A recent tweet (or rather a retweet) had the following URL (in which we see ten commandments from a technically savvy teacher to technicians) – http://bit.ly/dpdjFO – and whilst I can understand the intention I just find it opens up the can of worms that is techie/teacher bashing. On places like the TES forums you get techie bashing (interspersed with some common sense) and on EduGeek.net you get the occasionaly rant about clueless teachers (followed by lots of agreement and the odd balanced example of clueful teachers). It frustrates me. It annoys me the two groups of people who could do much when they work together suddenly express a lack of understanding about the other is doing … And then you get some wonderful examples of it all working together.
As a result I am reposting the 10 Commandments, followed by the techie equivalent. I will then stick in my own version … and I make no apology for any trolling that appears to be taking place. As I was poked to respond, I am poking others to rise too!
The ten commandments of school tech support
- [Original]Thou shalt test the fix.
[Techie]Thou shalt accept that we can only fix things we get told about. Reading minds might get us burnt at the stake.
[Me]Communication and the processes by which tech support work should be effectively communicated, but all should accept that it is a two way thing.
- [Original]Thou shalt talk to actual students and teachers and make time to watch how technology works during actual class time, not just when it’s quiet.
[Techie]Thou shalt listen to technicians when they ask questions, give truthful answers about what you expect technology to do and accept that there are limitations.
[Me]No technology is perfect and some compromise is needed. It means a bit of give and take on both sides. When people want to use technology then try to take the time to discuss how it will be used, how you can measure it is doing what is needed and how you can work out how you deal with changes.
- [Original]Thou shalt not make fun of the tech skills of teachers or students, nor allow anyone else in the tech department to make disparaging remarks about them.
[Techie]Thou shalt not presume to be all knowing gods yet still argue when a technician tells you it is illegal to copy commercial DVDs.
[Me]Ok, let us all accept that there are stereotypes on both sides. Users will make stupid mistakes and it will be laughed at, usually when it is the same repeated mistake. Then again, you get teachers poking fun at the higher percentage of technical staff with elements of dyslexia / autism / other stereotypical conditions. Accept that there willing always be this one upmanship whilst each side treats the other as inferior. Also remember that the technically adept teacher and the educationally adaept techie are both at the top of the tree. You are the exception still so when the other makes a scathing comment it might not be aimed at you but a generalisation, try to find out what caused it and help people overcome the problem.
- [Original]Closing trouble tickets shalt not be thine highest calling; thou shalt strive to continually make the learning environment better.
[Techie]You report a fault then we will follow it up. You are measured by exam results, we are measured by completion of tickets.
[Me]Now we get onto the weighing the pig arguement. Both sides need to be measured but it is the big changes that need to be understood. Technology and how it helps deliver the Learning Environment cannot be done in isolation. It is a partnership. Every side has something to add. It will fall apart if anyone decides that others aren’t important.
- [Original]Thou shalt not elevate the system above the users.
[Techie]Thou shalt accept that the system is our priority; it is set up to delivery as much as possible to as many different requirements as you gives us, but accept that your request may disrupt things for others. We sometimes have to work to a lower common denominator. It is part of the greater good.
[Me]It is all very well thinking that the there is some big battle between users and system but it is a hard balancing act. We are back to the word compromise again. Both sides have very good reasons for standing their ground for somethings … it could be down to legal requirements such as Data Protection, it could be down to the flexibility required for personalised learning. Sit down and explain them and try to have an arbritrator to deal with the hard choices.
- [Original]The network will be never be perfect. Learning is messy. Get thyself over it.
[Techie]Unplanned growth in computer systems leads to it falling over. We will keep things organised. Get thyself over it.
[Me]There is a big difference between things just happening and planning flexibility into systems. No system is permanently fixed but you do have to be careful what you change. Again, it is compromise and planning that make the difference.
- [Original]When teaching someone a new skill, keep thy hands off the mouse.
[Techie]We like to show you how to do things but repeated ‘but can’t you just do it for me’ will result in us just doing it for you. Don’t cry foul. Read our cribsheets, watch our training videos, listen to our advice and instructions. You are just one user of many.
[Me]The two worst groups of people in the world to train are teachers and techies. Seriously. Teachers expect respect due to their position and techies based on their experience / knowledge. Introducing something new to either is beset with issues. Teacher are appraising you ability to train as well as what you are training them in, Techies are appraising your background before you even get into the in-depth stuff to see if you are a blagger. Teachers forget that the techie might not be an experienced trainer, after all, teachers did a degree and then more training (either as post-grad or on the job) to learn about it. The ability to train people can take time to develop. Give helpful feedback to support staff if you think that there are areas for improvement. You would do that for another teacher … give the techies the same courtesy. Techies do sometimes need to step back and work out what the user needs though … do they need a problem fixed or do they need to learn about the problem, what to do if it arises again and how to avoid it in the first place? This is a judgement call and by asking the teacher involved it can save a lot of problems later on. Also make sure you talk to whoever controls the CPD in the school as you might be in a position to identify training needs for staff.
