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What should a School’s IT Department look like?

Posted by jturner56 on September 11, 2017

I ponder this question from four perspectives. First, recently, while watching a Vice-Principal teach himself to filter spreadsheet averages using an online tutorial. Thirty years ago a Mathematics teacher was appointed Head of IT for having this same said skill. Second, thinking back to 30+ years ago in the public service when the IT Department was inaccessible behind a locked door. I wonder if this is still the case in many places? Thirdly, when a Head of school had a iPad profile problem that was promptly fixed by a group of Grade 5 students. Finally, seeing app management being used to push out requested apps and updates in timely and well managed ways.

What then should an IT department look like in a school? As a separated entity? As integrated so that lines are blurred? Totally immersed and interconnected. Or somewhere else?

Perhaps the IT focus is more a product of the School’s culture and history. This would explain the several levels I have experience

  • those like the Yes Minister episode where a hospital won awards as the best run hospital in the UK. One who’s efficiency is predicated on not having any patients. In IT this equates to the integrity of the system overriding personal diversity. An equation of the fewer and less challenging the changes the greater the system integrity.
  • balkanised approaches where IT is externalised in culture and intent. Continually defending from as high a wall as possible. Boxing and labelling to the fore.
  • dynamically trying to cater from as wide a range of requests while balancing system and personal objectives.

This last has to cater for changing times. Where the interaction of personal learning spaces come up against external and systemic demands that schools have to respond to. Learning is personal. Education is systemic. It is both systemic and person. Our hope is the twain can meet.

To judge how well the IT approach in a school is one can look across spectrums that include

  • from Proactive to Reactive
  • from Leading to Defending
  • from Helpful to Hindering
  • from Connected to Boxed
  • from Developing to Vendors Rule
  • from Learning to Justifying
  • from ROI to Penny Counting
  • from Open to Closed

It’s a complex interplay where change, culture and common understanding can either run up against each other, or seek empowerment through appreciation, calculated risk and commitment to the core being of the ecosystem. Where is IT in your school?

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