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The Brave New World

For those that may not be aware I have recently made a permanent change of role. I have been on secondment for a year with the LA and over the summer my job became a full time position so I had to decide whether to apply for it or not … I was a harder choice than I thought, but I did apply, was interviewed and was successful. Pending contracts, notice periods etc I am now at the LA full time … with a new structure in the team, a renewed vigour to get things done and with some fantastic opportunities ahead.

We have 4 Harnessing Technology Managers, each with a focus to a particular area. The LA and agencies; schools and school improvement; technical development and delivery; contracts and projects. For those who may not know I am the bloke dealing with technical stuff.

Don’t read that as I am going back to my ‘Geek’ roots, becoming all hands-on with setting up servers and so forth. I am not. I am translating technical into educational and back again. I recently spouted it off as ‘dealing with integration and interoperability, and ensuring that the appropriate, best value technical solutions are chosen for our schools and by our schools.’ If that is not Manglement speak of the highest order I don’t know what is.

What does it really mean? How will it affect folk in the server room and folk in the classroom? Simples … for the school to do it’s job it has to have tools. Those tools need to be the right tools for the job, be available when they should be, cost the right amount of money for what you get out of them or what it takes to support them, be able to talk to other tools when needed … and it should be able to go from the smallest infant school to the large consortiums of schools sharing students in sixth forms.

How will I do this? Well, there is a strategy from Becta talking about this (Harnessing Technology Strategy) and it fits in with a few other things too.

For many at the chalk-face it will be the delivery of Becta’s FITS program in the county that will be most visible. Becta run a stripped down version of ITIL for a number of years call the Framework for ICT Technical Support. This is about to enter version 2 (version 1.5 was released earlier this year) and covers areas from the helpdesk (from a notebook for the visiting technician through to the permanent support staff sat on the end of the phone logging incidents to servicedesk software) and change management through to service management of external contracts or even managed services.

Others will gain benefit of work done with our RBC to integrate VLEs to the regional portal, development of standards for exchanging data about pupils and staff, new tools and software, sustaining the growing, reliable network as part of the NEN and even simple things such as the chance to regularly meet other technical staff at county and regional events.

The things I am going to miss (and have done this year already)? Hands-on work with the kids. Even as senior manglement I enjoyed getting involved in music technology … getting into the recording studio and helping as a sound engineer. Hands-on with the techies. Helping the Network Manager out with patching servers, unboxing and imaging new kit, testing software. Hands-on work with teachers. Sitting down with a colleague and offering advice about hardware or software, and talking about how it might enhance or change what they do in the classroom. I will even miss Senior Leadership Meetings, and the support you get from one another in the role. It is a hard role to take on and I am glad I had the opportunity … I hope to return to schools one day as well to continue.

But back to my immediate work. A new strategy is needed in this brave new world at the LA. And the old strategy was pretty good … we just needed the staff to do it. The advisory service has now been reshaped, the education tech support was sold off a few years back, the RBC is now a separate but integral body and our schools are as independent as ever.

Over the next few weeks I will be looking at the strand of the Harnessing Technology Strategy I am working on most (there is a lot of cross over between the strands and the four HT managers) which is based around a world-class, joined-up digital infrastructure. I am not re-inventing the wheel, I am not going to be saying that my thoughts are either the only thoughts or even the best thoughts on the strategy … I just want to make sure that it makes a difference in the school and in the classroom … and the stuff that is not apparent is a tad more open … as well as opening myself up to challenge by my peers.

Talking of peers … for those of you who are twitterers / tweeple / twits (though I am sure that TWITS are the fore-runners to TOGs … Terry Wogan Is Tops Society) I would recommend Steve Wheeler’s growing list of Learning Technology professionals to follow. It is not a definitive list, is open to more suggestions, is more practitioner focused rather than Geek / techie focused … but still a good place to find a heap of information and helpful discussion by following these folks.

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