Support: A two prong approach
(I usually don’t cross post here what I publish at techlearning.com, but I wanted to get some feedback on this idea of mine so thought I’d post it here as well.)
There is one thing about growing up in an education family. Education talk is easy to come by.
I made it back to Spokane, Washington last week and have been spending time with my parents. My mom is an Elementary Principal and my dad a retired High School science teacher turned hobby farmer (If you can call 1200 acres a hobby).
I have had some great conversations with my mother this week around the difference between IT (Informational Technology) support and what I call ET (Educational Technology) support. I believe that schools need to define these two positions differently.
I have held both positions as defined above and believe that we need to start looking at these as two different jobs. These positions require a set of skills that are unique and also call for a full time person.
ITs (Informational Technologists): These people know networks, their job is to make sure day in and day out that the network is healthy. They focus on keeping viruses out, keeping computers running, and making sure that the overall school network is in place, up-to-date, and working.
ETs (Educational Technologists): These people know education. They will likely have had classroom experience and have been put into positions as ETs because of their use of technology in the classroom. Although they may be familiar with networks and the hardware of the school, their focus is on the tools, the learning, and the training to bring technology into the classroom.
Schools have done a pretty good job of hiring ITs. People that can make sure that the network and computers are running. But many times these ITs are pushed into the positions of ETs where they may not have classroom experience, may not be up on new tools, new approaches, or new methods in teaching and learning. ETs on the other hand are hired to help teachers and teach students the technology skills the district has adopted. But many times these people are also asked to fix networks, computers, printers, and other hardware. As many of you know, this is a full time job and if you let it, it can take away time from great conversations with teachers around tool use.
I have been in schools and visited schools where these two positions are one person. If you are in this position, you know how many different directions you are being pulled, and there is no physical way you can both support teachers and keep the technology infrastructure running smoothly. By trying to fulfill both the Informational Technologist and the Educational Technologist in one position, schools tend to stretch these people so thin that both the IT and the ET suffer.
As we infuse more technology into our schools and classrooms, we are going to need to define a new type of technology position. We need to understand that there is a difference between keeping hardware running and training teachers to use tools that facilitate learning. In the two weeks I have been back in the States, I have talked to educators who all say the same thing, “We would use it more if we knew how to use it, if we were trained on what to do with it.” I have also talked with technology people who are trying to be both an IT and ET for their schools who say, “I just do not have the time to do it all.”
If we really expect our schools to move closer to what is being called School 2.0. Then we need to make sure we have personnel in place that can support such a school structure. In my opinion, without the proper support for both technology infrastructure and technology training School 2.0 can never truly come to be.