Monthly Archives: January 2015

There’s many a slip twixt the cup and the lip

“You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time”.”
― John Lydgate

BETT always provides something to talk about and this year has been know different. Whether it is announcing to 500 people at a TeachMeet that you and your wife are having a baby (and using Skitch on the scan!) through to the content of some of the seminars on stands.

One of the final sessions today was on the Google stand by Dan Leighton, Director of Technology at The Grammar School in Leeds, where he was basically covering about change in tech in Education. His slide deck is available here.

And a quick note for reference, the Google stand was directly opposite the EduGeek stand (sponsored by Smoothwall).

And why is that important? Well, as someone with 11 years leading EdTech in schools, Dan covered a number of things but the one picked out by friend at EduGeek was that he put out significant challenge that there are Network Managers who resist and block change, who say things don’t work when they can do and who even do things in a certain way to protect their jobs.

Ouch.

As an advocate for the professional identity of IT Support in schools several members shared the situation with me and I dutifully queried it via Twitter, challenging Google on the stance (as this is linked, to some extant, to the classroom in the cloud).

Google came back and said it was not their stance, apologised and then Twitter conversation sparked up around it.

Context is king here, and after discussing in Twitter it was clear that it was not the challenge about resistance to change but the fact that it appeared a swipe was taken at the whole profession.

The problem is… well… we *all* know the people described above. We have even done it ourselves at times.

Change is a difficult thing and to have someone not in our profession have a go at us for blocking it, well it won’t go down well.

However, there are always two sides. As a friend put it, a different lens. I caught up with Dan on Twitter and then via the phone and it is clear that the intended challenge was not aimed at all and sundry, that he has high regard for technical staff (having work in data centres in product design) and that the large barriers are communication and understanding the other person’s perspective.

An apology on Twitter from Dan, and clarifying that he truly does see a good Network Manager as an amazing resource.

But in conversation with EduGeek friends it has become clear that a wider explanation is needed.

Having not seen the presentation or been in the Q&A I am having to sit on the fence between EduGeek and Dan.

Looking at the points complained about, that all NMs were tarred with the same brush of being blockers, that NMs lie about things not working and that NM resist change to protect their jobs … Dan and I discussed these in refreshing openness.

It was never Dan’s intent to tar everyone with the same brush, to upset or insult. Yes, the issue needed highlighting and if listeners thought it was covering everyone that was not the intent. Apologies have been offered and hopefully accepted.

The challenge that some Network Managers say things don’t work when they do? Yes, that is the case. I’ve done it and have seen plenty others do it. The context though is that this is short hand for, “what you are asking for is Techinical feasible but has significant issues… from the resources (people) taken to set it up, the disruption to all other users, the cost, the reduction in functionality compared to what is already in place, it is not part of the 5 year IT development and maintenance plan…” and so on.

Without people effectively communicating, both sharing information and listening in an open manner, all people will hear is, “computer says no!” Moving to cloud services is not a simple change but that doesn’t mean it should not be looked at by all staff, evaluated and an appropriate decision made. If it is against the recommendations of the IT team and they still resist or refuse then that is a personnel issue, not technology.

Mordac, preventer of IT services was used to demonstrate this (from the Dilbert comic strip) and whilst that may be seen as harsh, most of us would have been viewed as that by others … either because we have not communicated or the others have not listened.

That some NMs resist change to protect their jobs? This is an extremely valid point and this is not something unique to IT in schools. What is sometimes not understood is that the job description any IT staff have is poor. That there is an expectation to know everything about everything with a plug. If you have an established skill set based on what you do in the school, and you are paid accordingly.

Change that skill set, change what you do and your job changes. It is like asking a head of English who also coordinates literacy to become a main scale History teacher because literacy is now part of the Humanities focus. This has become evident through BSF managed services and the push of Single Status. In some places these have reduced experienced and highly skilled Network Managers to the equivalent position of a science technician or HLTA. Their sort of change all depends only the Senior Leadership of the school, and those who value their staff will promote the flexibility of technology change but the security of job and terms. This is not to say schools might not get rid people as tools change. In the same way the ICT curriculum changed and some teachers moved on or subjects no longer get taught, the same will happen for IT teams.

It is not unexpected that some, who have seen others damaged due to school choices, might be resistant and seek security. This is a personnel thing again.

The only way all the works together is by having Network Managers recognised for the expertise and professionalism they bring, Teaches recognised for the expertise and professionalism they bring, effective communication between all concerned and an understanding of how to manage change.

Dan’s presentation and challenge might have pressed some of the wrong buttons for some, but the follow up conversation should show how the challenge is needed for some, should be the norm for others and that no insult needs to be taken on either side if there is concern about the stance of either side.