Criticism is an integral part of any such process...
Criticism is an integral part of any such process...
BSF isn't about fixing problems, it's about transformation, looking at how we currently do things even if they work and challenging these practices and exploring how they can be done differently to offer improvements to the overall education and life chances of young people.
It's easy for ICT techs to sit there and say 'I don't know why we need to change anything as what we have now works' but that's such a short sighted view - I never fail to be amused that in such a technologically advanced industry there are so many luddites.
The problems and issues I refer to come about as a result of people who don't understand how schools work being allowed to make decisions that prove to be unworkable/unsustainable in a school:
For example, let us suppose the strategic 'vision' of the LA & school as part of the BSF output specification is a computer for every child....
Fair enough, the technology is capable of that; but then you begin to ask a few questions about how it might work in practice....
What sort of devices? Handheld PDAs, iPhones/iPod Touch/Blackberry, netbooks, or notebooks? Are they robust enough for the rough & tumble life in a school?
Are the students allowed to take them home with them? THis may have network design & security implications
Where will they be stored in school at break, lunchtime, during PE etc?
How long will the batteries last before needing recharging, & how will recharging capabilities be handled in school?
What happens when the batteries wear out, & who pays for their replacement?
Will the devices proposed run the apps the school wants to support the curriculum?
These are all 'constructive' questions, intended to make sure the solution WILL work in school. At no point is it being awkward or negative. They are the sorts of questions experienced ICT support staff ask themselves when they are planning any new piece of technology for school.
Last edited by broc; 23rd September 2009 at 02:16 PM.
Working for RM/Ramesys or one of the other outsourcing firms may be benificial, as already mentioned theres more of a ladder to climb and they're possibly more likely to to put you through your certifications etc
I previously worked for a medium sized "IT for education" firm as an onsite engineer traveling the country supporting all kinds of schools, carrying out network installations etc and loved it, If I were paid more and had a more limited area I'd probably go back to that in a heart beat, it may be worth asking what sort of career progression they can offer etc
If I had the option of being a Tech/TA or a Tech for an outside company I'd go straight to the other company - I imagine you wouldn't even get administrative rights on the network, they may let you move a computer or two for you if your really lucky
I don't suppose the school would keep you on for long unless you make a really good TA either
The response was to Localsuk and not you Broc!
The sort of probing and intelligent enquiry you state as examples are fine, although BSF looks at ICT at a far higher strategic level than just the obvious technicalities, however you'd be surprised at how many ICT staff fail to put these points across in anything other than an adversarial manner or just bang on about matters directly related to their own current work practices.
Perhaps sitting in a cupboard all day long playing with toys such as USB missile systems or mini-helicopters and drinking too much coffee doesn't produce rounded individuals who can articulate their concerns.
I have yet to see any outcomes of BSF which 'offer improvements to the overall education and life chances of young people'. Replacing computer suites with laptops is not doing that, that is doing something gimmicky and not understanding the logistics of the situation.
And yes, I speak like a true technician - I AM A TRUE TECHNICIAN! How else would I speak? I look at issues and fix them, both using technology and using improved practices (such as using a helpdesk to improve tracking of problems - this isn't a technological fix, it is a procedural one).
When I look at the school here, there are many places where education would be improved through better ICT. In most cases, this is not down to a lack of provision though, it is down to a lack of will to use ICT and a lack of training provided to staff (I am not qualified to train people on the massive number of pieces of software now in use - we are using close to 300 programs here now).
BSF does not look at training or education practices. It looks at buildings, and ICT provision.
I wholeheartedly agree with you that BSF should be looking at a much higher level, but in my experience (limited to only two LAs, admittedly) it is all about solution technicalities & cost coupled with contractual wrangling, as a result the potential for true innovation has been lost in the financial mire.
By way of example, replacing a fat client solution with local servers (typically found in many schools) for a thin client centralised server farm solution delivering the same applications in a virtual PC environment is not innovation in Education, or at least not in my book ........ It might be considered innovative technically and deliver a more attractive solution from a support & cost aspect (for an MSP), but that's about all.
