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Tech Plan Part 3- Support

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Support Structure

You can have the best educational portal, and the best infrastructure, but if you do not have the support in place to both help teachers use/understand technology and support infrastructural needs then the money you spend on hardware will be lost.

Throughout the late 90s and into the 21st century schools have spend a lot of money on computer hardware and technology systems and infrastructures. Now that these systems are in place we must think and rethink the support needed to not only keep these systems up-to-date but also how it impacts teaching and learning in the classroom.

I wrote a posting in June of 2007 where I outline a two prong approaches to technology support in schools. Below is the diagram that I created to outline that support structure:

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 embed technology into day to day classroom use.

Schools first focused on hiring IT postions. 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 in a networked classroom. ETs on the other hand are hired to help teachers and teach students the technology skills and approach the district has adopted.

Today, I believe I was to narrow in my support structure and the more I look at it the more I feel I left out a key component. The media/literacy specialist are a key component in the support structure of the school’s technology plan. I’ve reworked the image above to now include this new position.

The Literacy/Media specialist is not a new position but instead an evolution of the librarian posting that today focuses not only on written text, but on other information sources. The Literacy/Media specialist needs to be a specialist in the area of 21st Century Literacy skills and should be helping to teach those skills in the context of the media/library center. The Literacy/Media specialist must understand that the Dewey Decimal system is being replaced by tags, categories, and Boolean searches. That is not to say that the Dewy Decimal system is going away, just that students today engage with information that is digital more than in print. They do Google searches before they check out a book. I’m not arguing if this is right or wrong but do believe it just is.

Support Team

The technology support team is made up of Literacy/Media Specialist, Educational Technologists, and Information Technologists. It is the collective power of this team to work together to support the over all use of technology in the school. From professional development for staff, to teaching research skills to students, to making sure that the network systems are running smoothly. The communication between all team members is critical and if possible I recommend having their offices within close proximity to each other. This helps to facilitate communication among all team members. We group grade levels or departments together in schools so that teachers can support each other and work together. The same accommodation should be made for the technology support team.

Support Personal

Informational Technologist: I believe that there should be enough IT positions to support the schools needs. After doing research schools have anywhere from 2500 students per IT position to 100 students per IT position. I believe it depends on your school and your school’s set up. If you are in a 1:1 laptop school then more IT positions will need to be created to support the infrastructure needs of such a system. I do believe that each school should have an IT support person on campus. That IT support needs to be decentralized and that each school should have a dedicated IT person starting at 300 students. 300 students is a guide for many specialist position within schools and I believe that same guide should be used when you are talking technology.

Educational Technologist: These positions are new dedicated positions that many schools do not have or are just now realizing that they need if they want to move forward with technology use in the classroom. A ratio for this position of 300:1 (Student: ET) I believe works nicely. Allowing the ET to support both the students and teachers in an embedded technology model.

Literacy/Media Specialist: Every school should have a Literacy/Media Specialist. I did a search on the American Librarian Association (http://www.ala.org/) website to try and find what they recommend as a student to librarian ratio and did not find a recommendation. No matter how you slice it, a school should have a Literacy/Media Specialist.

So a school of 300 students should have a support structure that looks like this.

IT: 1 position
ET: 1 position
L/M Specialist: 1 position

For a large high school of 2500 students or so the support structure would be:

IT: 8 positions
ET: 8 positions
L/M: 1 position

Of course I see this as a perfect scenario. Can schools afford that many positions? Probably not, but in a perfect world teachers would not need this support if they were coming out of teacher training programs that focus on teaching teachers how to teach 21st Century Skills. Until that happens these positions I feel are critical to a schools at they continue to move forward in their use of technology as a tool in the classroom.


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I started blogging in 2005 and found it such a powerful way to reflect and share my thinking about technology, this generation, and how we prepare students for their future not our past.


  1. We had ET *before* we had IT. We had more innovative uses of technology in schools *before* we started rolling in corporate IT people and Windows.

  2. Jeff, Thanks for your concise report about how you see all the technology support working in schools. I will be sharing this next week with my District Technology Group.Our schools are in a great space in terms of people, but we need to work on the communication piece not only amongst ourselves but in getting the message out to all staff and students. Thanks again.
    Cheryl Oakes

  3. Jeff- informative and insightful as always.
    However, I do have one small point of contention:

    The Literacy/Media specialist must understand that the Dewey Decimal system is being replaced by tags, categories, and Boolean searches.

    This is something that we talk about a great deal (since as you know I share an office with our librarian/literacy-media specialist). One thing that we’re in agreement on is that while it is critical for the traditional library to embrace new forms of research and broaden its definition of ‘literacy’ , this does not diminish the importance of learning how to research by finding and opening a ‘real’ book as well.

    In other words, this small adjustment to your statement would make your message much more relevent to me:

    The Literacy/Media specialist must understand that the Dewey Decimal system is being supplimented by tags, categories, and Boolean searches.

  4. Jeff, Next week as our district meets for the first collaborative look at technology your posts will be useful in guiding discussion. The message on this post in particular needs to be heard within our district. We have just made some major infrastructure purchases and upgrades. Because my focus is on learning, the question that I see is how can our district ensure that this new equipment is used effectively? Support, support, support…
    Thanks so much for posting this series.

  5. Hi Jeff,

    Excellent diagram. I deeply appreciate the overlapping roles of the ET and LMS. As schools continue to use technology with kids in its most powerful form – as a problem-solving and communication tool – I see these roles merging.

    Such wisdom from one so young!

    And have fun at the EARCOS admin conference. I had a great time last year in Bangkok at it. It’s smart to combine admin and tech conference.

    All the best,


  6. The missing link identified and defined… The problem is that we need to get school administrators understand that having someone in these roles is as important as having lights and electricity. Until that happens, it will be very difficult to make real substantive change in education. I am the Technology Coordinator for a school district and we started work on our new tech plan this week… Your diagrams and role descriptions will definitely move us forward in our journey.

  7. Jeff – thanks for this. Since July we have transforming our district IT support (an educator now heads all IT for Town, and Schools). Concurrently we have a building project on the drawing board where we will “rennovate to new” 3 PK-4 schools (energy, security, program space). We will add formal LMC’s w/ attached computer labs (we use converted classrooms now). While the senior admin is shy about putting staffing discussions on the table publically, for fear of making the project look too pricey, we (the ET/IT folks) want to have that discussion at a “staff” level. We have a chance to step back and ask, “Where do we want to be 4 years from now?” Your diagram allows our senior admin to see a model of how it all fits together, and will be a way to help start the conversation. We do much of this already but perhaps the circles overlap differently. Thanks

  8. Evan Scherr Reply

    My district has a position that they created around 7 years ago called the Educational Computer Strategist (ECS). Their duties were to include going into classrooms and working with both teachers and students with ways they could use all of the technology our district has.

    A prof of mine, Neal Strudler, conducted research to see if the ECS’ were being used correctly and how they felt about their job.
    Each year since the position started ECS’ have reported less and less job satisfaction as they move further and further away from teaching and training in instructional technology to fixing computers, and responding to help desk type issues.

    I have heard that my district may end the ECS’ program, leaving our school not only without IT support, but instructional support as well. A shame all around if you think about it as one person is required to wear two hats for four heads.

    I like your plan a lot and believe that districts are going to have to ask themselves where they want to be 5 years from now. With guys like Larry Cuban out there telling all that will listen that all of this technology is not making any differnece, districts are going to have to step up and find ways to make it work. The world is not becoming any less technological.

  9. Pingback: Learning Spiral 2.0 » Blog Archive » IT Plans

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