You know when you have a smart alec idea and you do something, a little tongue in cheek perhaps, to see what would happen ... well, I did ... and ... for some reason the idea of a panel session about communication and planning for IT in schools appealed ... even when it was title as ... well, the title is ... oh, just read below.
"You deal with computers, can you fix this toaster?" Effective Communication between IT Staff and Teaching Staff
13.30-14.15 Friday 13th January at the LearnLive area at BETT, Olympia.
Yes ... I know ... after all the stuff we have said in other threads ... and it was still chosen!
So, the plan is to have a panel led by your humble servant, with 3 other panelists, looking at both sides of the story, what happens when it doesn't go right and examples of when it does ... and the impact that both of these can have on how the school runs, how it affects learners and to try to give some helpful pointers about how to keep all and sundry happy.
I am looking for people who are happy to share some examples of the good and the bad, any examples of documentation (if possible they will be added to the wiki but please make sure your SLT are happy to share) and to show how this sort of planning and communication isn't that much different to other things that go on within the school.
I know that some people have difficulty talking about some of the downside of when things go wrong so if you would prefer to PM me instead then that is fine. Perhaps you might have a scenario that you want to put to the panel to see how they would approach things? Perhaps you want to bring along a teacher with you (or even a member of SLT)? Perhaps you are a lurking teacher (or not so lurking teacher) who wants to drag along someone from tech support? All are welcome.
The Panelists will be looking at this thread and might even throw a few questions in to see what people say. I'll also be putting up a few polls between now and BETT to get some more information, but this is a chance for you to talk about how things can be better and to share how you and your school has made it work.
Here's a convo, i'm sure others will be familiar with:
Teacher(s): We want a set of iPads for classes to use.
Tech: Okay, What do you want to do with them?
Teacher(s): We need them as they're a really useful tool to engage the students?
Tech: Yes, but how will we charge them?, Who is responsible? Can we set up an account with the school credit card? What is the policy on backup, students downloading apps? One single image?
Teacher(s): Look, i've had it approved, i just need you to source them and set them up...
We're not against the idea, in fact we would love to have them, but we can't choose the apps, and come up with the policy and plan the usage. There needs to be a two-way conversation to plan it.
That almost mirrors one that I have had in from a Deputy Head in a school on the south coast.
DH : We need to experiment with some mobile devices and we have some good examples of stuff on iPads that could work.
NM : Oh brilliant, another white elephant. You do know that it won't work. They'll never get charged, it is impossible to licence, there is no way to track what the kit is used for or abused and we know that it will get broken and repairs will come out of my budget.
DH : But it will give us a chance to link a lot of resources and materials into a project on mobile learning, possibly even going as far as a device per student.
NM : It'll fall flat, just like the last project. Why should we bother?
DH : Just make it happen.
From another school ...
Teacher : You never tell us that you are taking [MIS name] offline and we have reports to complete.
NM : But I published the downtime a month ago ... don't people read the notices?
Teacher : The reporting schedule was published 6 months ago ... it was emailed to all teachers.
NM : and you wonder why I didn't know about it?
The thing is, in mine, it's not about the techs saying no, it's just asking for some planning. Same thing with pretty much any project happens from time to time, told to go implement something, but no thought given to other things once the device/software etc is plugged in/installed/on...
Some more in from the weekend ... some good positive ones included as well (yes .. they do exist).
"Since we have put a change advisory board in place for IT projects it means that we know where things will clash (GD - I notice that this is *will* and not *may*) and we can at least talk about it. I still get frustrated that I am the one that has to compromise more than anyone else but over the last year I have been able to show where I have compromised and it has resulted in things still going wrong and costing time or money. People are starting to trust my judgements more and the next few projects are going to be led by me directly. A shame they are about bringing iPads into schools but at least I get the chance to say how stupid Apple are for software models, closed systems, personal data protection and that. I think my compromise of buying a decent wireless network, improved filtering -Smoothwall here I come- and forcing staff to justify what they are going to use the kit for is a reasonable one"
Always apply the 7 P's:
Prior Planning and Preparation Prevents P### Poor Performance.
Having worked with some schools previously, I always found that forward planning and notification of the correct person[s] was an issue.
Though I think mostly teachers either struggled to take on board, or plain old refused to attend any training provided.
I think you guys are admirable for your patience alone....
I tell you what does work, a helpdesk ( OP SmartDesk - Helpdesk, Asset Management, Network Management & Resource Management - All In One ) where you insist they log incidents, they can email in incidents, and you log everything they tell you about in the corridor. Couple this with a public page that shows all open tickets and their response times. Next we try to get in the habit of explaining exactly what the problem was when it's fixed, even if it's just a reboot. I know it's probably only passive comms, but it really helps the understanding. Enforcing SLAs, again helps 'them' to see what is possible in a fixed timeframe. I guess most of this is covered in FITS, apart from accepting donuts as bribes, that's probably just a house rule