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The school year is off to a great start but with the usual technology glitches as teachers get back into their classrooms. Terrible things happen to computers and printers over the summer. In ghostly quiet classrooms, cables mysteriously disappear, printer ink evaporates, and cords become so tangled that it’s difficult to get things up and running again.

On a typical summer day in the IT department, data is being updated and converted for the student information system, lunch systems are being upgraded, wiring is being installed in new and existing schools, new e-mail systems are being put into place, and the department is trying to comply with all of the state and federal regulations that sometimes dictate how things are done.

The multifaceted work of the IT department is multiplied when teachers are back in the classroom. The school instructional technology specialist and/or media specialist suddenly become IT support as they begin placing work orders and helping teachers get things ready for opening day. District technicians are pulled in many directions and feel overwhelmed by the number of problems. I’m sure that many technicians have terrible dreams at night about out-of-control printers spewing out paper and marching down school hallways.

As this new year gets underway, I hope that everyone in the school system can be tolerant of the problems and understand that everyone is working hard to support the work of teachers. Take a few minutes to look at the big picture and talk with the staff in your IT department to find out about ongoing projects. Here are a few things to think about:

  • Flitering: I’m fortunate to be in a district that allows teachers to get to sites that may be restricted for students. There are times when uncategorized sites are unavailable, but that isn’t the fault of IT. Any site that is new or hasn’t been visited is suspect and it may take a day or two to have the site categorized. Be patient.  Realize that CIPA regulations keep districts in check and funding is withheld if filtering isn’t in place.
  • Bandwidth:  IT staff are constantly fine tuning bandwidth restrictions to make sure that all sites can be accessed.  If streaming video is allotted too much bandwidth and a teacher needs to Skype with another class, access may be dicey.  The IT department is trying to support the needs of all users in the district and additional bandwidth isn’t cheap or easy to increase.
  • Work orders: Most IT departments are severely understaffed with a limited number of technicians. What you may not know is that some technicians and district staff are working on the weekends and into the evening to get through the beginning of the school year.  Take a few minutes to troubleshoot before placing that work order, and thank the technician for helping out.
  • Computer restrictions: Large districts with thousands of computers have to come up with workstation restrictions and standardized applications to make it possible to survive with limited funding and staff.  Technicians already spend hundreds of hours reimaging computers that have viruses.  Open the lines of communication by talking with someone in your IT department about your needs and how the department can best support those needs.
Let’s all work together this year to provide our students with the tools and resources that they need to be successful in the 21st century. Spend some time talking with IT staff members about your needs and be sure to listen to their responses.  We’re all in this together and communication is the best way for all of us to succeed.

D. Teuber

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