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Tech Department Core Services

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.

Support Services

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.”

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.

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Should we even call it the Technology Department anymore?

May 4, 2011 2 comments

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?

Information Technology Specialist

September 14, 2010 1 comment

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.

Duties:
–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.

Qualifications:
–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.

Demonstrated Skills/Abilities:
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.

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Building the Next Generation EdTech Specialist

August 21, 2010 Leave a comment

Below is the blog post that was featured on EdReformer. Thank you @edreformer for allowing me to guest blog post.

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.

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K12 Technology Mission Statement

August 16, 2010 1 comment

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.

Core Values

  • 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.
Non-Negotiables

  • 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.

Thoughts About K12 Education Information Technology

July 3, 2010 6 comments
Below is a compilation of my #EduIT thoughts from years serving in K12 education infrastructures. The role of the technology department is continuing to evolve, and with the rapid growth of edtech in K12 schools, it is important to understand everyone’s role (teachers, IT, admins) in the success of technology deployment  This opinionated post will continue to evolve and I welcome other technology administrators & teachers to participate in this ongoing discussion about education information technology.
  • 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”

Troubleshooting Skills and PD #EduIT

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.

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