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Sunday
Jan102010

Technicians - the unsung heroes

We have a "tech" meeting in our district every other Wednesday morning for 60-90 minutes. Both building and district level technicians attend. The agenda is usually a combination of updates, problems encountered, solutions found, and healthy dose of complaining about any number of things - teachers, librarians, administrators, technologies, policies, the state DOE, and, of course, district technology leadership - that would be me. Overall the meetings are productive, since among all the jobs in the schools, the technicians have one of the toughest, and these joint problem-solving and venting sessions are very helpful.

Under-staffed, under-informed and under-appreciated, these guys and gals are the unsung heroes of making technology "work" in schools. But you see very little written about them in educational technology publications. I extended my appreciation to one of our techs in an old column called The DJ Factor and wrote a short piece in SLJ about keeping one's technicans happy.

Technicians have always been, I believe, one group of workers who are in a perpetual and steep learning curve - or need to be. (Those who are reluctant learners tend to use phrases like "It can't be done" when they really mean "I don't know how.) The shifiting ground of technology impacts techs very suddenly and often without much warning. They are too often impacted by decisions in which they had no input.

While we've not talked directly about it, I am guessing our savvy techs are wondering more than a little what the long-term impact of shifting to GoogleApps for Education will have on their jobs. GoogleApps is just the latest manifestation of the shift from desktop to cloud computing. While it will be some years coming, I envision that the major technology tool for both staff and students will be a personal laptop/netbook/slate/phone that holds a Chrome-like OS/web browser. These will be easily re-imaged, interchangeable, and, hopefully, mostly maintenance-free. Fewer (or no) computer labs to keep running. Less need for printer maintenance. LEDs decreasing projector upkeep. Wireless networks ending running Ethernet cables to new locations.

Might the building technician become the next lonely Maytag repairman???

Today, however, our techs are very busy people and an interesting discussion has been haunting me since our last tech meeting. We brainstormed a little about how one should go about setting job priorities. Whose job do you do first? Some nominees:

  • the person who signs your timesheet/does your evaluation
  • the person who is always in your face
  • the person who brings you doughnuts of appreciation
  • the administrator of the building
  • the teacher in front of a class depending on the technology
  • the student needing to complete an assignment
  • first come/first served (chronological)
  • quick easy-to-solve problems first; big time consuming ones later

And I suppose you could ask the same question about the person who gets put on the bottom of the work order pile:

  • the never-satisfied
  • the hopelessly unskilled/uninformed
  • the abrasive

How about it? How should technicians prioritize their tasks? Oh, and be a lot more specific than "doing what has the biggest impact on students." I am guessing everyone will argue that what they do has an impact, either direct or indirect.

 

 

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Reader Comments (5)

1. The Administrators Computer: you better start here or it just asks for problems. The one who signs the checks wants to see quick and efficient responses.
2. After this I'd go for the teachers who actually use the technology in ways that deepen instruction.
3. Students
4. Teachers that are asking how to do something completely irrelevant to their instructional duties.
5. Those that aren't thankful for the help they receive.

January 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCharlie A. Roy

Ok, this answer is going to seem unusual - but why did you include the two topics that you did in this post? One topic was about the possibility of the work of the tech to become obsolete. The other was about prioritization.

I'd argue that techs should respond to those jobs in which they are going to learn something useful, first. All other jobs can come second. If the tech doesn't continuously learn he/she will lose the job eventually. If they keep learning their work will never become obsolete.

Andrew Pass
http://www.lessontech.blogspot.com

January 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Pass

Hi Charlie,

I expect your ranking is usually what happens! Especially the ingrates at the bottom!

Doug

Hi Andrew,

Ah yes, the transition was definitely lacking - my random mind.

We have busy techs right now, but you can see the road ahead. If I were a tech, I think I'd be getting very good at supporting district-wide apps right now.

I am not sure stressed teachers or admins would share your priority of tech's prioritizing their own learning. Certainly necessary, though.

All the best,

Doug

January 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

Great question - I would have to go with the following:
1. Not only whoever signs your check, but if it's the same person who also signs the checks for technology purchases - they should have a "red phone". Once you have a happy boss, your decisions on all of the other issues (guy in your face, panic student, strange and difficult issues) should be supported.
2. The technology teacher - my experience is that other staff will likely come to you before they go to the tech support (unless there machine is completely off) - I sometimes get the ..."I didn't want to both tech support, and I figured you would have the answer...". I think many teachers and other staff feel that I am one of them, and they don't want to be seen as an idiot when asking tech support any dumb questions.
3. Donuts - or Tommy's (a local hamburger joint)...
4. Everyone else.

January 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKenn Gorman

Hi Kenn,

Sounds reasonable to me. I think it is interesting who staff chooses to come to first for help. Not always the most "techie" person, but the person who can probably help but not make you feel like an idiot!

Thanks for the comment,

Doug

January 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

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