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Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

A very cool technology initiative in our district was recently profiled by a local television station.  The "virtual reality sandbox" that uses an Xbox camera and a projector was described by one of its high school inventors as:

Students can learn about geography or topography, and create mountains to see different levels of elevation ... You can make it rain and create lakes and rivers, and then change the landscape to see what happens to that water when you create a valley right next to it.

Way cool on many. many levels. This is great example of the kinds of things we want all our students to be doing and experiencing - combining technology skills with innovation and creativity.

So, you may be thinking, it must be pretty darned exciting to be the technology director in such a technologically progressive school district. It can be, for sure.

But not this week.

This week was spent analyzing and building a sustainability plan for our network infrastructure. Tweaking a new printing/copier model for the district. Reviewing a statement of work for upgrading our VOIP telephone services. Meeting to discuss the ins and outs of changing the hosting organization of our student information system. Stategizing the collection and redistribution of student Chromebooks. Worrying about the funding of a IWB replacement plan. You get the drift.

When the terms "core switch" or "storage area network" or "multifunction device" are discussed, I have to admit that my eyes tend to glaze over. I don't remember going into education or library school or administration thinking I would be trying to figure out if we can move some applications from our FastClass section of the SAN to the Near Line section or researching the life expectancy of a wireless network controller.

Yet, I understand the importance of "the man behind the curtain" if technological magic like the virtual sandbox is to happen. I've known it for a long time. In 2003, I wrote an article for MultiMedia Schools called "Maslow and Motherboards: Taking a Hierarchical View of Technogy Planning." And while the magazine is now defunct, the concepts behind the article remain relevant.

What the model attempts to show is that without foundational pieces in place, the higher level work cannot happen. 

For all of us men and women "behind the curtain" of education, working in curriculum or assessment or HR or accounting or maintenance or ____________, an understanding of why our work is important in supporting more visible and exciting education work is critical. We need to know it in order to renew our own sense of mission and to be able argue effectively for the budget and staffing to remain a sturdy support structure.

There is no great and powerful Oz without the unsung worker behind the curtain.

Now, let's see, what will do with the seniors' Chromebooks until we can reissue them to next fall's freshmen?

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