There is no simple answer to the question of what is the primary purpose of schools in our society. While nowhere near as grandiose, there are parallels in terms of identification of the primary focus of education-sector information technology. A recent survey was conducted with the intent of narrowing our focus as we attempt to move forward with purpose.
At a fundamental level, our job in the technology department is to provide for the academic and administrative technology needs of the district in such a way as to best support the district’s goals. To this end, we have invested heavily in up-to-date equipment and software, utilizing our voter-approved PPEL levy to reduce the average age of district computers from 8.2 years to 1.7 years, implemented an enterprise-level data network and server infrastructure, reduced average technology support response time by 25% over the past year, and launched new training and communication programs both within and outside the district.
That said, there are still gains to be made. The average time from support ticket to creation to resolution is 27 hours, which we would like to get below a one-day average, and we have no mechanism in place to guarantee immediate service when it is needed. Technology training opportunities remain fairly limited, and our list of self-help resources that are yet-to-be created is lengthy. Infrastructure challenges remain as our network utilization continues to experience 200% year-to-year growth into 2014-2015, with current demand at over 2,000% what we experienced as recently as 2011-2012.
Beyond these staffing and technical challenges, there are broader questions that remain unresolved. For instance, what is the technology department’s – and the district’s – role in balancing students’ online safety with the growing influence of social networking and the vast resources available online? Further, how can encouragement of technology exploration be balanced with limited support capabilities?
One of the huge steps that the district made in addressing some of these issues was the hire of David Morris as information systems technician at the beginning of August, 2013 (more on page 8). While a direct impact of this hire has been the reduction in tech support response times, an indirect impact has been the ability of our department to begin a reorganization process. We are in the process of examining our needs and looking closely at how we’re using our existing resources, with a goal of operating more efficiently as we begin an important push to move beyond the basics (more on page 5).
In order to get a preliminary sense about where staff felt we should devote resources, we conducted a survey between January 9th and 15th. Some of the survey focused on the importance of various aspects of our technology program, while others focused on technology program performance, resource availability, and the potential for a future 1:1 program implementation (wherein every student at some or all grade levels would be assigned a device).
In terms of importance, staff ranked a number of areas very highly, with internet performance (96% high or medium importance), computer performance (94%), technology support (93%), and instructional technology training (93%) leading the way. Even those items that were rated as lowest importance were still relatively high on the scales, including iPad app selection (78%) and classroom technology availability (73%).
When asked about where the technology department should focus its resources, 49% of respondents identified technology training opportunities, followed by technology support (41%), technology infrastructure (34%), and technology strategic planning (23%).
When asked about the adequacy of classroom technologies, including mobile student device carts, class-assigned devices, projectors, interactive whiteboards, and document cameras, 44% rated our resources as excellent, 44% as adequate, and 12% as inadequate.
Focusing our Priorities
These survey results help to show us that we need to invest in our core services – training, support, and device availability – while continuing to identify opportunities for improvement in areas like internet performance, technology infrastructure, and classroom technology availability. Resources will remain limited, but my hope is that the development and maintenance of a strong strategic plan for technology will allow us to balance and focus our always-changing technology priorities
– Adam Kurth, Director of Technology