What If It Breaks?: Tech-Support Concerns Impede Adoption | Edutopia
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What If It Breaks?: Tech-Support Concerns Impede Adoption

Related Tags: Teacher Leadership

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?

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John Kain's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

We are an inner-city district with about 3600 computers (desktops and laptops). We have four technicians. You can do the math. Each tech is assigned to four schools. They work their tails off, but we have uncompleted work orders that are 4 and 5 months old. However, at least our techs are trained and certified to provide tech support. The fact that some schools are getting tech support from a teacher "who learned something about computers on their own" is distressing.
Yes, the lack of trained support (or adequate trained support) is slowing the implementation of technology, and not just in rural districts. Schools boards need to start treating tech support as a critical component of each school.

Jennifer Neuman's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am the "tech" person at of 180 student inner-city charter high school. Our little mini-district is made up of three high schools and one grade school. We have a two level approach to technology issues. The first level in my building is me. Any problems that occur with student or teacher computers are brought to my attention and I fix what I am able to fix. If I don't have the knowledge I then send it on to the next level which is a contracted company that costs a ton to bring in for issues so we usually wait until there are multiple ones to cut down on costs. The problem with this set up is I teach a full corse load and have to find the time to deal with the "minor" computer issues myself, which means I bring a lot of my other work home with me becasue I spend the majority of my time when I not teaching dealing with the various computer issues. I think the lack of trained support is part of what is slowing the implementaion of technology in our school, but I think the other part of it is a lack of knowledge and familiarity among some of the teachers and administration with what is actually available and how different aspects of technology can be used in the classroom. Granted to implement any more than we have we would need much stronger tech support put into place becasue adding on to what we already have will only increase the problems that we have to deal with. But I also think that the staff needs training. Then we run into the problem of budgeting for technology and there not being enough money to add new technology resources let alone train the staff and have a permanent technology person or two on staff.

Chris Heidelberg's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Consider creating internships for local college IT students through universities and community colleges to assist you with the manpower issues. Also, consider creating partnerships with federal, state and local governments that have large IT staffs that may be able to volunteer time, co-op students, equipment and technology associations. Finally, consider creating partnership with large and small employers who have expertise in this area. Technical schools can also provide you with students and support staff with internship opportunities. I work for a large federal organization that has utilized these partnerships to assist two local school districts and it was successful.

Daniel Assisi's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Just recently come to work in the educational world, I was extremely surprised to see how behind schools are in terms of IT mentality -- great educational ideas, but poor operational grasp of what it takes to really make use of the equipment.

A different approach is needed -- and some schools are already undertaking. We have been fortunate to start shifting that mentality and now we have 1 technician on each of our inner-city four sites. Running approximately 600 desktops for 1400 students (pre-k to 12), things have been working well on the support site.

Also, it has allowed us to really drive technology use -- HS students have both email accounts and websites (digitial portofolios). Middle Schoolers are following suit next academic year -- all users have storage shares, etc.. And it keeps growing.

It is great to see the enthusiams of teachers and students alike when the tools are there for them to use. But, first, the investment must come from visionary administrators that understand the power of technology...

Arthur Ellis's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

As a 442 student private school, we have an academic administrator and teacher who service day to day problems. We have a volunteer parent who is a systems operator to help with network problems. Utilize those with whom you are associated. Make them your "Champion" and show them they are appreciated. Helping is very satisfing to someone in that field because they love doing it.

Bryan Wilkins's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Ya gotta spend some bucks on people; technitions and teachers with the skills if you want to have a good program. Try all the half measures you want and I wish you well. But like anything else, you get what you pay for.

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