A comment that you can frequently hear in some schools when you talk to IT technicians or Network Managers… usually not long after someone else at the school has made a decision about kit being purchased, new IT suites, programmes involving laptops and students, or policy decisions involving scrapping a heap of security protections.
Often it comes down to problems with communication or possibly a lack of understanding on both sides, so I thought I would run through a few ideas that could help. Some of these are mine, some have come from other schools (mainly via edugeek.net) and some are based on ideas from outside of education.
1 – Understand your clients. A common complaint is that techies are only interested in the boxes and cables and don’t really do things that benefit the teachers or students. One way to help with this is to look at your school’s development plan, identify the areas where technology fits in and then try and translate that into what kit you have, the kit that is needed and what it means to the dev plan. A good example is VLEs. Most techies have a pretty good idea about idependent learning because, lets face it, most have to learn things on their own, trying to structure a lot of knowledge about a wide variety of specialisms into a very short space of time, and usually a case of ‘just in time’ learning (where you learn the the knowledge and skills as you need them) rather than ‘just in case’ learning (where you learn knowledge and skills and try to remember it all).
2 – Understanding your school’s need is important if you are trying to make sure you have a long term, sustainable model for IT. Whilst it is hard to plan for technology too far ahead, you can have a rough idea and make what you do flexible enough so that it would not take a major refit to adapt.
Financially your school should have a three year finance plan but many will go for a five year one. Sit down and work out you refesh program for desktops, laptops, servers, network hardware, peripherals and software. Servers should always run with a support warranty for the hardware. This will tell you when they need to be replaced, but 4 years is a good basis. Laptops would be 4 years too. You can get 5 year warranties for desktops but be prepared to stick more RAM in them in the last two years if needed. And so on…
3 – Once you know what you can technically do and what the costs are then you need to see if the refreshed kit will provide what the school needs. If you are going for arts and media specialism or Creative & Media diploma then can you provide facilities for it. Do you require a change in software? Will it run in the planned hardware? Do you need to make a larger change such as introducing Macs? What are the CPD issues for you, for the teachers and for the students?
The more active you are in this sort of discussion and the more practise you have a judging educational needs the less you will have decisions taken out of your hands or made without your knowledge.
I am not saying it is easy or will work overnight, and a certain amount of compromise is needed on both sides … but to start with you are the one most likely to have to compromise.
I’d be interested to hear how various schools have worked on this compromise from the techie, the teacher and the senior leader too.