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.
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.
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.