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Blue Skies Thread, Education IT Manager of the future? in General; Hi everyone, I'm working on a presentation that talks about the future of the IT Manager in education, and particularly ...
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    jamesbmarshall's Avatar
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    Question Education IT Manager of the future?

    Hi everyone, I'm working on a presentation that talks about the future of the IT Manager in education, and particularly what skills and traits that person would need over, say, the next 0-5 and maybe 5-10 years.

    It isn't so much a presentation about which skills to go and get, but more about how the role will evolve given the changing trends in teaching and learning, devices, the consumer market, and technology in general.

    So, with that in mind, I think it would be really interesting to see what anyone thinks about what those skills, traits and tasks might be in the future (particularly vs. what is required today, and has been done in the past).

    I'm not looking for any right or wrong answers, or even specific technologies (i.e. a Microsoft vs. Google vs. Apple debate) I'm just canvassing for opinions.

    I can only speak from my experiences as a network manager, and what I see day-to-day at Microsoft, but that's only one side, hence asking here!

    ---

    For example: I think that, increasingly, IT Managers wield a huge amount of long-game power. Decisions that they make about where to invest IT spend can (sometimes unwittingly) have a huge beneficial or crippling impact on budgets, pupil attainment, staff happiness, etc. so I think that I see the need for more strategic thinking, project management and leadership skills in IT Managers as well as a move from passive/reactive within the school to a more proactive/visionary stance.

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    I hate the use of IT manager, it makes it sound like your the computer god. In this day and age the job an IT manager usually does is closer to ICT Services, seeing as we have responsibility for anything with a plug and get involved with other departments.

    An IT manager should be someone with basic computing skills and skills surrounding the industry they are in. I find that staff that have been educated with modern technology are a little easier to work with than those who haven't and are less prone to disconnected blue sky thinking. I find it an advantage that I did A levels and my degree with teachers who were able to show good practise ( and experience some awful examples too). I think the role will become more about consulting, NM's lost overall power a long time ago. Now they need to meet demand from various parties wielding various devices, a modern NM should have decent underlying knowledge and the ability to learn quickly and have quick access to knowledge.

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    jamesbmarshall's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by strawberry View Post
    I hate the use of IT manager, it makes it sound like your the computer god.
    Interesting - I hear lots of job titles, everything from IT Technician, to Network Manager, to IT Director, and occasional seasonings of "strategy" this and "officer" that. The scope, and seniority seems to vary across the country. What would you 'generalise' the title to be?

    Quote Originally Posted by strawberry View Post
    In this day and age the job an IT manager usually does is closer to ICT Services, seeing as we have responsibility for anything with a plug and get involved with other departments.
    Do you think it's right for that to happen? Or do you think the IT Manager should be focused on technology, and a Facilities Manager (caretaker, whatever?) should be responsible for anything else with a plug on it?

    Quote Originally Posted by strawberry View Post
    An IT manager should be someone with basic computing skills and skills surrounding the industry they are in.
    This really surprises me! My thoughts were that the IT Manager should have advanced computing skills, ideally certified, and should be a example to others of how to use technology not just correctly, but to it's full potential. Do you think leading by example is the wrong approach?

    Quote Originally Posted by strawberry View Post
    I find that staff that have been educated with modern technology are a little easier to work with than those who haven't and are less prone to disconnected blue sky thinking.
    Totally agree, and I found that to be the case too. I did find that there was an increasing gulf between those "digital native" teachers and "digital immigrants"; on the one hand you had to rein in the enthusiasm and passion from the new teachers and ensure they were doing things that could be supported, and the other you had to try and pump a bit of enthusiasm into the veteran teachers who (naturally) fought change.

    Quote Originally Posted by strawberry View Post
    I find it an advantage that I did A levels and my degree with teachers who were able to show good practise ( and experience some awful examples too).
    Is that just a perception thing? Do you mean that people treated you in a different way as a result of your qualifications? Do you think that qualifications trump industry experience? Do you think it's important for a well-rounded IT Manager to have experience both public and private sector?

