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EdIT (Education Information Technology)

Should EdTech evolve into a more broader profession to include Information Technology? Should EdTech take over IT departments at schools? Do you think schools have different IT requirements than other infrastructures? Here are my initial thoughts and ideas. Of course I welcome your thoughts and always willing to adjust accordingly.
  • Cloud computing has eliminated many in house IT needs and made IT operations web based.
  • EdTech understands the teacher and classroom needs.
  • EdTech has experience in both education and technology.
  • District budget costs – merge the two departments.
  • Traditional enterprise IT environment doesn’t fit open collaborative school environments.
  • Security concerns are not as stringent as corporate sectors.
  • Network requirements are not as comprehensive as corporate sectors.
  • IT departments should model 21st century learning environments.
  • Web 2.0 applications are simple, effective and affordable to use.
  • Finding a computer operations technician to fix everyday hardware issues is cheap.
  • No need to maintain own servers anymore.
  • Many teachers can run their own technology environments with proper training.

It has dawned on me that schools require a new bread of Information Technology than the traditional enterprise network. From my experience working and selling to corporate IT, the closed hierarchy lend itself to politics of control, security and money. I have tremendous respect for IT departments who have to manage secure enterprise networks spanning across the globe. However, when I look at schools, especially K12 communities, the secure enterprise network model doesn’t seem to fit the nature of a 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 classrooms.

This is where I feel the traditional IT Director may not fit the bill for school technology infrastructures. Simply put: “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 IT ground workers who take care of day to day technology support, but the Director of IT should be an Education 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.

I would like to coin the new department as EdIT (Education Information Technology). The EdIT director has to envision a school infrastructure that fosters 21st century skills and invests in products & training that lends itself to empowering teachers to use technology in the classroom. Why keep the two departments separate? EdTech should be driving the decisions on infrastructure, such as moving to a Google Apps environment for communication and collaboration. Not only does moving towards a cloud environment lend itself for better collaboration between teachers, it will also save money and time from an IT perspective. When we moved to this environment at our site, we saved plenty of money and time working on tech support issues while also creating an environment that supported effective real time communication.

The EdIT 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 products such as Doc Cams, SMARTboards, and Netbooks for classroom integration. It will also focus on collaborative web environments focused on wikis, microblogging, 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 EdIT director would focus primarily on professional development training with focus on technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPACK).

As our schools are evolving and continually to embrace educational technologies into the classroom, it only makes sense that Educational Technology should merge with Information Technology. But it will only work if the EdTech people make the decisions in the direction of all technology being put into the school.

  1. January 2, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    Most IT people now how to make things work, but their experience does not help them to determine what works for education. They, in my experience, seem to believe that both students and teachers need to be controlled. Opening that control some (I know we need to have some filters as per federal requirements) can allow for great learning to happen. Students can find more resources and teachers can prepare them for how to handle both freedom and inappropriate content when it is found. Both of those situations will occur in the real world when they leave school and they must be prepared for that.

  2. Russ
    January 2, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    This could help solve other issues. In most cases the ed tech people do not get along with the IT people. This IS NOT the case at my institution, but I have seen it many times.

  3. January 2, 2010 at 5:45 pm

    8 Ways Cloud Computing May Change Schools http://blog.core-ed.net/derek/2009/06/8-ways-cloud-computing-may-change-schools.html [Makes excellent points about school IT environments]

  4. January 2, 2010 at 6:24 pm

    I agree with you on your points to a certain extent, but I would suggest another model. From my perspective, I don’t feel a teacher would know anything about information technology. I disagree that ed tech staff know about the nuts and bolts of a solid technology infrastructure. The demands on the network infrastructure have grown dramatically with Web 2.0 technologies. Information technology in our district supports the entire business office operations. A business and technology specialist is needed to manage this area. Information technology and technology support should remain under one umbrella, while ed tech should work closely and in tandem with information technology and technology support. A triangular model if you will, is what I suggest for reorganization of technology.

    CEO (Chief Education Officer)

    Director of Information and Technology Services Director of Educational Technology

    I suggest the CEO be the top level leader to work with his team to steer the direction for ed tech. The core team would be the cadre to work closely with teachers to steer the technology put in the hands of the teachers and students. To take this model to another level, it may vary depending on the size of the school district. With budget limitations and other variables, one model might not fit every school district.

    Virtualization, cloud computing, Web 2.0 and SAAS technologies are changing the landscape of technology in school districts. Change is ineveitable, especialliy when it comes to the eveolution of technology. Getting the district leaders to understand the constant changes and need for adjustments periodically, is another challenge in itself.

  5. January 2, 2010 at 6:38 pm

    Thank you for your comments Keith! You make some excellent points, especially for a district as large as yours. From my experience, it has been a mixed bag with edtech working with IT departments. I think it works both ways, IT people need training with practical uses in educational technologies while edtech folks need practical training in network infrastructures. Is your site moving towards cloud computing environments? At our sites, we have removed many IT needs by switching to a cloud environment. If bus ops still runs in traditional enterprise IT model, do you see value in switching to an open collaborative environment for teachers and students?

