We have a "tech" meeting in our district every other Friday morning for 60-90 minutes. Both building and district level technicians attend. The agenda is usually a combination of updates, problems encountered, solutions found, short training sessions, and healthy doses of complaining about any number of things - teachers, librarians, administrators, technologies, policies, online testing problems, and, of course, district technology leadership - that would be me. Overall the meetings are productive, since among all the jobs in schools, our technicians have one of the toughest, and these joint problem-solving and venting sessions are needed.
Under-staffed, under-informed, and under-appreciated, these men and women 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 tech in an old column called The DJ Factor and wrote a short piece in SLJ about keeping one's technicians happy. But unless I am just looking in the wrong places, technicians are ignored in ed tech publications.
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 shifting 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 and Chromebooks 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, maintenance-free. Fewer (or no) computer labs to keep running. Outsourced 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 in several meetings haunts me: 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.