Many primary schools look after their own IT infrastructure. This includes purchasing and maintaining hardware and making sure that the software runs smoothly, is kept up to date and is secure. Schools suffer higher rates of attrition in terms of their hardware than many businesses. It’s not because children or staff misuse computers, but is because they are in use for so much of the working day and are being used by so many different people. For a school it is vital that users are able to log into the network, that software works and that broken computers, printers and the like are fixed in a timely manner.
Sometimes things can go awry and this can be extremely frustrating for everyone. The person at the receiving end of this angst is probably the IT technician.
Technical staff are often put in an impossible position. They are asked to fix things there and then and that is not realistic. Lack of detail in when calls are raised is a common problem. “It’s not working” or “It’s broken” is not terribly helpful for a technician trying to resolve a problem while a teacher dismisses a class.
Technical staff can lead an isolated existence with little support or training and this can be very frustrating and lead to problems in the long term.
What must never happen is for technical support to become dictators, living in ivory towers. It can happen though and not just in schools. The reasons why leaders become enamoured and in awe of their technical staff are numerous, but usually include the fear of losing someone who can fix things that are unfathomable to a mere mortal. “If our technician leaves, our whole IT infrastructure is going to go down.” Occasionally managers may be afraid to address issues and confront individuals. In these situations the tail is wagging the dog and that is not a good place to be for a school or a business.
So what makes for great technical support? First and foremost is an understanding of the needs of the end user. This is all about a two way conversation between technical support and the teacher and also the pupils. It’s not going to happen if a technician is locked away in a room writing code or wielding a screwdriver. Time must be spent in the working environment. For school technicians, this means in the classroom supporting the teacher and seeing what they do by watching and ideally participating in lessons. One of the most enlightened schools I work in has a technician who attends my courses with his head of ICT and he also delivers training on the use of technology to teachers. He has even started to run after school coding courses for children. It has been a pleasure to see this young person grow in status and he is loved by everyone in the school. Not because he can fix the broken printer, but because he totally gets what teachers are doing and need to do. That has happened because of great leadership from the head teacher who has invested in support for all his staff. It means that learning is led by curriculum needs rather than technical ones.
I’ve had and continue to have the pleasure of working with technical support staff who ‘get it’ and work in harmony with the people who are using the technology that they maintain.
In an age when computer programming is back in the curriculum, now is the ideal time to embrace technical staff and get them in the classroom.
Mind the Gap – Reducing the digital divide
Technological Solutions – The best devices and how to use them
Computer Coding – Making Digital Literacy Easy
Are your Children Safe Online?
Bring your Own Device