- [Original] Thou shalt listen to requests with an open mind and respond in plain English.
[Techie] Thou shalt ask for things in plain english and not buzzwords. Thou shalt understand that whilst with sufficient thrust pigs may indeed fly, it is not a good idea to be under them as they go overhead, be near them when they land and the RSPCA might get a tad annoyed. We will listen but be prepared for the answer to be no. If you ask for more information you will get it, and if you think I am talking down to you by using analogies about roads or cars it is because you won’t understand the short version, or have rolled your eyes when I mention something vaguely technical like CPU.
[Me]We all have our own language. Lawyers have one, doctors have one, even priests have one. They are used to convey information and context in the most accurate and concise way possible. Translating it can take time, might need to be gone over a few times and is open to misinterpretation. When it comes to asking questions then yes, an open mind is needed, but often more context is needed too. Trying to convey the reasons why a request is made. Simply presuming that because you are a teacher you expect it to be done does not work, likewise just because you are a technical expert it does not mean that you, the techie, can say ‘no’ with no other comment or explanation. Try to come up with a common language to use … it will not be plain English. It will have some technical language in there as well as educational language. It will take time but once you have a good understanding it will help communication further down the line. Try having a glossary of terms for people to use, with examples.
- [Original]Blocking shall be controlled by educators, not filtering companies. Thy job is to enable learning, not enforce behavior.
[Techie] Blocking shall be generally automated because there is not enough time in the world to check every single site. Just because we are sat at a computer all day it does not mean we are just surfing teh web, checking on dodgy sites. Perhaps if you kept the kids under control they would not want to get to the dodgy sites. And try talking to other teachers before asking for things to get blocked. I’ll happily block that games site that is dmaging your lesson, but you can explain to Maths why they can no longer access a site they pay a subscription to.
[Me] This is all buck-passing. Get over it. Internet access is too large an area to make it black and white. I have already ranted about blaming technology when it is really about choosing the right tools to aid classroom management. Blocking should actually be controlled by the Head and Chair of Governors as *they* are the people that will get into trouble if things go wrong. It is also a case that the job of internet access is to enable learning but the job of the filters is to prevent inappropriate use. Unless all sides are prepared to sit down, discuss the appropriate use and how it is to be managed then we are just mudslinging.
- [Original]Thou shalt include students and teachers in decision-making about technology purchases and policy. Their interest is not an affront to your professionalism.
[Techie] Thou shalt include the technical staff in the development of your curriculum. Their interest is not an affront to your professionalism.
[Me]Again we are talking about planning here. It goes a bit like this. Someone comes up with requirements for what a system should do. This is based on how the learners are going to learn, how the teachers will teach, how things will be communicated inside and outside of the school and what are teh likely future changes too. A solution is put together to fit those requirements, sometimes out of an options papers or feasibility study to make sure all angles possible are covered adn then a group of key people make some decisions based on cost, capacity to deliver the requirements being completely met (or with some compromises). This all takes time, meetings and the experience to know how to do this efficiently, and this is before we get into things like procurement, etc. Companies will pay a lot of money to Project Managers to do all this, but many schools will take shortcuts for very justifiable reasons.
- 1 – if the support team already have an off-the-shelf answer then they are likely to put that forward as a given option. It is likely to be cost effective because they are using already and will have the benefit of being setup quickly.
- 2 – They are the technical experts and will often shorten the selection process because they have spoken with other schools about things that work or don’t work. If teachers and students in your school are not involved it doesn’t mean input from other students / teachers has not gone into the decision.
- 3 – Last minute planning is the bane of the life of teachers and techies alike. Having to make quick decisions will mean not everyone can get involved. Accept that and make sure you plan better in future.
- 4 – Technology is a tool. Everyone should get involved but someone has to make a decision about it. Battling about who has that power is pointless but it will vary from school to school who does it. Final decision on solutions should be made by senior management, not the network manager or head of ICT (or other head of department actually), but it should be part of the same process of looking at building developments around curriculum use, the curriculum itself, etc.
So there we have it.
Point, counter-point and hopefully some common sense. It has take over a week to knock this out and I know that there are areas for improvement, but I still find the techie / teacher bashing annoying. If it seems that I come down in favour of the techie side of things more than teachers that is because I still believe there is not a fair balance on respect between them. It will be ground down over the years and it is a lot better than were it was 5 years ago … but it is not changing enough for me to be happy.