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Educational IT Jobs Thread, Defining IT Support in United Kingdom (UK) Specific Forums; Seen a few posts lately asking for advice on questions that potential IT support technicians may be asked at interview, ...
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    Defining IT Support

    Seen a few posts lately asking for advice on questions that potential IT support technicians may be asked at interview, and i have been suprised by some of the topics discussed.

    As operating systems and software have developed, i feel the technician role has moved somewhat.

    As an NM, if i were seeking a Support technician; turning up promptly to get a laptop and data projector working, in focus and nicely dispalyed, is worth far more to me than quoting the OSI model and its various functions.

    I don't know if its just me, but some of the suggested questions here don't seem to have much common sense. (sorry!)

    The question about how would you prioritise these two jobs; the headteacher can't print, or a class full of students can't logon. Now, i know the answer to this, but i wouldn't expect anyone without an understanding of basic education values to instantly know the answer, and it isn't something that couldn't be explained in 2 minutes, hardly a deal-breaker.

    For me, i would rather feel confident that someone had excellent communication skills, was able to manage an inventory, was able to source competitive pricing on consumables, dealt with people in a friendly and helpful manner, was enthusiastic about IT in the classroom, had an enthusiasm for video production, website maintenance etc.

    I think we apply far too much weight to understanding AD Schema, OSI, MCE, MCSA/E CCNA qualifications (i cannot remeber the last time i had to use any of the knowledge from my CCNA let alone a technician)

    Sorry for the rant

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    dalsoth (16th February 2010), SimpleSi (18th February 2010)

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    Domino's Avatar
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    Depends on the size of your school, but I'd say with the increased reliance/use of IT and networks you'll eventually need to be looking at those kind of industry level skills.

    I'd certainly say as I left my last post I was doing less and less of the web and media stuff, and they hired a media tech to pick it up as I simply didn't have time with the IT side.

    however it does totally depend on how you work at your school, but I see it heading more and more towards IT staff being IT staff, rather than catch alls.

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    localzuk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by steele_uk View Post
    Seen a few posts lately asking for advice on questions that potential IT support technicians may be asked at interview, and i have been suprised by some of the topics discussed.

    As operating systems and software have developed, i feel the technician role has moved somewhat.

    As an NM, if i were seeking a Support technician; turning up promptly to get a laptop and data projector working, in focus and nicely dispalyed, is worth far more to me than quoting the OSI model and its various functions.
    It depends on what that tech is going to be doing. OSI is a good theoretical system to know, as it allows a tech to understand fundamentally how things work. Not relevant for all jobs, but for some it will be!

    The question about how would you prioritise these two jobs; the headteacher can't print, or a class full of students can't logon. Now, i know the answer to this, but i wouldn't expect anyone without an understanding of basic education values to instantly know the answer, and it isn't something that couldn't be explained in 2 minutes, hardly a deal-breaker.
    Surely when you're taking someone on in any job, they should have some form of knowledge of that business/organisation? There are an awful lot of people applying for IT jobs in the UK, so the amount of 'bang for your buck' a school can get when hiring a new tech is significantly higher now than it was even 5 years ago. Prioritisation in an education environment is a key skill I'd expect of any applicant if we had a tech job going!

    For me, i would rather feel confident that someone had excellent communication skills, was able to manage an inventory, was able to source competitive pricing on consumables, dealt with people in a friendly and helpful manner, was enthusiastic about IT in the classroom, had an enthusiasm for video production, website maintenance etc.
    You're obviously working in an old fashioned view of IT support in a school, in my mind. No longer are our networks ad-hoc, having grown from the work of an maths teacher who set it up. IT is now business class being installed in an incredibly complex environment. Sure, communication skills are important for any tech job, as is enthusiasm - but a technical knowledge is more important to me I'd say.

    I think we apply far too much weight to understanding AD Schema, OSI, MCE, MCSA/E CCNA qualifications (i cannot remeber the last time i had to use any of the knowledge from my CCNA let alone a technician)
    Why? So you'd be happy to hire someone who was happy, could talk well and was good with the kids in a classroom, and could fiddle with videos but didn't have a clue about a network, or how to diagnose issues on the latest Windows OS, or on managed switches? Seems that you want to hire a Classroom Assistant rather than a Technician to me...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Domino View Post

    I'd certainly say as I left my last post I was doing less and less of the web and media stuff, and they hired a media tech to pick it up
    I would love to employ a media tech, however i can't because (i have been told by lea) it does not exist within the LEA framework.

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    While the non-technical skills are relevant and necessary, the flipside is that should I get hit by a bus/off sick for an extended period, she/he'll have everything dumped on them for up to a month while a replacement is sourced/I get better with no backup apart from edugeek.

