like to see if OpenSIS, Moodle, and Focus/SIS can be viable alternatives to the PowerSchools of SIS.
Computer Lab Management - Deploying student desktops and laptops can be a management nightmare for IT operations. iTALC is an open source solution for lab management.
Firewalls – There are host of firewall security open source solutions on the market. Here are seven that I have seen or heard people use in school infrastructures: SmoothWall, IPCop, Endian, Clark Connect, pfSense, Untangle, & Shorewall. There are also a host of content filtering solutions built into firewalls, but for a cloud solution look to OpenDNS. Just point your network to use OpenDNS servers to proxy the Internet. It is CIPA compliant as well.
Network Analyzers – IT operations could not do without having sniffer software to analyze TCP/IP data on the network. Wireshark runs on Windows, Linux, and OSX platforms and will analyze a spectrum of protocols on the network. Ethereal, Spiceworks and DNA are also available for download.
Interactive Whiteboards – The cost of IWB can be expensive when a school tries to outfit each class with one. However, there is an evolving alternative to IWBs and one solution gaining popularity is the AverPen. Here is a snippet of their marketing: “Ever imagine it would be possible to combine Interactive Whiteboard, Wireless Slate and Student Response System features into one complete, yet affordable solution?” Wiimote IWB: Great add from @jasontbedell.
Data Storage – Cloud computing allows many options for data storage. However, it always comes down to security questions from IT departments of information. For the most part, migration to the cloud using services like Google Docs, Mozy, Box.net, and Drop.io have gained traction as basic free storage solutions. There are too many to choose from, check the security features and cost before transferring files. For privacy concerns, purchasing network attached storage is always an option.
Computer Sharing Technology – NComputing and Fiddlehead are computer sharing technologies where one single desktop can act as many computers. The single desktop will connect multiple monitors and treats each monitor as if they are a separate desktop. It is using desktop virtualization for cost effectiveness.
Tech Support Ticket System – Depending on the size of your school, a tech support ticket system may not be necessary and using Google Forms would suffice. However, if you are in need of a true tech support ticket system that is full featured and open source, try osTicket.
Paperless LCD Writing Tablets – MyBoogieBoard is a great low budget technology solution that gives students a writing platform that can replace those Expo markers and white boards.
*For your desktop users, they can check out this site for the best free apps for PC’s and Macs.