    Quote Originally Posted by strawberry View Post
    I think the role will become more about consulting, NM's lost overall power a long time ago. Now they need to meet demand from various parties wielding various devices, a modern NM should have decent underlying knowledge and the ability to learn quickly and have quick access to knowledge.
    Given those demands, do you think it's important for the IT Manager to be part of / better connected to the SLT in terms of aligning IT goals (such as investment in infrastructure, servers, "cloud", security, etc.) with teaching and learning goals; for example, around BYOD support, curriculum software support, classroom devices, etc.

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    simongrahamuk's Avatar
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    Role of NM, ITM, Generic Title, is now much less of a hand on techie, but that of a co-ordinator who has a general understanding but relies on the specialists to deliver the solutions. The onsite face who has the schools interests at heart, not those of the supplier.

    More and more need to use specialists e.g: Software providers, Web designers, solutions providers, etc. Yes you can develop skills in these area's however as technologies develop the On-site person needs an understanding of the technology, but not necessarily the ins and outs of it.

    The role is developing, and will continue to develop into that of a facilitator who can manage the projects and deliver the solutions with the support of third party specialists, meaning that communication skills will be at the heart of any IT Manager.

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    tmcd35's Avatar
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    I think @simongrahamuk has almost hit the nail on the head. My job as certainly moved from the classic "making sure the servers work" to more "making sure the (right) people" work over the past couple of years. It think the role is and will get ever more intergrated in the general day to day running of the school, a much more school wide senior responsibility than perhaps it was 5-6 years ago (at least in secondary schools).

    Certainly doing more project management, tenders, liasing with solution providers. Data Management seems to be merging more with IT here, more line management responsibility.

    Technology wise, the role is going to adapt more to solution providers. I can see tablets, BYOD and managed wifi being more prevalent and intregral to the running of a school in the next 5-10 years. This Beeb article from yesterday is a good example of where we are heading and how the role is going to have to adapt: BBC News - Teenagers 'own six digital devices', survey suggests

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    TechMonkey's Avatar
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    It's tricky as no school seems to want the same thing. Some just want someone to run the network and hardware not dealing with staff except in a help desk capacity, others want them to be the IT champion, liaising with all departments to train them and move them on and then still further down the line is the whole school position that is setting policy, data managing, future planning and helping drag the school in to the future, both hardware wise and procedure/policy wise. Most schools currently can't afford a management only IT position so they need to be able to get hands on, if only during holidays or crisis times.

    In the future though I can see there being a Data managing/IT/e-safety/communications/PR assistant head type role opening up as all those are merging. I think they would need more than basic computing skills, I think they need a good working understanding of IT systems. Not necessarily be able to install a full working Virtual infrastructure but certainly know the fundamentals, pros, cons and be able to pull a salesman up on talking BS. They need good interpersonal, time/priority management, project management, team management, communication, presentation and writing skills.

    But the problem is a lot of schools will still want to make do with the guy in the cupboard who likes to dabble, thrown a few pennies every now and then and expect miracles.

    My thoughts were that the IT Manager should have advanced computing skills, ideally certified, and should be a example to others of how to use technology not just correctly, but to it's full potential. Do you think leading by example is the wrong approach?
    As ever though you can't know everything about every facet of IT. So do you expect people to get certified in Networking which is no good to general staff but useful to keeping the school running, or certified in PowerPoint which means you can train teaching staff how to use it but have no use for it day to day? What about other aspects staff may want to use in their lessons, Prezi, Social Media, Wikis, etc? I would say it is more about empowering people to go out and get the skills themselves, co-ordinating and discovering best practise, motivating staff, show casing possibilities, coming up with weird and wonderful concepts that, as they stand, pose overkill or impractical in the classroom but may spur staff on to take a part of that and move with it.
    Last edited by TechMonkey; 10th December 2013 at 11:42 AM.

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    localzuk's Avatar
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    Key skills would be:

    Project Management
    Procurement
    Systems and Infrastructure Design

    And, depending on if your school buys into the 'cloud' stuff or not, the same Systems Administrator skills as now.

