Building an effective school technology support team is critical to a school’s success.
Any school forced to adopt remote learning practices because of the pandemic will tell you how vital their technology support team has been to their success. When a student can’t access their Zoom link, log in to Google Classroom, or simply forgets their password for BrainPop or another online instructional platform, the school’s technology support team is there to help, providing crucial troubleshooting services that allow the student to get back online and, crucially, access instructional content.
The same holds true for teachers. While some teachers may have used technology in their classrooms extensively, even before the pandemic, others are new to Zoom, Google Classroom, or Google Drive altogether. The ability to lean on their school’s technology support team has been critical to their ability to continue educating children, despite the challenges of remote instruction.
Even when in-person learning resumes, however, technology is poised to play an outsize role in classroom instruction. While few educators would prefer distance learning over traditional, in-person instruction, many are likely to adopt at least some of the practices they honed during the pandemic. Whether it’s using online instructional platforms to differentiate instruction in real-time or regularly uploading classroom content to Google Classroom, some of the hallmarks of remote learning are here to stay.
As a result, a school’s technology support team is likely to become more crucial than ever. As schools double-down on their technology use, they’ll need a team that quickly offers solutions to common technology issues while also keeping an eye on longer-term priorities, as well as general trends in the education technology sector. Building this team correctly, ensuring schools have the right people in the right roles can help schools drive instructional outcomes.
First, you need to keep the trains running. On-the-ground, in-person support is essential.
Teachers need an individual who they can go to when they have an issue with their technology. The ability to find an IT team member in the hallway or send the team member a quick text when classroom technology goes awry provides teachers with the peace of mind and in-person connection missing from a standard helpline.
Having a team member who responds to individual tickets also allows the IT team member to be a part of the school community, rather than an external, third-party provider with little knowledge of the school’s unique mission, instructional model, or non-instructional challenges. When the IT team member is more fully part of the school community, he or she can also better prioritize incoming tickets based on need and create solutions that make sense for the school’s on-the-ground constraints.
Having an in-person IT team member also speeds-up the troubleshooting process. When a projector bulb blows out, a SMART Board suddenly stops working, or the school’s wireless network goes down, teachers, students, and school leaders all need solutions quickly. Too often, precious instructional minutes go to waste as teachers attempt to connect to a helpline or submit a ticket online. When schools have an on-the-ground IT team member responsible for day-to-day troubleshooting, a quick text or even glance down the hallway can connect the teacher with the technology solution she needs to continue instruction.
Next, how will your school technology support team think ahead to the next quarter, semester, or year?
Okay, so you’ve got day-to-day troubleshooting down, but you’ll also want a school technology support team that can look ahead to the next school-wide event, key facilities-related milestones, or even anticipate technology changes several years down the line.
As anyone working in technology knows, the sector moves at a rapid clip. Hardware and software that fly off the shelves one year can quickly become obsolete over the next two or three years. As a result, you need a team with industry-specific knowledge to anticipate these changes, as well as one that’s nimble enough to make adjustments when the sector ultimately moves in a new direction.
Here, it may make sense to lean on an external provider for longer-term, strategic guidance. While schools may see the value in keeping all of their day-to-day troubleshooting services in-house, it’s often hard to address the various “fires” that pop-up during a school day while also keeping your eye on longer-term, less immediate priorities, like fixing a teacher’s SMART Board. Focusing on the day-to-day is important—even critical—to the team’s overall success, but an exclusive focus on resolving incoming tickets can leave a team flat-footed when it comes to preparing for end-of-year close-out or beginning-of-year launch, both of which require months of advanced planning. For these reasons, partnering with an external IT provider can allow the school to maintain its daily troubleshooting capacity while also providing peace of mind that someone, even if they’re part of an external team, is keeping an eye on and planning for longer-term priorities.
Some projects exceed the scope of an in-house team.
A similar logic argues for partnership with an external provider when schools face complex IT projects that exceed the capacity of their in-house team. Because there are only so many hours in a day and a finite number of in-house IT staff on-site, IT projects that require sustained attention often fall by the wayside. While the in-house team may be able to keep the trains running smoothly, it isn’t necessarily able to add value to a school’s technology programming by, for example, upgrading the school’s outdated switches, installing new wireless access points, or devising an error-proof device-tracking system to monitor the school’s inventory.
For these reasons, schools might engage in a cost-benefit analysis to determine whether it makes sense, given other financial constraints, to lean on an external provider for a particular project in place of their in-house team. Theoretically, of course, the school could simply ask the in-house team to handle the project, but that would necessarily de-prioritize other duties for which the team is responsible. In addition, the in-house team might simply lack the expertise necessary to complete the project, in which case the school has little choice but to look outside their existing staff for a solution.
While schools may take a financial hit, the benefits of having an external provider manage the school’s complex IT project often outweigh the short-term cost. Not only will the external provider be able to give the project the time and attention it deserves, focusing all of their energy on successful execution, but the in-house team will also be able to maintain the quality of its daily operations and avoid stretching its team members thin as they struggle to both execute the project and provide teachers with the support they need to use their classroom technology to educate students.
The summer is an opportunity to add tremendous value to a school’s technology program. Make sure your school technology support team has the requisite project management skills.
As with more technical IT projects, it may also make sense to engage an external provider to assist the school at key points in the school year that call for effective project management skills. End-of-year close-out and beginning-of-year launch are the two prime examples. While it may be tempting for an in-house team to kick back, relax, and turn on autopilot during seemingly quiet parts of the school year, it’s actually months like January and February where planning for the summer is particularly crucial.
As the team begins to think toward the next school year, it will need to think about what additional hardware the school will have to purchase, how they’ll manage end-of-year device collection and check-out, as well as any summer professional development sessions the school will host that will need technology support. Because instructional leaders are almost exclusively focused on in-classroom instruction, it’s important that the school technology support team get these decisions on their radar early, so they don’t fall by the wayside. Bringing in an external provider to either shore-up the team’s daily operations so that one or more team members can focus on these longer-term priorities or outsourcing close-out and launch altogether can, as with complex IT projects, allow the school to maintain the quality of its daily technology operations, while also addressing the longer-term needs of the school.
At CTS, we help schools build effective school technology support teams so they can accomplish their unique missions.
Whether you’re a new school planning your launch or a more established team looking to enhance your existing educational technology programming, CTS has a solution to meet your unique needs. While our business focuses on technology, we view ourselves as deeply ingrained in the educational missions of our clients. We meet with school leadership to understand their unique vision for educational technology at their school, create a plan that meets those needs based on the school’s financial constraints, and partner with the school to ensure implementation runs smoothly from start to finish.
Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can help your school accomplish its unique mission.