Do you have an ET or IT department?

I think its time we torch our current IT departments. That is a very scary statement for someone who is by title the Director of IT at a school district. But I do not lose sleep at night because I see myself as a director of ET! I look around at the current models of computer technology support and it makes me a little bit upset.

My goal of this post is not to make a sweeping generalization of my collegues in any way, shape, or form. The purpose of this article is to make people think and find out from other teachers what they NEED to support the educational process. If you read my previous post I come from the retail world where the customer is always right, I use the same customer service models in the school as I did in retail and they work.

According to Wikipedia,

Information technology (IT) is the acquisition, processing, storage and dissemination of vocal, pictorial, textual and numerical information by a microelectronics-based combination of computing and telecommunications.[1] “

If we break that definition down we basically get the management of data and data systems such as computers. Don’t get me wrong this is absolutely necessary to an extent. I feel that a lot of schools put to much focus on the “Break Fix” and “Systems Management” and do not place enough resources into the actual learning process by integrating technology.

Enter the ET department or the “Educational Technology” department.

(No not the cool little martian that flys on a bike towards the moon.)

 With the ET model we are putting education first, we work with our teachers to integrate technology to enhance and support the learning process. Our goal is to create well rounded lifelong learners who can succeed in a global society.

How do we get to this model?

Step 1: TALK TO YOUR USERS

See what your teachers are saying. What do they need? Is it 15 minutes at the beginning of the week sharing some cool resources that you found on Twitter? or maybe sending them cool tips and tricks via email? Make resources readily available to them. I have found that this blog is an easy way for my users to catch up if they missed one of my sessions or get information about different topics. This summer I am building a portal for them in which they can find FAQ’s as well as post resources that can help each other. Make it easy. My predecessor Gary Larizza had a good point. “The technology CANNOT get in the way or the users will shut down”. I have also created a customer service survey form which can be found here. Encourage feedback, if there is an issue we need to hear about it.

Step 2: BE APPROACHABLE

This is not what your users should think of you:

Image from Technorati.com

Be seen. It is very important for your students and staff to see you. As ET professionals we have the ability to work from anywhere in our district. Sometimes during projects or those “my data center is on fire” moments this is not feasible but most of the time it is. Your users will understand if there is an emergency that you need to be left alone. Walk the hallways even if you are sending emails. Your presence will be noticed. This presence builds trust with your users and trust is KEY in this environment.

Step 3: UNDERSTAND & SUPPORT THEIR CRAFT

(Image from Kipandgary.com)

It is by nature that we are constantly connected to social media, blogs, videos, etc. Instead of looking for new careers on “Linked In” maybe look at an EdTech group or take part in a Twitter chat (Full schedule here) it is our job to be the explorer, find cool stuff and share! I have found that 15 minutes before classes start once during the week is enough to spark interest and get my teachers excited about technology. 

Step 4: BE THE TECH GUY

Find balance between technical and curriculum. Remember you were hired to keep technology running and functioning this is very important. You still need to fix things in a timely manner. Taking the time to automate your technology tasks helps you be able to sustain both technology and the curricular side. If you do not already have a helpdesk implement one! WebHelpdesk is a free and very robust system that allows you to send email updates, run reports as well as manage assets. I have had very good luck with this system and it helps me manage time and resources much better.

Step 5: HAVE FUN!

When someone sees me in the hallway and asks “How are you?” I always respond “Living the dream” they think I am being koi or funny but its true. I love my job, I love my users, I love what I am doing. Bring passion to your job. If it was easy than everyone would be doing it.

I welcome comments and ways to improve this model! What are you doing in your school? Do you have a similar model?

TJ Houston

TJ Houston the Vice President of Managed services at Epiphany Management Group. TJ leads professional development in all areas of technology and loves developing ways to make teachers, students, and staff's lives easier with the use of technology. TJ also loves photography and his portfolio can be found at http://www.tjshots.com. All of the views on this site are his own.

  • Amanda

    What great advice TJ. :).

    • Thanks! How do we get more people to think this way?

  • Cassie

    I wish we had you at my school! Our tech guy has no passion!

  • we have our network manager and myself (integration). our relationship is great, we discuss potential and practical things and then move them forward.  training and implementation, PD and curriculum are my side, nuts and bolts are his.  its a great “tech dept.” model.  

  • Bittyflower

    Everyone who knows you and who has had the privilege and honor of working you knows how much you love your job! Your enthusiasm for technology is infectious!  It was hard not to get excited about technology when you were around!!!  Thanks for the influence!

  • Dan Mize

    good blog TJ… Keep up the great work!!! -Dan

  • Syamsul

    As Head of ICT at my own school, it’s great to see another expressing the same ideas. I too have been using WebHelpDesk for almost 2 years now and have found it useful for tracking incidents and ensuring that teachers are kept in the loop on the progress of reported issues

  • Michele

    I have new excitement for a project after reading your article.  I was handed a project to prepare 10 iPads that are to be used for patient education. I am a nurse, Clinical Education Specialist, and I have been told by our IT department that I “am on my own” because they do not have the resources. Your article has given me the courage to say I will be the ET department for these iPads. Thank you.