DAILY INSIGHT: Fairy dust and grit

Lions and tigers and IT departments, oh my! 
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Lions and tigers and IT departments, oh my! 

By Steven M. Baule, CIO Advisor

Wandering around the Internet somewhere, I came across the saying “Fairy dust and Grit.” I think it is a wonderful potential motto for many school IT departments in this time of really significant change for schools. Budgets are being cut, positions either eliminated or unfilled, and—at the same time—we are expecting more from our IT staff and technology in general. Ever since the Internet arrived on the scene some Boards of Education have looked at IT resources as a magical way to reduce dropout rates, increase test scores by engaging more students in learning, etc. However, this isn’t new. Ever since Thomas Edison posited the demise of textbooks due to the rise of educational film in 1909, we have looked to technology to solve the educational issues of the day.

In 1994, when I was working as an assistant principal and technology director for a large suburban high school, one of the social studies teachers told me that if the school was a primitive society, the IT staff would be the witch doctors, as what we do was magic. I have always enjoyed that analogy. Since my father was as an officer in the U.S. Army’s Corps of Engineers, I heard their unofficial motto often: The difficult we do immediately; the impossible takes a little bit longer.Another potential contender for many IT departments, but it just doesn't have the ring of Fairy Dust and Grit.

So, fairy dust is definitely a component of the IT skill set, making the difficult or magical happen with ease. Today, the Wicked Witch of the East may well have had a ruby case for her tablet as opposed to ruby slippers, and think how much more useful a tablet would have been than those shoes. She would have been able to enroll the scarecrow in online courses, help the lion learn about strategies for dealing with problem people and avoiding conflict, and learn about newest advances in artificial hearts.

Grit, otherwise known as determination, obviously plays a role as well in getting IT services to students. Whether it is as simple as dealing with what we find underneath student desks and tables while running wire or checking cables or crawling around on rooftops to fix antennas and microwave connections, grit and determination are important. How many IT people give up when their first solution doesn’t work? IT people are known for rising to the challenge and working until they find a solution.

So as we move towards 1:1 deployments, BYOD, or just struggle with the bandwidth challenges of PARCC, think about the all of the good you do for children and the faculty and make sure you have an adequate supply of both fairy dust and grit.

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