    • January 3, 2010 at 2:29 am

      Howard, I think your model would work well for smaller school districts and makes great sense. Districts have struggled over the years with having dependable infrastructure and have most likely elected to have an IT person manage it. This made sense at the time so the technology worked or enhanced instruction instead of deterring it. This was the case before I was hired at my district. The district had a lot of technology, but it was not stable and was not working the way it was supposed to. I undertook a massive overhaul of operations and put solid systems and practices in place. It was a must to stabilize the technology and get the “stuff” working before adding additional technology. Now we are in a great place. Great strides have been taken to add different educational technologies and teachers want more; they are demanding it. Whereas before, they lost trust in the systems and did not want anything to do with it.

      Our district is currently virtualizing the datacenter operations first. We are on track to have it virtualized by the summer and have started to explore cloud computing. I see a great value in moving to collaborative learning environments for teachers and students. I broke through the “control” issues this year that I have seen in so many threads about social networking and Web 2.0 websites being blocked by districts. We received approval early in 2009 after bringing forth a solid proposal to allow social networking and Web 2.0 sites for teachers and students. This caused a tremendous increase in bandwidth to support Web 2.0 technologies. The increased demands have forced me to purchase additional bandwidth. In a district of about 13,000 students, we will now have 150mbps of bandwidth available to the Internet by the end of January. This is not unusual as I speak with my peers in the northern region of Illinois. Having the infrastructure to support this type of bandwidth is essential and requires a skilled team.

      Students are wired differently and are growing up very differently than many of us. If we can get kids to open up and collaborate in a Math or Science class, say inside and outside of school, the same way they do with YouTube for example, we may see more interest and better learning. Education needs to transform from teachers teaching the test to authenticate student learning. Learning from each other in collaborative settings is key and a change in thought from traditional practices.

  6. January 2, 2010 at 6:59 pm

    After reflecting further, as new jobs continue to evolve as it did for IT “types” of jobs during the last decade, do you think there should be a new evolution of hybrid EdTech/IT jobs for education institutions? A degree that focuses on both infrastructure and instructional technical needs. I mean they have degrees focused just on security and media arts, why not a hybrid EdTech/IT specialist who can tackle all school technical issues? Do we have to keep them separate?

  7. January 2, 2010 at 9:58 pm

    Howard, I think you have quite neatly formulated an argument for EdIT that is separate from just IT. That in some way has been at the heart of the TPACK framework – and increasingly there is research to show that the mere addition of IT does not lead to change in teacher practices or student achievement. At some level this may seem a mere cosmetic move – but I think that labels and perceptions matter and this shift in labeling indicates a fundamental shift in what the role of the IT person is. Thanks for your thoughtful post.

  8. January 3, 2010 at 4:22 am

    Thank you Punya for your words of encouragement! I am a big advocate of your work on TPACK and would love to learn more from you. Have you guys ever considered IT components in your EdTech programs at Michigan State? That would be very interesting. I certainly believe EdIT has a future as schools continue to evolve into these 21st century web environments.

  9. January 3, 2010 at 4:25 am

    Kevin, I am so glad to hear that you guys are investing in social media and cloud computing. The major issue that seems to pop up in the EdTech/IT debate are those two components. EdTech folks are pushing for social media tools and cloud computing services like Google Apps in schools, but have met resistance from IT departments who do not want to support it. I would like to continue to follow your work at your district, because it could serve as a model of IT folks who truly understand the needs of teachers. At the end of the day, we all work for schools to help the student.

  10. January 3, 2010 at 3:51 pm

    This is a good conversation and I am especially encouraged by the ideas Kevin has shared. Staff who come up through education and staff who are trained in IT have very different and important skill sets. No matter what the background of the person in charge, the key is for all stakeholders to work together collaboratively and with one mission in mind – to support teaching and learning.

    I worked at the campus level for 14 years and then moved to a district technology department. My eyes were really opened to all of the things a district department handles in addition to the nuts-and-bolts and effective use of classroom technology. Student information systems. Business systems. Even campus security systems and phones. From my observations, overseeing operations like this takes someone with a background in enterprise technology opps who understands or is willing to listen to those who understand instructional needs.

    I was fortunate to work for a tech director who did not come from an instructional background, but who understood that our “customers” on the instructional side were teachers and students. And he solicited and valued our instructional input and worked hard to balance instructional needs with infrastructure requirements, security, etc.

    Unfortunately for us, he moved on to another district. I am still in contact with him, and it is interesting and encouraging to me that when he talks about the things he is focusing on as in his new postions he melds for the first time the instructional and technical staff under one department umbrella, the majority of his initiatives are on the side of facilitating more instructional use of technology.