You can always make a bid for alternative provision. But the school will need to support the process fully. There are several schools that have done this, but it was not easy.
That way you get to be positive about the process, otherwise there is little you can do. I would also agree that I have seen people marginalised if they ask questions that the supplier does not want to answer!
and as far as I know, only one has managed it successfully...You can always make a bid for alternative provision. But the school will need to support the process fully. There are several schools that have done this, but it was not easy.
If you think setting up a helpdesk is 'transformational' then you need to get your head out of the sand and look at what the likes of RM, Northgate, Microsoft, DCSF, PFS and BECTA are doing - it goes far beyond giving kids laptops.
What I have seen is a huge amount of PR spin from PFS, a large amount of complaints from schools which have gone through the process (rooms not being finished, rooms being missed off the plans).
Yes, going through the FITS process is transformational. It makes what was an ad-hoc service into a more formal process with set goals, SLAs and the like. This means teachers know where they stand and can plan accordingly.
So, please, provide me with evidence of these other transformational things you speak of. Not just talk. Also, can you tell me what you do for your job, as every one of your posts has referenced BSF and Northgate...
I have worked on some very big government outsourcing contracts and most them were late and did not save money!
Ultimately it seems to involve being sat in a room arguing over the contract while the clock just keeps ticking by, ie getting closer to the end of the contract!
Robocop is using typical consultese speak and trying to yank peoples chains.
Alternative provision is the only real way of allowing a school to actually manage ICT provision themselves. You can still work with other partners to meet your individual schools needs.
Otherwise it would be better to work with the BSF team to get the best deal you can for your school.
If only we the "moaning b*ggers" actually got invited to the consultation process (which really doesn't mean anything but is a legal process that has to be followed) we may be able to give good sound advice to the Corporate IT service which has the contract, instead we have masses of consultants who are paid to come up with a business model which only suits wait for it............business and not Education.
We could debate this even more so but this is old ground and to be quite blunt no-one actually gives a damn but us School IT guys who may I say bust a gut every day to ensure that the schools IT performs, which by all the facts coming out about the BSF schools built so far..................DONT
Most people here will know I sit on the fence about BSF and can see the good and bad ... and I am happy to pick faults that others raise but if you are going to talk about strategies for transformation at least try to talk about some of the specifics of the transformation.
BSF is meant to be there to break down a number of barriers that stop schools from making transformational change to T&L, Leadership & Management and introduce innovation. We have all heard lots of horror stories about how the managed service aspect of this can hamper the above ... in fact there are only a handful of LAs I would recommend people talk to about BSF being positive for transformation for the better.
As far as what happens to the techie in the school, strategy gets take out of their hands unless they are given the power by their head and it is agreed with the LA. Not all LAs want that. They want a specific setup that can be applied across schools (particularly failing schools) to get the improvement moving as quick as possible ... LAs need to get schools from unsatisfactory to satisfactory. What happens after that can be hit or miss ... until the Govt forces in the next lot of targets and challenges 'coasting' schools (consistently satisfactory ... or just above average with little growth or upward change).
The realism is that for those who want to move across they get stability and good future job options (if they rise to the challenge), but it is often by sacrificing some of the 'extra' roles they did in the school including innovation, stability of service, stuff now not in the managed service contracts. Sometimes this loss is of personal pain to the techie, other times it actually makes the schools take a backward step before moving forward. The frustration is that by a little bit of communication there does not need to be that backward step.
*please* don't down play the "true techie" as they might not have the full picture, be doing the best with the information they have and may be at risk of being stitched up. Of course some groups don't want them involved ... they may challenge a bit too much about the decisions being made.
In your defence though ... the strategy will often dictate the technology and that is not a bad thing ... allowing the technology to always dictate the strategy is not good ... but some compromise is needed. Flexibility and freedom is likely to cost more in these sorts of projects but sometimes you need to give it as the improvements you get from it are exponentially better that forcing people into a rigid system, with little say or control, and you will also get the best from the support staff.
Oh ... and don't forget that in-school politics plays a role here too ... and it varies from LA to LA ...
Ok ... rant over ... back to the fence, it needs painting again.
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