To keep the productive EdTech and IT discussion going, I decided to create a Twitter hashtag devoted to technologists who work in the Information Technology Department at educational institutions. As brilliant as the #edchat discussion are, I thought a separate hashtag would serve beneficial to those focused on topics and questions related to school technology infrastructures. There is a growing need for clear communication between EdTech and IT, and I hope we can bridge the two departments with the #EduIT hashtag.
Sample Topics for #EduIT
- Sharing technology plans
- Resources regarding CIPA
- Cloud computing
- Next generation school technology infrastructures
- Technical questions
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.
- 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.