Friday, May 15, 2020

What is your School IT Department’s Mission?

My school ran a pair of online awards events yesterday. We had almost 850 people on the day time Zoom meeting and around 500 on the evening one. These are both on a par with our events in the building in previous years. But that is not what I really want o focus on. I want to focus on how this is possible

As part of the day, the highest award the school presents to a member of the faculty or staff was awarded to our director of technology. It is largely because of his leadership that we were able as a school to move online as quickly and as effectively as we did.

Largely because of his work, our students were used to going online for assignments, to taking quizzes and tests online, and to turning in assignments online. Teachers are used to taking attendance online, giving assignments online, and many other things essential for the running of the classroom. In preparation for moving online faculty were given their first training and preparation weeks before we actually had to move to teaching from home. We got more training once the decision was made.

This happened because our IT department, from the top down and with the support of the school’s administration, has the same mission as the school. The IT people see their role as helping everyone use technology to teach and learn. Our It director has taught several classes the last two years and learned first hand how technology can be used and has used that experience to help prepare teachers to use it.

My school is fortunate to have an experienced and dedicated Director of IT who fully embraces the mission of the school. I suspect that him being a graduate of the school as are his three children doesn’t hurt.

Over the years I have visited many schools were IT departments and teachers, especially computer science teachers, have had an almost adversarial relationship. Teachers may want to teach things that the IT department is afraid of students learning. Or IT departments have made decisions about policy, hardware, and software without considering the needs of teachers.

Among the many lessons we are learning during these unusual time is that teachers and IT have to be partners working together for a common goal and with a common mission.


Mike Zamansky said...

This past year I attended the HighEdWeb conference. I had a chance to spend a lot of time with a lot of school IT people. Mostly college but some K12. It gave me a new appreciation for many of their positions.

I came away feeling that a lot of the adversarial stances are not from jerk IT people but rather lack of resources - time, tech and money.

Teachers want their thing to work but if 5 teachers want their thing then the IT person has 5 more things to maintain, 5 more things to keep upgraded, to keep secure, to keep integrated. It soon becomes a nightmare.

That of course is just the tip of the iceberg.

When I was at Stuy there was one full time IT person who was payed VERY little money. This was for a school with 300 computers and around 4000 students. Depending on the administration and DOE regulations they might not be able to use students to help them .

It's a rough situation.

Garth said...

Having no budget and no time actually makes things easier for me. I am a full time teacher and the only IT guy. My staff knows this. They call for help only when things go really bad. They also know I will get there when I get there. The staff also understands the budget. They have no expectations, just hopes. I tell them to submit tech equipment requests and if money comes along I will do my best to fill it. We survive. I have teacher friends in the public school. Their tech support system is very adversarial. It is an us vs them system. One of my friends is a tech teacher (architecture, robotics, computer controlled milling), all requiring pretty fancy towers with high end graphics cards and serious RAM. The techs have told him he is getting laptops in his new lab even though they do not have the ability to run his software. They are trying to get the same computer school wide to reduce their work load. The needs of the tech department are being met, not the needs of the teacher. Fascinating approach to tech support.