    They must be able to handle that for short periods without screwing up too gloriously and so I have a baseline "must demonstrate at least X technical knowledge" in interviews. I don't want to walk back into the building to find the end-users in revolt, the server room on fire and backups neglected.

    You can assess that through structured questions (OSI model is too standard/easy) or in more open-ended questions based on their cv contents or problems you've experienced / fixed at work.

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    The range of skills that you need in a person depends massively on the kind of organisation. If you have a small place with 1 or 2 IT staff then they pretty much need to be able to do everything. Understanding AD schema, OSI models and so on will take up some part of their time. If you have a large organisation then you are going to have specialists and you don't need that full range of skills in everyone - you need some people who will be doing little more than setting up desktop PCs and fixing printer jams and you need a different batch of people who completely understand DNS, DHCP etc.

    From what I've read and seen, most schools seem to have no more than 2-3 people. I imagine that one of those people will be reasonably skilled and probably have a title like "network manager". The others will perhaps have lower skill levels but will (I hope) get the opportunity to learn more on the job. In this case, if you're interviewing for the "low skill" person then you're not trying to find out if they can configure a core switch but you're trying to find out if they have basic common sense, good customer service skills and a willingness and ability to learn.

    If schools move to an out-sourced model then this changes again. You can probably make do with 1 or 2 highly skilled people somewhere outside the school with the people in school being lower skilled but dealing with the crucial day-to-day stuff.

  8. Thanks to srochford from:

    broc (16th February 2010)

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    Quote Originally Posted by steele_uk View Post
    Seen a few posts lately asking for advice on questions that potential IT support technicians may be asked at interview, and i have been suprised by some of the topics discussed.

    As operating systems and software have developed, i feel the technician role has moved somewhat.

    As an NM, if i were seeking a Support technician; turning up promptly to get a laptop and data projector working, in focus and nicely dispalyed, is worth far more to me than quoting the OSI model and its various functions.

    I don't know if its just me, but some of the suggested questions here don't seem to have much common sense. (sorry!)

    The question about how would you prioritise these two jobs; the headteacher can't print, or a class full of students can't logon. Now, i know the answer to this, but i wouldn't expect anyone without an understanding of basic education values to instantly know the answer, and it isn't something that couldn't be explained in 2 minutes, hardly a deal-breaker.

    For me, i would rather feel confident that someone had excellent communication skills, was able to manage an inventory, was able to source competitive pricing on consumables, dealt with people in a friendly and helpful manner, was enthusiastic about IT in the classroom, had an enthusiasm for video production, website maintenance etc.

    I think we apply far too much weight to understanding AD Schema, OSI, MCE, MCSA/E CCNA qualifications (i cannot remeber the last time i had to use any of the knowledge from my CCNA let alone a technician)

    Sorry for the rant
    Amen to you!


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    Quote Originally Posted by localzuk View Post
    It depends on what that tech is going to be doing. OSI is a good theoretical system to know, as it allows a tech to understand fundamentally how things work. Not relevant for all jobs, but for some it will be!
    Differing views, i have had great techncians, who never needed to know the OSI model, to be able to go about their work in school. I can't even think of a situation when it would have been useful.


    Quote Originally Posted by localzuk View Post
    Surely when you're taking someone on in any job, they should have some form of knowledge of that business/organisation?
    Agreed, but i don't care if you don't know how the school prioritises its support, as long as you can be told and apply that model.


    Quote Originally Posted by localzuk View Post
    You're obviously working in an old fashioned view of IT support in a school, in my mind. No longer are our networks ad-hoc, having grown from the work of an maths teacher who set it up. IT is now business class being installed in an incredibly complex environment. Sure, communication skills are important for any tech job, as is enthusiasm - but a technical knowledge is more important to me I'd say.
    Disagree, we have enterprise class systems, and i am about to virtualize the 10 Proliants into VMware this year. I class myself as 3rd line support. My technician/s would be 1st/2nd line, anyone showing an aptitude to progress i am willing to invest in. I don't want a technician to be locked in an IT office all day, i don't think this helps our image at all.


    Quote Originally Posted by localzuk View Post
    Why? So you'd be happy to hire someone who was happy, could talk well and was good with the kids in a classroom, and could fiddle with videos but didn't have a clue about a network, or how to diagnose issues on the latest Windows OS, or on managed switches? Seems that you want to hire a Classroom Assistant rather than a Technician to me...
    What? 'Fiddle with videos...?

    Someone that engages with the current trends in ICT would be how i would have phrased it.

    who said that to have one skill meant forsaking all others?
    Last edited by steele_uk; 16th February 2010 at 10:41 AM.

