3 Tips for Successful School-Based IT Teams

School-based IT teams have a lot on their plate. 

School-based IT teams, even those that serve a small population of students, have a lot on their plates. In addition to managing individual student and staff devices, a school-based IT team must also safeguard the school’s critical IT infrastructure (switches, routers, wireless access points) and, in the event a school plans to add additional classes or grades, anticipate and proactively address any associated technology needs.

To make matters more difficult, failure is incredibly public: when a wireless access point fails, an entire classroom, floor, or even building, knows. Instruction can quickly grind to a halt, administrators may be unable to continue their work, and everyone looks to you, desperate for a quick solution. Indeed, in many schools across the country today, a high-functioning IT team is critical to the school’s overall wellbeing, helping ensure both instructional and non-instructional systems operate smoothly each day.

Armed with a few common-sense tips, a school-based IT team can do just that, providing highly responsive, user-friendly support services that allow the school to fulfill its unique mission.

If a long-term solution will take time, offer a quick fix first.

When a school-based IT team responds to a help request, the issue at hand can sometimes derive from a more fundamental, systemic problem that requires several hours, or even days, to resolve. Due to their in-depth technical knowledge, members of the team are often quick to attack the fundamental problem first, believing, rightly, that tackling the system-level issue will prevent future problems down the line.

Unfortunately, for a school-based IT team, that approach doesn’t work with the demands of teachers, who often need a solution now. After all, many teachers build their daily lessons around school technology (projectors, SMART boards, Google Classroom, and BrainPop, to name a few). Students’ failure to engage with any of these systems can derail a given lesson plan, leaving the teacher scrambling. 

For these reasons, a school-based IT team is wise to offer a quick fix, when available, and block-out time to address the systems-level problem at a later time. Doing so provides teachers with peace of mind, allows them to continue instruction, and, as a result, ultimately supports student achievement. While the in-house team will obviously want to address the root cause of the teacher’s problem, that’s not what’s important in the moment, at least not to a teacher with 20-plus pairs of eyes staring at her. 

School-based IT teams must understand their audience.

Second, and related to the previous point, school-based IT teams must understand their audience and its technical knowledge, or lack thereof. The language a team member uses during the troubleshooting process is critical to effectively addressing the problem at hand. Rather than using specialized language (e.g., SFTP), a school-based IT team needs to put the issue in “layman’s” terms, ones that teachers and support staff can easily understand.

This understanding extends to the demands of teaching itself and a belief that given solutions need to actually make sense in an instructional context. For instance, if all of a school’s teacher laptops suddenly lose their connection to the main office printer, it’s not feasible for the IT team member to go to each classroom, ask the teacher to pause instruction, and attempt to print from their device. Doing so might allow the team member to determine whether the problem has been resolved, but it would also undermine the broader purpose of the school and potentially fluster teachers. 

Know your limits and when it’s time to call for help.

Finally, it’s important for school-based IT teams to recognize the limits of both their individual team members and their team as a whole. There are only so many hours in a day to resolve incoming tickets, install new hardware or software, and plan for the weeks, months, and year ahead. Sometimes, the team needs help from third-party providers with either the capacity or know-how to tackle complex technology challenges.

For instance, given the demands placed on an in-house IT team, it may not make sense for the team to manage the school’s E-rate services, end-of-year close-out, or educational data systems. While each of these domains is critical to a high-functioning school technology program, there’s simply not enough time in team members’ schedules to accomplish all of these tasks with fidelity. Collaborating with an external IT provider can ease the burden on the in-house team while ensuring the school’s technology operations continue to run smoothly.

At CTS, we help schools achieve their unique missions by supporting school-based IT teams.

Device management, E-rate, educational data, and complex IT projects: our team is ready to support in-house IT teams with the demands of their school’s technology program. Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can help support your school’s unique mission. 

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