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Saturday
Sep292018

Tech directors, get out in the schools

As you might guess by the paucity of blog posts on the Blue Skunk lately, this has been a very, very busy start to the school year in my district.

Between rolling out 2500 elementary classroom student devices, changing the student information system host (and all the data integration processes connected to that system), changing out all copiers, upgrading telephone system software, moving online testing to the second week of school, planning for a change in our HR/Payroll/Finance system, reconfiguring our web content filter to fix login issues, adapting to a less expensive helpdesk ticketing system, changing bus companies requiring changing how our transportation system talks to our parent communication systems, and just getting classrooms ready, we've had just a few things on our plates.

Perhaps more than any position other than the superintendent, the tech director lives in two worlds - the district office world and the school building world. Directing tech staff efforts gets tricky and often a matter of personal values when the demands are overwhelming from both worlds. Do we focus on solving a login issue students are experiencing or diagnosing slow speeds being encountered by workers using the finance system? Do teachers need their classrostering problems fixed or do the early childhood secretaries need a file recovered from an antiquated backup system? Do I ask our building technicians to update a spreadsheet with copier and printer numbers so that accurate billing can be done or to help a teacher whose projector seems to be dim? Is it more important to make sure our parents can see bus routes on their cellphones or for students to be able to see their assignments on their cell phones? Fax machines or smartboards? Labs or security cameras? You get it.

There are no right or easy answers to these questions. Every tech problem is a big tech problem to the person experiencing it. 

In order to achieve a more balanced approach to technology time allocation, I do my best to get into every school building (and away from the district office) at least once a month. I try to talk to as many principals, media specialists, secretaries, and classroom teachers as possible  - without being an interruption. It is a huge psychological uplift for me to see the kids actually benefitting from the resources my department supports. Yes, I am always happy when on the 1st and 15th of each month the payroll system functions well. But watching excited 2nd graders coding or middle school students creating videos or high school students deeply engaged in virtual collaboration, reminds me again and again why balance is needed when it comes technology resources - especially support time.

Visiting buildings and talking to teachers, gives me a better chance of understanding how decisions made at a district level actually impact staff and, quite frankly, hear about problems that may have somehow gotten lost in the communication shuffle, remaining unsolved for an unacceptably long period of time. And if nothing else, I can be a sympathetic shoulder to cry on, a sounding board, a complaint magnet, or a co-conspirator. 

So my colleagues, find a reason to get out to your schools if you have a desk like mine that seems to entrap its occupant. It will improve your day - if not your year. Remember that a kindergartener is your client as much as the superintendent.

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Reader Comments (4)

You are always welcome to visit my classroom - I'll even swing for lunch

September 30, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterKenn Gorman

Be careful what you offer. I am retiring the end of this year and may have a lot of free time on my hands!

Doug
‚Äč

October 1, 2018 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

As always Doug, you have inspired me. I got some times on my calendars to get into schools over the next few weeks and months. It's an area I tend to fall down in as the demands of central office sucks up my time and energy. The librarians have told me in numerous ways they wished they saw me more and more importantly they wished I saw what the students were accomplishing.

Goals set! Thank you.

October 2, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterBrad

Enjoy your visits, Brad. Some of the greatest satisfaction I derive from my job is solving the problems of the individual!

Doug

October 3, 2018 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

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