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General Chat Thread, What do technicians do? in General; During my staff appraisal recently it was agreed that I'd give a short talk to teaching staff at the end ...
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    beeswax's Avatar
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    What do technicians do?

    During my staff appraisal recently it was agreed that I'd give a short talk to teaching staff at the end of the school year about the role of the IT Technician. After some initial eye openers SMT agreed that they actually didn't realize X, Y and Z about us. I see this as a good opportunity to build some bridges. What do others feel I should be stressing? What I won't be mentioning are teachers who haven't switched on their machines calling us up to say it's not working etc.

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    witch's Avatar
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    It would be nice if you could subtly try and explain how much time is taken up by problems that could be easily sorted if end users would think a bit more and panic a bit less!! Could offer laminated 'idiot' cards to help??

    Seriously though, one of the main things to stress is the fact that the tech teams are professionally trained in what they do and are very different from, say, art or science techs We have lots of technical knowledge and are happy to share it - so come to us if you need kit, or need advice on what to get, or want info on software etc. Also come for basic training on IT etc

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    Ric_'s Avatar
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    It is worth pointing out how much equipment you support - you would be surprised how few people actually realise how many computers there are.

    It is also worth explaining how you prioritise your tasks, giving examples about the impact on teaching. Explain that this is why it isn't always possible to come to their aid immediately.

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    superfletch's Avatar
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    Wink

    I'd start by skimming over the role/setup of your various servers, and a really, REALLY basic idea of what each one does.

    DC's,
    Exchange Servers,
    MIS System Servers,
    Curriculum s/w Servers,


    Explain a bit (not too much) about the logon scripts that run so they pull down the right profiles and data when they log on. Also how these various areas are secured in relation to other areas where they store data such as public or subject specific folders.

    You're definately going to want to talk about security so home/public directories might be a good place to start and then move on to talk about managing AntiVirus and firewall's.

    You'll also probably want to talk about the AUP and how you 'police' the internet (perhaps talk mostly about the students activities here - just enough to make them pay attention)!!

    You could talk about all the updates that are involved in some of the software titles the school run.

    Give some examples of the s/w they use that you have to manage,

    Library,
    MIS,
    Windows itself,
    Office s/w,
    Curriculem packages.


    Also try and think of any major projects or similar that you have done recently that they'll all know of for instance any new suites/classes that have been networked and what it involved:

    Cabling and routing,
    Deeming what s/w was required,
    Wehere the appropriate printers were located,
    Imaging them,


    Oh and then there's troubleshooting - Where to start with that:

    Kids messing around with the BIOSes,
    Screens set to appear upsidedown,
    Machines not logging on because of 'dodgy network cables' (or cables that were never inserted).


    Backup,
    Data Recovery,
    Hardware replacement.
    Wireless,

    We all know this is just the tip of the iceberg.

    I think you should concentrate on the stuff that you do which keeps the network running and gives them the tools they need, when they see what a mamoth task that in itself is they might just consider burning that CD themselves next time or checking that the ethernet cable is in the machine before they call you!!

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    I think I'd give them a brief overview of what you do but then focus on how you can work with them to make things better all round. You must have frustrations with them you need to air (with as positive a spin as possible).

    I would avoid too much tech stuff and concentrate more on talking about service levels, giving them a chance to explain what they feel would give them a better service.

    Remember that it will be the end of term and people are generally very tired by then so keep it short, focused and to the point.

    Also if you feel you are being attacked (don't know what your set up is like), keep cool and answer professionally.

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    steve_nfi's Avatar
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    All that Superfletch is great but as with most teachers the shutters will be down before you finish the first sentence.
    Whenever I've tried to explain something to a teacher you can see them switch off. They only seem interested in their own subject or anything to do with teaching. It seems a rather insular llife really.

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    GrumbleDook's Avatar
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    Try not to get too technical ... whilst some are fine with it, others will get glazed eyes and ignore anything else you have to say.

    Try to cover the following.

    Services supported - number of desktops, laptops, projectors, phones; email, website, VLE; filtering ... very good if you can mention that it meets Govt guidance on eSafety ... and monitoring of student / staff use of machines; advice on suitable tools ... that is machines and software; advice on the use of software to have a better impact on T&L ... always a good one; MIS ... mention what the MIS actually covers, such as reports, attendance, cover, timetable, student and staff data, etc.

    Communication methods - helpdesk telephone number, email address, tech support website, FAQs, online ticket system, etc.

    Training - one-to-one, small group, independent learning resources such as atomic learning; structured cpd activities such as a carousel of ICT training covering use of IWB in lessons, flash animation, creating resource for the VLE, etc

    If you can make comparisons against other industries it can help ... you have the same number of users as all the FORD showrooms in the UK ... you have the same number of computers as all the B&Q stores in the north-west (I honestly can't remember the stats site I used to use to get those figures ... it was a lucky find a few years ago and since I lost the bookmark I have not found it since ... )

    Communication methods impress people as does approachability. Stress that what you do is for the benefit of the schools, the students and to make the life of staff (all staff!) easier.

    (edit)
    I forgot to also say to mention how you tie into the Govt strategies with things like te SRF, the Learning Platform agenda (including real time reporting) and that tyou aim to reach various industry standards ... mentioning FITS as the Becta version of ITIL being a standard is good.
    HTH
    Last edited by GrumbleDook; 3rd April 2008 at 09:16 AM.

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    cookie_monster's Avatar
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    I'd catch a teacher you trust and have a word with them about what they feel is most important about your role to help tailor your speech.

