IT is the Real MVP IT is the Real MVP

IT is the Real MVP

#Technology
by Austin Anderson
Austin Anderson Austin Anderson Edtech Thought Leader
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There’s very little everyone can agree on in a K12 school district. Still, the majority of respondents to a recent survey from the widely used Clever platform of 1,500 teachers, administrators, and vendors has revealed one thing we all agree on—edtech in schools:
  • 63% of teachers report that edtech is key in lightening their workloads.
  • 79% of teachers think students really embrace edtech
  • 74% of administrators think edtech helps teachers educate and engage students more effectively.
Particularly during pandemic-era remote learning, effective edtech has never been more important to a school district, which brings us to a hard truth: Edtech is only as valuable as the people who make it possible: the IT professionals in K12 school districts.

 

What does a day in K12 IT look like?

There are two sides of tasks K12 IT folks tackle daily.

The first is long-term infrastructure projects, which usually come with deadlines and school board expectations. For example, these projects might include refreshing all network switches across the district: multiple areas, multiple buildings, mucho time required. These projects take time to plan, maintenance windows are difficult to match up with busy school days, and there are always unexpected quirks that pop up at the last minute to slow down the process.

Alongside the bigger projects, IT technicians take daily helpdesk calls for users. This can add up to thousands of tickets per year. (Don’t forget to scale that number as the district population grows.) Oftentimes, the K12 IT staff is in charge of maintaining phone systems, fixing devices (which can include Chromebooks, laptops, interactive displays, digital signage and more), building network infrastructure, checking servers running critical systems, training staff on security, pulling footage from surveillance cameras, maintaining door access systems, deploying security patches and updates, and even making sure the live stream of a sports or music event is up and running.

Being an IT team of one makes it hard to find balance with an ever-refilling backlog of both projects and user tickets alike. But it’s hard to even walk through the halls without someone stopping you for a question or status report about a tech issue. In so many of these cases, internal IT is waiting for updates from external support and product channels. The end user can’t possibly know that, but it’s on the IT pro to explain the delay occurring through no fault of their own.

Documentation is one of the first things to go out the window when time is of the essence, which makes the IT department of one particularly risky. It makes it hard (maybe even impossible) to take a break without dropping the ball for a whole district’s worth of users who are depending on you.

The fix? A great student information system and vendor-supported teams who are available to pitch in with projects in your district.

Offload some of your longer-term projects to a visiting team of expert personnel. They have tactical experience and knowledge to take on projects to ease transitions between IT personnel or as a benefit—allowing the IT department to take a much-needed break without sacrificing security or momentum.

 

Challenges eased by vendor IT support

Early adoption of technologies goes smoother when you have someone in your corner. There’s a nagging stereotype that the IT guy “wants a new toy”—not so.

The reality is that they’re entrusted to keep the network safe and need to stay up-to-date with the latest and greatest technology to do so. Then there’s the matter of cybersecurity. No IT professional envisions a career featuring data breaches in the headlines—neither do district administrators for that matter. Cybersecurity is everyone’s job, but so much pressure falls on the IT department to fill any gap a criminal might exploit. The nice part of having an additional level of IT support? Vendor teams are always around when you really need them.

Network infrastructure and security are not nice to have—they’re critical to business function. Instead of viewing IT as an expense, shift the viewpoint to seeing it as a complete solution top to bottom from building network infrastructure to user training. The good news is, you never have to tackle it all on your own.
 

Follow-up resource: The Cost of Proactive vs. Reactive Data Security

How's your cybersecurity strategy? Learn the cost difference between preparation and reaction.

 

Austin Anderson Austin Anderson Edtech Thought Leader
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