    Regardless of who is in charge, the key to making progress is avoiding an “us vs. them”, “teachers vs. techies” mentality when working on a K-12 technology team. We must all advocate for end-user needs in a professional manner. Often, this requires patience and education of those not from the same background as ours. And a willingness to listen to and learn from all perspectives. As Howard says above, we must all keep in mind the mission at the end of the day – providing a reliable technology environment to support the operations of the district and promote student learning and achievement.

  11. January 3, 2010 at 8:35 pm

    I would like to see edtech folks play a larger role in IT at the higher education level, too.

    Simple things like enabling openid, saving millions by using alternatives to blackboard, better/required technology training for instructors and students, etc., there is so much that could be improved and changed.

  12. January 3, 2010 at 10:10 pm

    Thank you EdTechSandyK for your thoughtful post. Does your IT department support the initiatives and projects from EdTech? My two biggest concerns with IT departments (specifically at education institutions) is the reluctance to move to a cloud computing and collaborative social media environment.

  13. January 3, 2010 at 10:18 pm

    Thanks Doug for your feedback. It is always good to hear from higher education, especially professors who teach educational technology in the university level. Do you see value in incorporating IT infrastructure courses as part of a curriculum for EdTech? I am in the process of creating a model for what I think the next generation EdTech specialist skill set should have. I always believed the EdTech + IT + Pedagogy = Digital Schools. Thanks again for your input.

    • January 4, 2010 at 3:51 am

      Yeah I think at least offer them as electives or as a ‘minor’ or certificate. For librarians too.

      I would maybe broaden the idea even a bit more from IT skills to technological literacy. I think it wouldn’t hurt if edtech folks and perhaps teachers and librarians, too, learned just a little taste of what it is like to program, for example (like processing or scratch or something easy, just to take a step beyond powerpoint), and how to install a program (there was some blog post I don’t have the link to that argued that librarians should know how to install drupal, for example, or some content management system).

      One problem though is the lack of tech savvy-ness in the faculty themselves 🙂 See this post for example:
      At Vanderbilt’s education college, I was the only grad student who was doing any programming, and no faculty in college were doing programming either.

      • January 4, 2010 at 4:55 am

        Scratch programming is a great introduction to computer programming. I use it with my students at our school. I agree with you that EdTech programs need to include a variety of technology literacy subjects. EdTech folks are the perfect people who model constant learning, with all the new tools that continually evolve on the web. With IT/CIS foundation courses, I think the EdTech specialist would benefit from the engineering fundamentals that are needed to completely understand technology. Do you see your University ever creating such a ‘minor’ certificate? I want to create some foundations on what this new EdIT specialist would look like in the future. I would appreciate your input on it. Thanks again!

  14. January 3, 2010 at 11:02 pm

    You are welcome, Howard. Thanks for your thoughtful post which started this conversation. The theme of who should be making decisions in edtech and what those decisions need to be based on seems to occur over and over again in professional literature, both print and electronic. This conversation has come up several times in the master’s degree courses I’ve been taking for the past six months while working toward an MEd in EdTech Leadership.

    Right now, EdTech and technical staff are all part of the same technology department in our K-12 school system. We work in partnership with the network administrator and technicians in our department to support instructional technology in our district and start new initiatives. I feel that overall the technical side of the department is supportive of instructional projects. They are careful to thoroughly investigate the technical aspects of anything we feel is important to implement. Most of the time, if there are adequate infrastructure and personnel resources, and network security won’t be compromised, they find a way to make our projects work.

    In my opinion, the most limiting factors for moving forward with edtech initiatives are the time it takes to get things off the ground (not enough staff for the number of areas we are responsible for slows progress), being very careful and conservative in the area of student privacy concerns and CIPA compliance (I actually fall in this conservative camp, and would like to know how districts who allow more access to free Web 2.0 tools and social networks than we do have balanced more access with these issues), and the focus on test scores and school ratings which makes it difficult to get anything not directly related to “THE TEST” on the radar of the folks who hold the purse strings.

    We have not started to look at cloud computing yet, but we did begin a Moodle initiative in our district this year, which allows us to start some online collaboration while still protecting student privacy. For Moodle, we decided to go with a hosted solution instead of trying to set up our own servers since we felt it would be more cost effective than internally hosting.

    This is my experience in my district. We have about 10,500 students PK-12. Everyone’s situation is unique yet we all wrestle with the same questions. Interestingly, this article came across my Twitter feed today after I read your blog and posted my first comment. I think it speaks to many of the concerns that have been raised in your post and this discussion: http://ow.ly/SmVb

    Thank you again for this conversation. (I hope this response has fewer typos than my previous one. I should not have worked on it right before needing to be somewhere. :-/) I look forward to continued input from others.

  15. October 28, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    it jobs are very much in demand these days because of technology boom*–

  1. January 3, 2010 at 2:02 am
  2. January 3, 2010 at 8:35 pm
  3. May 19, 2010 at 4:22 am
  4. January 2, 2011 at 4:05 pm
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