    Regarding title, I would say IT Manager is a more appropriate title than Network Manager now. Network Manager indicates that its a hands on networking job, rather than what it is - pretty bureaucratic.

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    Quote Originally Posted by simongrahamuk View Post
    More and more need to use specialists e.g: Software providers, Web designers, solutions providers, etc. Yes you can develop skills in these area's however as technologies develop the On-site person needs an understanding of the technology, but not necessarily the ins and outs of it.
    Great point - and I think it's the marque of a good IT Manager to know when it's right to get specialist help and advice, rather than trying to do it yourself.

    Quote Originally Posted by simongrahamuk View Post
    The role is developing, and will continue to develop into that of a facilitator who can manage the projects and deliver the solutions with the support of third party specialists, meaning that communication skills will be at the heart of any IT Manager.
    I couldn't agree more with this - and it's something a few people I've spoken to have all echoed. Communication is essential, almost to the point of needing some marketing savvy to complement IT knowledge.

    Quote Originally Posted by tmcd35 View Post
    It think the role is and will get ever more intergrated in the general day to day running of the school, a much more school wide senior responsibility than perhaps it was 5-6 years ago (at least in secondary schools).
    Interesting insight - what about primary schools? Of course, also, what about academy chains - is having core IT functions centralised a good thing or a bad thing? (Rhetorical question, that's probably a debate in itself!)

    Quote Originally Posted by tmcd35 View Post
    Certainly doing more project management, tenders, liasing with solution providers. Data Management seems to be merging more with IT here, more line management responsibility.
    Do you think there is a place for the IT Manager at curriculum meetings, not necessarily to contribute but to listen and get a feel for the pressures and direction of the school's teaching and learning, with a view to structuring the IT facilities to support that better?

    Quote Originally Posted by TechMonkey View Post
    It's tricky as no school seems to want the same thing. Some just want someone to run the network and hardware not dealing with staff except in a help desk capacity, others want them to be the IT champion, liaising with all departments to train them and move them on and then still further down the line is the whole school position that is setting policy, data managing, future planning and helping drag the school in to the future, both hardware wise and procedure/policy wise.
    So which schools get it right? Conversely, just because a school just wants someone to run the network and hardware does that make it right, and if not who should be responsible for defining what is? Should there be a templated role guide that schools should use when hiring to ensure consistency of function, skills, pay, etc.?

    Quote Originally Posted by TechMonkey View Post
    Most schools currently can't afford a management only IT position so they need to be able to get hands on, if only during holidays or crisis times.
    Do you think schools should prioritise having someone in that role over other things? Has the role become so important that it is critical to the longer term success of the school to have someone focused on it?

    Quote Originally Posted by TechMonkey View Post
    ...be able to pull a salesman up on talking BS. They need good interpersonal, time/priority management, project management, team management, communication, presentation and writing skills.
    OK, so being devil's advocate for a moment do you think that those skills require a degree, industry experience or something else? Do you think that you can be a "lifer" in these roles, recruited straight from school, and be able to be as effective as someone who brings a wide range of unique experiences from a variety of sources to the school?

    (I left school and went straight to work in schools... I'm not saying it's a bad move at all!)

    Quote Originally Posted by TechMonkey View Post
    But the problem is a lot of schools will still want to make do with the guy in the cupboard who likes to dabble, thrown a few pennies every now and then and expect miracles.
    As above, just because that's what they think they want does that make it right? To use a well-worn cliche "If I had asked my customers what they wanted they would have said a faster horse."

    Quote Originally Posted by TechMonkey View Post
    I would say it is more about empowering people to go out and get the skills themselves, co-ordinating and discovering best practise, motivating staff, show casing possibilities, coming up with weird and wonderful concepts that, as they stand, pose overkill or impractical in the classroom but may spur staff on to take a part of that and move with it.
    Yes, yes! As much IT Manager as IT Evangelist?

