DAILY INSIGHT: The little things

By Steven M. Baule, CIO Advisor

Everyday lately, I seem to notice at least one situation where what I perceive as a truly minor issue has someone wound up pretty darn tight. It got me reflecting that taking care of those things and ensuring no molehills become mountains is nearly a full time job in itself.I think we all agree that the technology landscape is filled with molehills (and often a few fairly sizable mountains).I come to this topic as our district is getting ready to review the technology landscape with regard to device allocation and the future role of computer labs, etc.Of course, perspective is everything and a burnt out projector bulb may seem like a little thing to me, but to the teacher who has three class sessions planned for students to present final projects, the bad bulb may be a legitimate big deal.

This entry was originally to be focused on what good teachers would like IT leaders to know about the classroom.I did my normal wandering around the buildings, observing and chatting as well as querying some of my graduate students.I was more formal in one case, asking Krystal Kniep—a really exceptional young teacher at Poplar Grove Elementary, who is a strong regular user of technology—to write something down for me on her thoughts about what IT leaders should know from her classroom perspective.

The first part of what she shared with me was expected: that students learn better in a technology-rich environment, they can more easily work at their own pace, the game-like nature of much educational programming helps engage students and at the same time improves their enjoyment of the educational process.I was happy to see her state she “can’t imagine developing a lesson plan without the use of technology.”She spoke to the fact that IT leaders need to explain the purpose of the technologies being implemented and help teachers understand how to best implement them.

However, the second part of her missive was more impactful in many ways since she focused on the “little things” that the IT staff do or should do.She wrote that she was pleased with how the IT staff provided explanations for the “glitches” that she and her peers experienced with technology.The IT staff not only solved the problem, but helped the teachers understand how to potentially prevent it in the future in “layman’s terms.” Ms. Kniep equated that to a level of respect from the IT staff. Previously some IT staff weren’t necessarily willing to take the time to explain issues, or they would use techno speak to try to undermine the teachers’ confidence in their own knowledge and abilities.Ms. Kniep appreciates the communication the IT staff leave when they change something or fix a computer issue. One additional thing I learned was we need to make sure that the IT staff have up-to-date classroom schedules so that they don’t interrupt learning time any more than necessary.

In summary, Ms. Kniep reminded me that a true partnership between the IT staff and the instructional staff is essential.The IT staff needs to ensure clear and understandable communication with all staff. Training is essential at all levels from district-wide initiatives down to one-to-one training at the desktop (or laptop, as the case may be). If we do those things well, we will be able to master the potential of technology to better educate students. Of course, that always must be our primary goal.A special thanks to all of the secretaries, assistants and teachers who share their insights with me while I just wander around the schools.

Steven M. Baule is currently superintendent of North Boone CUSD 200 in Poplar Grove, IL. He has written several books on aspects of library and technology management and planning.