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    localzuk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by steele_uk View Post
    Disagree, we have enterprise class systems, and i am about to virtualize the 10 Proliants into VMware this year. I class myself as 3rd line support. My technician/s would be 1st/2nd line, anyone showing an aptitude to progress i am willing to invest in. I don't want a technician to be locked in an IT office all day, i don't think this helps our image at all.
    What has image got to do with anything? My point is rather to do with what we expect technicians to do. Maybe it is down to size as Domino says. For example, we're edging into needing a new person here - so any new person would need to be proficient in a wide range of things so they could be used as fall back should I vanish suddenly due to alien abduction...

    What? 'Fiddle with videos...?
    Yes, fiddle with videos. This is an end user task, not a technician task. IT support is there to maintain, train and advise as far as I'm concerned. We can occasionally help people directly when they're in a bit of a bind, but something like editing the content of a website, or making a video is outside that remit. Much like data entry would be - we would run the system but we don't deal with the content.

    Someone that engages with the current trends in ICT would be how i would have phrased it.

    who said that to have one skill meant forsaking all others?
    You're the one who listed end user skills, namely editing websites and video editing.

    Engaging in current trends in IT is good, but not to the extent where they do the jobs for the end users.

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    Have to say I agree with steele_uk. Looking at the wages that are advertised for an entry level technician I would have to say expecting someone to apply with all the knowledge that is required is a little short sighted. I would expect to find someone with a good general technical knowledge who is capable of learning more about networking if thats what the role entailed.

    For me personally I like to be in a role which develops, and I would not expect a support technician to know how to setup and run a network(but if you found one its nice) but I would expect then to be able to learn new skills which could in turn allow them to take on more responsibility (such as covering in NM absense). Due to the general low pay in schools, I wouldn't expect anyone to stay too long if they already had the skills to administer a network, but were paid at a much lower scale.

    I do believe that in a education it is VERY important that IT support staff can communicate to their users (both staff & pupils) in a good manner. It is fine being able to troubleshoot network problems, but if you cant explain why Mr Jones cant show his powerpoint they aren't going to be happy. So looking for someone with good communication skills, sound techinical/troubleshooting knowledge and the ability to learn would be important for me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by localzuk View Post
    <Snip>

    Yes, fiddle with videos. This is an end user task, not a technician task. IT support is there to maintain, train and advise as far as I'm concerned. We can occasionally help people directly when they're in a bit of a bind, but something like editing the content of a website, or making a video is outside that remit. Much like data entry would be - we would run the system but we don't deal with the content.
    Depends on what the role is to be honest. If you are looking at someone who would be producing media content for those times when a school wanted to produce a promotional video or updating web content etc, you might be looking for those skills. I agree with you about using software/data entry is down to the end user NOT IT, but if the role is more than just fixing a printer/checking paper etc then it is only right that you should look for someone who can do this.

    Remember as has been said, it depends on the size of the school/support team and what people are looking for which defines the skills needed. In all honesty whether people agree or not is irrelevent.

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    Quote Originally Posted by localzuk View Post


    Yes, fiddle with videos. This is an end user task, not a technician task. IT support is there to maintain, train and advise as far as I'm concerned. We can occasionally help people directly when they're in a bit of a bind, but something like editing the content of a website, or making a video is outside that remit. Much like data entry would be - we would run the system but we don't deal with the content.


    Ok, I see from that statement right there, we have completely differing views of our roles, and i'll leave it there



    ...but just for the record, my wording was; '..had an enthusiasm for video production, website maintenance etc...'

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    localzuk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by penfold View Post
    If you are looking at someone who would be producing media content for those times when a school wanted to produce a promotional video or updating web content etc, you might be looking for those skills.
    I'd never have considered those skills to fall under the title of 'IT Technician' though. They are a media technician and web content administration etc... Otherwise, the entire concept of an IT technician is impossible to define. ie. the role becomes 'we can dump anything slightly technical, or involves using a PC into one role', which is something which the profession has moved on from.

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    Quote Originally Posted by localzuk View Post
    I'd never have considered those skills to fall under the title of 'IT Technician' though. They are a media technician and web content administration etc... Otherwise, the entire concept of an IT technician is impossible to define. ie. the role becomes 'we can dump anything slightly technical, or involves using a PC into one role', which is something which the profession has moved on from.
    Might be something the profession has moved on from, but many schools haven't

    Many skills fall under the remit of an IT technician just because there isn't a big enough team to have seperate roles. As I said, it depends on what your looking for.

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    I look for who ever I need for my time. To be very blunt I would not want a team full of High D's or C's but a mixture of people.

    I think image is very important for the department I do want someone who understands ( or willing to work at it) that image of department matters so if they are rude and arrogant then it reflects badly on everybody.

    I would be looking to see where skills we lack in the department so that we can hire to fill that.

    Also to certain degree on an entry level jobs technical skills as long as some basics are there can be taught.

    So my answer it depends on the job.

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