    Quote Originally Posted by localzuk View Post
    Regarding title, I would say IT Manager is a more appropriate title than Network Manager now. Network Manager indicates that its a hands on networking job, rather than what it is - pretty bureaucratic.
    Again, should there be a national template? Should there be a blueprint that schools should stick to? (Is there one already? I'd love to know!)

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    Quote Originally Posted by jamesbmarshall View Post
    Again, should there be a national template? Should there be a blueprint that schools should stick to? (Is there one already? I'd love to know!)
    Nope. Every school is different. BSF taught us that standardisation is a Bad Thing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by localzuk View Post
    Nope. Every school is different. BSF taught us that standardisation is a Bad Thing.
    Fair enough, but in that case how do you ensure that schools are getting the best from their IT staff? If you took two secondary schools and put an old-school IT technician, whose only requirement was to keep the lights on; ensure the network didn't fall over and replace broken hardware when needed, into one, and a higher-level strategic IT Manager into the other, whose role was to lead the IT strategy within the school and grow its capabilities and reliability to support a better learning environment for students and teachers; which one is doing the better thing by its pupils?

    Does it even matter? Should the direction of IT, the software choices, the hardware procurement, etc. be taken by a different person? The IT coordinator? The Head?

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    localzuk's Avatar
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    Things in a school should be measured by educational outcomes really. It all depends on the strategy set by the head teacher.

    Measuring effective use of IT is difficult to do when every school decides it has different priorities.

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    Personal opinion of course - and aware that educational establishments are so varied in size and organisational structure that there's more than one solution.

    As a general point, I have observed that exceptional practitioners don't always make good managers. In schools, SLTs have traditionally been made up of promoted teachers - some develop into effective managers, but it's not universal and often you end with with excellent teachers being lost from the classroom as it's the only route for them to get paid more or receive recognition. The same is true for IT specialists. That's not to say that you could be an effective IT manager without some specialist knowledge - my view is that they should know what can be done rather than how to do it and have the aptitude and motivation to stay abreast of new technology. They need to work effectively with the SLT to have an input into the direction that IT will take and then translate that into a set of deliverables and drive implementation through - project management skills as mentioned above.

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    tmcd35's Avatar
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    Do you think there is a place for the IT Manager at curriculum meetings, not necessarily to contribute but to listen and get a feel for the pressures and direction of the school's teaching and learning, with a view to structuring the IT facilities to support that better?
    Definately and probably other meeting as well. I've been invited to a few over the past couple of years and get copied into the minutes for the curriculum meetings.

    Do you think schools should prioritise having someone in that role over other things? Has the role become so important that it is critical to the longer term success of the school to have someone focused on it?
    This is something that management sometimes fail to grasp. ICT in school is more than what we teach kids, it's more than the equipment used to teach the kids. Pick any area of the school and you'd be hard pushed not to find ICT being used at some level. Some of the more important areas are not even (directly) curriculum related - MIS, Website, Finance, etc.

    It's been said here before, in similar medium sized companies there'd be a CIO role or something similar on the board of directors. The importance and pervasiveness of ICT in schools mean they are going to have to start thinking of ICT in a similar coperatewide manor. It's not the the guy in the cupboard turning the hampster wheel anymore.

    OK, so being devil's advocate for a moment do you think that those skills require a degree, industry experience or something else? Do you think that you can be a "lifer" in these roles, recruited straight from school, and be able to be as effective as someone who brings a wide range of unique experiences from a variety of sources to the school?
    I think both Degree and Industry Experience would be more beneficial now days. That said, so long as the right candidate had experience across a number of schools as they rise through the ranks, there's no reason why someone can't go from school leaver to network manager. It's the growing with the job and not being afraid to move on to another school to learn how different schools work - both in terms of ICT and general school management - that's important for the lifer. I don't think you could be successful staying in one school.

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    Network Managers really should have an appropriate qualification. Saint like patients and the flexibility of a cat.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hosker View Post
    Network Managers really should have an appropriate qualification. Saint like patients and the flexibility of a cat.
    I'd take demonstratable experience over a qualification 11 times out of 10.

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