    Make sure you emphasise just how much of the teaching and curriculum relies on IT and how much of an inconvenience it would be if it wasn't reliable (i know the staff here are lost when the internet goes off). Keep the technical side to minimum but it's worth mentioning what services you manage and on what scale. Average users in a secondary school being 1200 ish you're talking allot of account management, it would be a large company to have that many users and as much equipment as a secondary has.

    I don’t know if you do any staff training but we do here and it makes a BIG difference to how well staff can deliver learning through IT and saves the school money.

    I’m sure more will come to me :-)

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    i think another one of those things they didn't know about it technicians is how quickly they are thrown in at the deep end. An IT technician typically has very little or no experience in the role, whether they be uni student on industrial placement or school/college leaver.

    The IT dept. doesn't stop functioning in order to allow them to get up to speed, and they have to hit the ground running after a minimal period of shadowing or being shown how to do things. It's very much a learn on the job role where there is very little direction and supervision in the sense there's no hand holding. So they have to learn very quickly how to manage they're own workload. I know when i was an IT technician the senior technicians were less concerned about managing me or in needing to know how i spent my working day. They were happy so long as everything was ticking over and that they didn't have to deal with the first and second line issues on a regular basis. As it was my job to close those tasks.

    I would say they're job is to resolve problems in terms of batting issues away, allowing network managers some relief from the daily firefighting to allow them to do a certina amount of project management and development. In a small team the Network Manager won't have the luxury of doing all the cool jobs and none of the monotonous stuff. It's why an IT technician often has to develop they're skills to extend into development and project work. As in a small team they are also cover for more senior members of staff. In a small team there aren't many fixed roles and responsibilites that's why an IT technician could be doing roles expected of a network managers JD and vice versa, it's a team effort and they're level of pay should reflect they're responsibilities. (sorry, just had to crowbar pay in there somewhere)

    IT technician is the first rung of the ladder, the initial few weeks, months is about learning procedures and processes. Later on comes a greater degree of understanding of the technical environment, by which time there should be opportunity for career progression. Unfortunately there appears to be little opportunity for that in a school environment.

    Being an IT technician requires a real interest and passion for what you're doing....in the first six months atleast, after which cynism can sink in. This interest combined with an ability to think quickly is a recipe for a valuable team member.
    Last edited by torledo; 3rd April 2008 at 09:29 AM.

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    @Torledo

    The only problem with that is that teachers don't want to hear that we have a hard time, just as we don't want to hear about them having a hard time (the NUT strike thread is a perfect example of that). Better to say what you do, rather than the obstacles you have to overcome to get there. One comes across as more positive than the other and you need to be as positive as possible when you are trying to sell yourself as a Good Thing!

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    torledo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GrumbleDook View Post
    @Torledo

    The only problem with that is that teachers don't want to hear that we have a hard time, just as we don't want to hear about them having a hard time (the NUT strike thread is a perfect example of that). Better to say what you do, rather than the obstacles you have to overcome to get there. One comes across as more positive than the other and you need to be as positive as possible when you are trying to sell yourself as a Good Thing!
    As someone else has said i think strictly pointing out 'what you do' may be difficult in keeping the attention of these teachers. Also part of any what you do list is the challenges that you face in trying to do the things what you do. If everythings rosy in the garden it creates less urgency in changing things for the betterment of an IT technicians lot.

    I thing there's a difference between being negative and pointing out challenges. I don't think i was being particularly negative about the job, just pointing out what i remeber when i was an IT technician. For me i was happy to be earning the 10K or so i was on at the time....i was glad for the experience and really enoyed it. But my point is that at 11 or 12k it's a job you don't want to be in for too long without some sort of progression....and i certainly wouldn't compare say a not uncommon IT technicians starting salary of 11K to the debate over 20K for NQT's. It's obvious 11K is measly for a full time post, whatever you're position or whatever view you take on the NUTs. whereas there isn't a consensus on whether 20k for teachers is fair.

    But i would say that it's important to detail the technical aspects of what an IT technician does so as to create a better understanding for those teachers.
    Last edited by torledo; 3rd April 2008 at 10:49 AM.

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    torledo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by steve_nfi View Post
    All that Superfletch is great but as with most teachers the shutters will be down before you finish the first sentence.
    Whenever I've tried to explain something to a teacher you can see them switch off. They only seem interested in their own subject or anything to do with teaching. It seems a rather insular llife really.
    I work with a senior teacher is exactly like that.....if try and talk to her after about 10 seconds and she's trying to end the conversation - trying to will me out of her space....whether it be technical or other non teaching related.

    Whereas she will happily talk for what seems like an eternity to other teachers about T&L issues, teacher contracts....fair enough shes on safe ground with teacher talk *yawn* but i wish she'd make more of an effort with the stuff that i need to discuss. I make a point of not getting too technical, but it makes no difference. I might aswell be talking to her about isdn bri rate monitoring on a cisco 7206VXR as i get the impression very little that i say seems to sink in.

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    russdev's Avatar
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    Well today was listening to an educause podcast about communicating with users think that may find this useful...

    http://connect.educause.edu/blog/kel...englishp/45620



    Russ

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    beeswax's Avatar
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    I'd like to offer a big thanks to all who have given their considered opinion, you've all been a big help. From my experience (and I've only worked in two schools) most teachers really don't want to know the technical ins and outs of running a network, and it doesn't surprise, or upset me.
    As people here have said, accentuate the positive,
    Eliminate the negative
    Latch on to the affirmative
    Don't mess with Mister In-Between

    You've got to spread joy up to the maximum
    Bring gloom down to the minimum
    Have faith or pandemonium [is]
    Liable to walk upon the scene

    (Ah, good old Bing Crosby)
    Bing
    Last edited by beeswax; 3rd April 2008 at 09:39 PM.

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    Let us know how it goes.

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