Sylvia Martinez at the 1:1 Schools Blog posted some of her Commandments for Tech Support. As an administrator, former teacher, former tech facilitator, I agree that as a whole, school technicians need to work on their soft skills. Now, since I’ve seen both sides, I do not think the majority of the folks commit these sins on purpose, they just do not receive the training in working with people that we educators receive everyday in our classes and working with parents.
With that being said, I do want to point out a couple of the 10 specifically.
Thou shalt test the fix.
Definitely a no brainer here, but if you do not insist on your staff to do this, it will lead to much more problems down the road. There is nothing worse as a teacher or customer then having tech come out, fix the problem, leave, and eventually the problem shows back up. Then you must contact them again, wait for them to come back, etc, etc, etc. Test the fix, save time, and really, save money!
Thou shalt not elevate the system above the users.
This one we definitely struggle with the most. I noticed a lot of push back recently on filters and filtering practices. Now, having been on both sides, the liberal, use everything teacher/State Consultant and the Technology Director, I do see a balancing that must be achieved. I think our county has become more and more liberal. We still block things like Facebook and Twitter, although I think Twitter will probably be opened soon. We do allow many of the web 2.0 things like Animoto, VoiceThread, and all Google products. In fact, we have begun our migration to Google for Education. We do keep things blocked that contain any pornography or explicit lyrics and images. That’s in CIPA, the Children’s Internet Protection Act. If we do not filter, we lose somewhere in the neighborhood of $150,000 per year through eRate. Also it’s about decency-do we want our students to have access to that? Yes, yes, I know–a good teacher will monitor. Yes, I agree. Unfortunately we do not live in the utopia where everyone of our teachers is a savvy moderator. Critics paint us into the CIPA corner often, but we filter for other reasons as well. Besides the content, we will not open YouTube, for instance, anytime in the foreseeable future. Can you imagine what would happen to the network if 8500 students simultaneously uploaded video. Can you say complete screeching halt? Same for Skype. We do not put it on every single desktop, but DO indeed put it on machines when asked. So I think we work with teachers. Hopefully soon the broadband argument will not be valid, but for now it is. I think we do need to balance the system with the usage, and it is a continuous balancing act. Do we get everything right? No…but we try to provide solutions. For instance, we utilize a product from our filter that allows teachers to populate safe YouTube videos to a filtered interface. Not perfect, but it does provide the teachers with a solution.
These commandment do represent the work we need to do to continue to assist teachers and staff in becoming 21st Century employees. We did not even hit my bleeding heart, open source/Creative Commons stance yet. We do have a lot of work, but if we work together, we’ll get there!