I have observed that over time, a negative dynamic can evolve regarding technology support. At some point, all technology is magic, the thing that varies is how many names people have for the technologies. Who really understands exactly how 802.11B and G wireless networking works? I have some words for the technologies, but the bottom line for me is that these technologies (usually) just work. I had some conversations today at the Texas CoSN conference that touched on these issues. One person commented that their educational technology department had pulled so many rabbits out of hats in the past, that administrators just thought it was a given that similar magic could be performed on cue with short or no notice. The following quotation was the best one of the conference so far: I really resonated with it:

We have done so much with so little for so long, that now our administration is expecting us to do everything with nothing forever!

How true that can seem. I had a conversation today with one of the staff at a church in Lubbock, who was needing help getting a new staff member’s server account setup. This involved duplicating and modifying a batch file that mounts drives, adding the user to a previously defined group, and some other things– all server admin / network admin type stuff that is fairly technical. Not technical for a server admin person, but very technical for a lay person who is not accustomed to doing this sort of thing. My advice to this person was: DON’T DO THIS! (His job has nothing to do with technical/computer support.) The church needs to be paying someone to do their IT tasks, instead of having people volunteer to do it or people who really don’t know what they are doing hobble along and try to do these things.

I think some administrators don’t take notice of what the actual requirements are to do a particular technology task until someone stands up and says NO, I or WE CAN’T DO THAT. Then the question becomes, why not? And the reasons can be provided. The dynamic that exists in many organizations, however, is that people want to be seen as capable, team players, and so generally the answer is, “I’ll do my best.” At some point, however, limits can be reached, and it is much better if those limits are never reached, much less exceeded.

I don’t know if any of this resonates with anyone else, but it seems to me the issue of boundaries and defining what is realistic given present resources and other demands is an extremely important skill for technology support folks at all levels– and not just those who are officially technology support people. This is also important for people who are asked to perform technology support roles as additional duties, whether formally assigned or not.

The question that is asked: Can this be done?

The answer that is given: Theoretically, yes. Is it practical to do this today, by 5 pm? Maybe not. Or the answer could be, definitely not. Those latter answers are difficult to give, however, and I think the culture of technology support in many contexts doesn’t or won’t provide them when often they are what is needed. This likely extends beyond the realm of technology too– the plates of teachers are piled high with requirements, and despite that reality often legislatures and school administrators seem to pile even more on. Who is there to say for the teacher, enough is enough?! My plate is full, I can’t do anymore!

I think often, teachers view technology integration as yet another “extra” added onto their loaded plate– and that is why relatively few teachers across the board effectively integrate technology within their instruction each day.


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  • Wes,

    Great topic. Several things came to mind while I was reading your post. I am dealing with many of these issues in my job at USD 495 in Larned, KS.

    Education – On some level, it is our (my) responsibility to educate administrators and users on the most basic levels of IT. Too often there is a knowledge disconnect between tech support and the folks they work with. This often leads to the situation you described where the user base just doesn’t understand why we can’t implement something RIGHT NOW!

    Tech Plan – I am seeing more and more how imperative this is. A solid tech plan and the administrative support to back it up is crucial. Communication between the user base and IT department is necessary to set this up properly. With this communication, a tech plan can be set up that will meet the needs of the user base and avoid any last minute surprises for the poor IT guys! This also helps users see the big IT picture, not just the small picture they see on their desk every day.

    Technology is Serious – Districts, or whoever, must take their technology seriously. Sure, tech stuff is cool, but it’s not something to be “played at”. Districts who play at using technology get poor results. They wonder why throwing out a few pc’s, hooking them together in a simple network and adding some ed software doesn’t work. Then, when they look at what it will take to do it right, sticker shock ensues. Even worse, administrators visit another district or go to a conference and see some really sweet new IT thing. They bring that back and tell their IT department about it and then are totally disappointed when they find out that the new, “Ferrari” thing they saw won’t work with the, “Dodge Dart” system they have. To paraphrase one of my favorite sports talk show hosts on ESPNRadio, “This is big boy technology!” If you want technology to work right, it has to be built right from the ground up and supported by A FULL TIME TECH STAFF! You just can’t throw a few dollars at it here and a few hours at it there – usually supplied by an overworked teacher who is trying to fulfill their classroom responsibilities AND tech duties – and expect it to work.

    I am very fortunate to work at a district with a tech support staff of TWO, including me. Three if you count the great lady we have who takes care of nothing but PowerSchool issues. Even so, we are still struggling with our own tech plan issues and user education issues.

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