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Combining Teacher Preparation with Quality Tech Support

Has this ever happened to you?

Teacher has spent hours thoroughly planning a lesson with careful considerations of differentiation and learning objectives. The lessons provided discovery learning opportunities embedded in a project-based learning environment. Students are jazzed and the teacher has planned it with several layers of bloom’s taxonomy. Unfortunately, one glaring oversight has been missed, the computers were not updated with the latest Java update to run the activity. And when the teacher rushes to run java updates, the network crashes with 30 laptops fighting for wireless bandwidth. The methodically planned lesson was thrown off course because of technical difficulties. Students are frustrated and begin to misbehave because the tool which they heavily relied upon is no longer working. The star teacher suddenly looks incompetent.

It is not uncommon that schools with limited budgets and hodge podge technology infrastructures run into difficulties integrating technology into their curriculum. Why take the risk when you can’t trust the technology? This seems to be a common barrier that teachers face when trying to infuse technology.

One of the most common reasons why teachers resist technology integration is because they feel the technology will fail on them during a carefully planned lesson. While there are many teachers who are savvy enough to troubleshoot on the spot, many are faced with disasters as soon as technical difficulties spring up.

As a technology administrator, building trust first is key to start building a culture of technology integration. Developing a quality tech support mechanism will help build the trust with teachers, and in effect, allow teachers to feel confident developing integrated technology lessons.

While ensuring quality maintenance and tech support is essential, there is another key factor in successful technology integration and that is teacher preparation of a lesson. As thorough as a tech support team can try to be, teachers need to prepare before instruction and that includes checking if the computers and software work. It is not uncommon to see teachers try out a lesson on their computer, but forget to try it on student machines, which sometimes have a completely different configuration. All it takes is a broken web link, a failed Flash update, or even a unplugged switch that can throw off the best of teachers.

With a combination of teacher lesson preparation and quality/timely tech support/maintenance mechanism, schools can ensure technology integration is setup for success…of course with a heavy dose of professional development.

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Tech Support System 2.0

Our technology department just launched our new tech support request system and we built it all with Google free tools. We provided our users with two options to submit a tech support request. The first option is to leverage our Google Apps Edu infrastructure using Google Forms. We created a simple Google Form that asked for information and detailed messages about the tech support issue. It automatically retrieves their account information and populates a Google Spreadsheet shared with my technology team.

If the tech support issue is not being able to access the Internet, we provided our users with a Google Voice number to submit a request. We established a Google Voice local number that users can call to drop a message. Google Voice is feature rich and it allowed us to move away from a virtual PBX solution. Users call the number, leave a voicemail and Google Voice transcribes the message and sends an email to my technology team. It also keeps a voice record of all our submitted tech support requests.

Just another way to reduce the costs of information technology in K12. Drop a comment if you want more specifics. @franze98 has also another great alternative that integrates with Google Apps Edu called eStreamDesk.

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”
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