jamesbmarshall (10th December 2013)
Bit of both really. A technical degree would help but you'd need some experience in an Education setting or Technical aptitude with experience gained through schools. I doubt you could come straight from Uni into the higher level I was talking about, especially if it is an SLT level role. It would more be an aspirational role, a position to work towards, one EduIT hasn't had previously.
I agree with Tmcd35, the problem with a lot of schools is IT is treated in isolation, as either a subject like French or Maths, or as a tool so on par with the mowers and hoovers. It needs to be integrated into everything, across the board. How many times have we seen on here rants about a project or scheme that has been decided and acted on by SLT and at the last minute IT get wind of it (or worse it foisted on them) and they then have to do the 6 months of planning needed in an afternoon? Leaving IT out of planning is, in most cases, like leaving the Finance team out.
But saying that, the role is probably still an aspirational one in most schools. Somewhere they would like to be, rather than something they can have there and then. I think having someone in that role puts a school at an advantage (obviously counting you have the right person) over a school that doesn't but whether it is a must have is down to the school priorities I guess.
jamesbmarshall (10th December 2013)
Thanks everyone! This has been really useful; keep any thoughts coming.
I think I can pretty much see the aspirational trends for the future - how would you propose to get there?
The future :
Services : I know of one school where the 'IT manager' has become 'Technical Services Manager' and is responsible for all technicians. For schools this can build on the good practice that many IT managers have put in place around helpdesk teams and ticketing systems. Service jobs will be more generic. There will be less fixing PC's and printers - that will just be outsourced. Even enterprise network will become much more commoditised as bandwidth increases to the endpoint. The expertise on the ground in schools will thin out.
Data : The trend has been for schools to focus more and more on performance data, attainment and progress sliced and diced with attendance and behaviour. MIS systems demand more specialised skills to maintain, manipulate and manage the data. That data also feeds many administrative functions - feeding AD or Google from the MIS, just really making the data work for the organisation. There is a cast iron guarantee that there will be more data and no sign that computers will ever be equal to humans in making sense (or nonsense) of it.
DevOps : The future is "cloud". I hate the term - so ... opaque, so cloudy. I think schools have embraced virtualisation. The crack in the damn is Mb bandwidth, as this becomes Gb and then multi Gb it will become easier to shunt VM's around in the cloud and people will become more confident with a whole IAAS. I think that means less of us - I'll be puppeting up a schools server infrastructure with a few scripts, or perhaps MS or Google will.
In general, the further commoditisation of IT. Perhaps more (rapidly) than ever, change or die.
As those things change, many people have predicted the demise of (or dramatic reduction in) on-site technical staff. I'd agree that could happen but I'd very much hope it doesn't, and here's why.
Some would argue that, even now (though the opportunities are rare), there is a logical progression for technical staff in schools (and elsewhere): the route from "technician" to "technologist". I think this will become far more common and will be "the future" - but only if structures to support those progression routes are put into place soon! Currently there is little or nothing defined for any support staff in education as regards career entry and progression pathways, which is also a problem for senior leaders as they don't have much in the way of standards to determine what they're actually getting when they hire a technical person.
To my mind, a technologist is a person with a technical background who has developed a further appreciation for what the technology does, not just what it is. This is someone who can sit down with leaders (or practitioners) in teaching, medicine, business etc - they may choose a sector of preference to specialise in - and talk with them about how they use technology, all the wonderful things they could be doing with it as well as the pitfalls and constraints, legal issues and the like. They are a trusted adviser, a strategic partner, whose views are valued because, while they may need to be the one pointing out why X could be a bad idea, it's also understood that overall they seek to enable, not obstruct.
It can't be overemphasised that the foundation of that work, however, comes from a strong technical background and broad experience in that field. It's not someone whose primary vocation was always something else.
Pretty much in the same position here now our sudden bout of issues from this year have died down... except that we're shortly going to have to upgrade storage and switches if we want to sustain this new-fangled 1:1 or BYOD idea, so then it's back to the technical side again.
That's another important point I think. One of the dangers with people who have moved on from the hands-on is that they become out-of-touch or disconnected. We've all seen the "technology leaders" who last touched enterprise IT when everyone was using mainframes, and some of the stuff they come out with is... very interesting!
So it's important to be keeping your hand in as well. The future technologist would be someone whose "day job" is still hands-on to at least some degree. That's why you have the progression from Network Manager to Strategic ICT Manager in some areas (as in ours), though it's not all that well-defined.
Last edited by Ephelyon; 13th December 2013 at 11:02 AM.
I certainly think there's scope for it to be an add-on to an existing role as well as a full-time job. As always, it depends on the school. Some may have the room for it in more of a capacity than others.
It's contingency planning, just as we all have to do all the time. You plan for all manner of contingencies, even those that may not be very likely.
My title used to be Network Manager, now it is senior I.T. Tech, we still have an NM... But if the network is being managed then I manage the network
What happened there?
Still do 95% of the old job for less pay but at the time it was not my only option but the sensible one given a large number of variables that were in play.
Ah, fair one, does happen I guess. Kind of why I took this job instead of rounding off my FdSc into a full BSc. It was during the financial crisis and I was being offered a full-time job that I didn't even have to apply for... no-brainer!
What does the NM do there?
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