Live from FETC: The IT Challenge of Getting Everyone Involved
This morning, I attended an eye-opening and informative breakfast meeting hosted by CDW-G, which featured IT administrators from three different school districts, all in different phases of implementing new technology systems into their respective school systems. As someone who hears and reads a lot about education technology, it's always a treat to listen to those who are working directly with teachers and students to see how technology can make a difference in the classroom.
One thing that was emphasized over and over at the meeting was how essential it is to have a supportive superintendent who is open to learning more about educational technology and investing in it. Having the superintendent on board with technology programs and initiatives, all three administrators agreed, was the first step in moving forward. In addition to the superintendent, the school board is also a major stakeholder, and making sure that they are kept in the loop about technology decisions and understand why they are important is also essential to a successful technology program.
Another key component of building a strong technological infrastructure is working directly with curriculum and academic folks in the district, the IT administrators said. Ultimately, it is those folks who can help determine what is most helpful for improving education in the classroom. The technology alone won't help students learn; it has to be fully integrated into the curriculum in order to make a difference, and that can't happen without constant communication with curriculum administrators as well as training and professional development for teachers.
In addition, building a technological infrastructure that is both reliable and flexible is key to being able to integrate the technology into the classroom and provide support for teachers. Without a reliable network and infrastructure, teachers become frustrated and will give up trying to incorporate technology into their lessons, they said. And without the ability to adapt to new technology, the infrastructure can become quickly outdated and obsolete. Standardizing technology across districts—the types of computers, the operating systems those computers run, the wireless networks, etc.—is absolutely essential to being able to respond quickly to changes in technology and problems that occur, the IT administrators agreed.
The last point I took away from this meeting was that IT is definitely not confined to keeping computers up and running and putting document cameras and interactive whiteboards in every classroom. It's also a major part of both cyber and physical security, as well as distance learning and administrative communication (through videoconferencing and voice-over IP networks), among others. The scope of IT has expanded dramatically over the past few years and will likely continue in that direction. Technology is not something confined to the IT department, nor is it only handled by IT administrators. Instead, it's a team effort that takes dedication from everyone from students and teachers to superintendents and administrators.