Building the Bridge of Communication Between IT & Education
“Is it plugged in?” are the four most common heard words that often bring mortified embarrassment to many. Yet, for others like IT professionals, they are the four most common words asked. Although our IT support teams help us with the simplest of issues like making sure our devices are plugged in, they also help with complex solutions that directly impact the classroom and our students. For this reason, it is important to have a solid, strong working relationship with your IT professionals, at least, that’s the way Lisa Read sees it.
Lisa Read is the IT Coordinator for SD79, Cowichan Valley, and is a member of ERAC’s Professional Learning Team. Most recently she presented at IT4K12 on the “Feed & Care of Your Nerdlings”.
“I’ve always said that pedagogy is the driver but I like to add that technology is the accelerator,” explains Read, “And when we meld those two worlds together, we’re going to have a strong educational impact.”
That impact is only as strong as the entire team and the efficiency of their communication. If the educational group can’t clearly identify the needs, then the IT team can’t properly address the issue or find a timely solution. Clear communication can help speed things along.
“Our situation is quite unique” notes Read. “In most school districts, you rarely have educators involved in running the technology department, but we do. It assists us in having an education lens or perspective when making and guiding decisions.”
To help get those conversations started, Read’s team holds a 10-15-minute meeting every morning. Tech staff can then ask more specific questions to help source out the problems and offer precise solutions.
“The conversations are much richer and make it easier to come to a resolution than just answering a ‘ticket’”, explains Read. “For instance, a teacher may be having a problem with a printer but when the technician understands it’s 30 elementary students using that printer at the same time, they get the bigger picture and realize the common solution won’t work in this instance.”
Ultimately, the end goal for our students is the same, but these groups can come at it from two different directions and that’s why it can be beneficial to find a better way to communicate. Increased empathy on both sides can go a long way.
“It’s important for IT professionals to understand the pressures educators have within the classroom,” advises Read. “Likewise, teachers should understand that there are multiple ways to address a problem and the technician needs to consider the best solution for the individual and the entire system—in other words, will it scale?”
Some of the ways that Read explains you can work with your IT team better is to: connect with the IT team through their preferred method of communication (they have created a system that works well for them, a combination of tickets, email and face to face check-ins); ask for help instead of trying to fix it yourself; try to differentiate the need for IT support ( is this a new problem, or an ongoing one that the team already knows about); give the team some time to work on the problem (double reporting can bog down the process); and (on the IT professionals’ wish list) it is also of great benefit if the people they support have a minimal level of technological understanding.
“I always encourage teachers to approach technology the way they ask their learners to,” explains Read. “Don’t be afraid to try a different approach if the first one doesn’t work and don’t be afraid to ask for support.”
There are also ways that IT professionals can help educators by understanding that teachers want what is best for their students, so if resistance is sensed it is most likely based in fear or uncertainty and they might not know how to properly ask for support. Read also encourages IT Professionals to go into the actual classrooms and see how teachers are using the technology so they can understand what is being asked of them.
Finally, the biggest challenge continues to be keeping up with classroom/staff support and keeping everything in place working well, while still pushing technology forward with new ideas and solutions.
“It’s the Tyranny of the Urgent,” notes Read. “Our techies are keen but time is our enemy. Technicians are naturally curious and find wonderful ideas and solutions but finding the time to implement them can be extremely challenging, as well as the potential lack of proficiency by users.”
If you have solutions that are working well within your school or district, feel free to contact Cathy Yeomans so she can share your story with others. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lisa Read and all members of the Professional Learning Team provide support for the BC Digital Classroom resources. To arrange for a remote or face to face connection, please contact Kevin Amboe at email@example.com.