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My Role-Playing as a Technology Coordinator

May 19, 2010 3 comments

Guest Blogger: @franze98 Chris Franzen is one of the valuable contributers to #EduIT and an “education minded” technology administrator.

My Role-Playing as a Technology Coordinator in Pre-k – 12 School District

I see three parts to the equation in interacting with teachers.  These parts all play equal importance for successful technology integration.  With my role as a sole Technology Coordinator, I have to be able to manage my time wisely to cover all the bases.

Trainer

Learning a new technology takes time whether that is new software or hardware.  Part of my job is to teach teachers how to use the technology provided for them in their classrooms.  Without my guidance some wouldn’t have the time or initiative to learn a new piece of technology.  In playing this trainer role, one has to be able to connect with the audience.  I try to do so at the personal level and then connect the “material” to terminology that they can understand.

Provider

Not only do I provide my staff with knowledge on how to use technology, but I also provide the equipment to them.  Sometimes this becomes the hardest part of my job as I must constrain purchases to a budget and thus not everyone gets what they would like to have.  It’s a fine tightrope to walk in being fair, but also considering how to get the most bang for the district’s buck.  Also taken into to consideration is how much use that item will get in that classroom.  In my district I have a wide token of users so some are towards the top of the technology knowledge pole while others are towards the bottom.  This is very comparable to a general student population and we don’t want to leave anyone behind.  The connection to the trainer role is very clear in a situation for those towards the bottom of the tech ability scale.  If the desire to learn more is there it is very important to push them to the next level. Otherwise their frustrations will easily mount and they could turn new technology into a negative.

Fixer

Whether its user error or a broken electronic part, it’s my responsibility as the technology department to fix it.  If it is broken it was probably used and thus now a teaching plan is out of whack and my teachers rely on me to get things up and running efficiently.  These day to day fixes also give great opportunities for personal interaction with the staff.  Striving to schedule fixes at a time least convenient to them is also a priority if possible.

Some key points that I try to remember for all of these parts is to keep an open mind.  Not everyone will see things eye to eye with you.  It’s those times of struggle where we can all shine in finding a compromise.    Thanks to Howard Chan, @socratech on twitter for inviting me to participate in this guest blog.

How Technology Should Support Education?

May 16, 2010 1 comment

Guest Blogger: @jasontbedell Jason Bedell is a valuable part of my PLN and his blog series on Diffusion of Innovations has sparked a guest series topic that I wanted on my blog: “What is the role of the technology department at K12 schools?” Here is his insightful post:

Howard Chan asked me to write about the role of the technology department in education. I have written implicitly about this on many occasions both on this blog and on Twitter. In fact, Howard, Keith Bockwoldt, and I started the #EduIt discussion on Twitter several months ago specifically to discuss ways to bridge the gap between education and traditional IT departments. We have since been joined by many qualified technology directors and teachers.

We believe this to be a great necessity in education. As technology becomes ever more vital to all aspects of education, such as infrastructure, administration, and teaching, the technology department is becoming much more necessary and more powerful. Policies made by the technology department effect every student and teacher in the school. The role of the technology department, as well as its limitations, need to be clearly delineated.

It is my vision that the technology department needs to enable students to learn and teachers to teach better than they already do. The issue is that many technology departments overstep these bounds and do not really understand education. Many technology directions come from a traditional IT background, complete with the assumptions and presuppositions of a corporate environment. Chief among these concerns is the need to control. We need to control employees so that they stay on task. My own technology director explicitly told me that YouTube and Facebook would always be blocked because of the amount of bad content on those networks.

Technology departments cannot just block useful websites because students may find some bad content. Blocking Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Skype, etc… does not protect students. It does not help students. It cripples them. The technology department needs to educate students on how to use these services wisely for self-directed learning and on how to react if they do come across inappropriate content. When students leave school, they will be tempted at home and at work. They will find inappropriate content. If the schools do not teach them how to handle these situations, then we have done our children a disservice.

We are further hurting our children when we allow the technology departments to limit our teachers. It is a sad state when I have to counsel my teachers on how to get around our Internet filter because they found excellent content online to use with students, and then find out that they cannot access it from school. By outlawing Twitter, my technology department is cutting off teachers from an amazing amount of professional development. If our teachers cannot improve as they should because of the technology department, then the technology is hurting our children.

Hadley Ferguson wrote an outstanding post recently entitled, “First Do No Harm.” We all, including technology departments, would be well served by adhering to this motto. Teachers and students do not need to be protected. To really thrive and prepare our students, we need freedom. The technology department should be supporting us in our goals and enabling them through infrastructure, training, teaching, professional development, and policies crafted involving all stakeholders. Our instructional and educational goals should not be determined or limited by what our technology departments deem appropriate.

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