I teach an online graduate class titled Technology Tools for Teachers. Most of the class members are practicing educators with several years of experience teaching in rural areas. We have been discussing the potential uses for various Web 2.0 applications to enhance learning in our classrooms.
During our discussion last week, one of the students mentioned that she was convinced that some of the new tools would motivate and engage students, but she was reluctant to try them. Her reticence, she said, stemmed from her doubt about whether her school's network was reliable enough to support use of the tools. "We have enough trouble just getting email in and out of the building on a regular basis," she said.
This discussion makes me wonder about technical support in schools. Many of the schools in our area are small, consisting of fewer than 300 students. Technical support is most often provided by a person trained as a classroom teacher but released from one or two classes during the day to provide technical support for the building. Most of these teachers got the support job because they learned something about computers on their own and happened to know more than anyone else in the school. They generally have very little or no training in computer science.
The question is, can we expect to make gains in technology use in schools with this support structure? Should schools reduce their teaching staff in order to hire a person who is actually trained to provide technical support?
I am interested to know about the level of technical support at your school. Do you believe the lack of trained support is impeding progress in the implementation of technology in the schools with which you are familiar? How do you address the support issue, or how would you if it were your responsibility?