Directing Technology/Staff

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Staffing K-12 School Districts for the Future[edit]

Introduction[edit]

A highly competitive and global workplace would require of students not only 21st century skills such as collaboration and problem solving, but also the ability to use technology imaginatively, practically, and efficiently. Technology Directors (TD) should be committed to creating an academic learning environment infused with technology that promotes learning and is able to change readily to meet and accept the students' need while preparing them for careers and college. In order for TD to create technologically sound academic learning spaces, the TD must have experienced and capable technology staff on board since one tree does not make a forest.

Skilled individuals are needed to design, oversee, set up, run and support technology. Advertisement for suitably qualified individuals with specialized skills is bound to attract several candidates that may meet or even surpass the criteria. However, not all applicants will be a good match for the position. It means that someone has to sort through several resume and quickly filter out non-matching applicants.It is no doubt an expensive process in terms of cost and time. A director of technology will have to plan carefully, allocate a budget, set a time frame, and liaise with administration. Creating job description, providing office space, determining salary and benefits are critical parts of the process that cannot be overlooked.

Whether you are starting out with a small staff that assists with prioritized technology problems or with a highly (trained) developed staff trained to tackle the most complex situations, the TD will eventually be required to hire technical people.

Ascertain the Tech Support Needs of the School District[edit]

Overview[edit]

School districts, private schools, colleges and universities are using technology in promoting teaching and learning. Technology is the application of science, it deals with the tools and techniques for carrying out the plans, and is the application of knowledge to the practical aims of human life or to changing and manipulating the human environment. Technology includes the use of materials, tools, techniques, and sources of power to make life easier or more pleasant and work more productive (Britannica Concise Encyclopedia). A tool is a device used to perform a task. When used regularly, most tools may require repair, maintenance, or may need to be replaced. Technology Directors in school districts, private schools, colleges and universities are responsible for providing, adopting, maintaining, purchasing, and suggesting technology tools used for teaching and learning. These responsibilities are enormous and cannot be fully accomplished by one individual. The director of technology has to attract and retain qualified hands for some or all of the works. There are several factors to consider when determining the amount of capable hands required for day to day running and support of technology equipments in schools. For a small or mid-size school district with few amount of technology resources, technology director may need one or more capable hands to fully support technology needs in their school district, college or university. The support need usually span from desktop support, network operations, administrative computing, to teaching and learning. A careful analysis of each of these areas would help to establish the tech support needs of the school. Budgeting and planning is another critical aspect of the director of technology's job.

Desktop Computing[edit]

Selecting the most appropriate equipment for classroom, laboratory, faculty, administration, and students is part of using technology successfully. When the equipment does not meet needs of end user it is most likely to cause frustration and disuse. It becomes very important that technology director should have a very good understanding of how equipments will be used before making a purchase and when assigning equipments. Computer purchase and assignment does not conform to "one hat fits all" since a faculty's use and need may vastly vary from the needs of students, business office personnel, or that of an administrator. Therefore, technology directors should learn how to allocate the schools's technology resources most effectively and equitably. Working with the end users to develop equipment specifications before a purchase will be very helpful. Users, desktop computers and other peripherals usually requires support from technology personnel to function properly. Providing adequate and quality support requires a strong technology department.

Network Operations[edit]

A network is required for commecting classrooms, offices, buildings, printers, and other resources together. The size of a network can vary widely from school to school or from district to district. Designing and installing a reliable network is part of the many infrastructures that the director of technology should be attentive to. Network disruptions or failure can put a lot of wedges in the effective running of a school learning and teaching and may generate a lot of questions that the director of technology will have to provide answers for. Therefore, just as a good and reliable network can make the job easy for technology director, it may also bring amany sorrows and agony. The network has been used for creating a shared storage for faculty, staff, students and administrators while also providing a means for automatic backup of files and data thereby alleviating the fear of data loss. Networks also makes possible the accessing and managing information from different locations. It has also been used to provide the Internet, an almost indispensable resource in schools. Depending on the size of a network and the services provided, there may be a need for a dedicated network and systems administrator who will report to the director of technology.

Administrative Computing[edit]

This the use of technology to manage and streamline business operation of a school district, an organization primarily concerned with teaching and learning. Administrative computing includes those systems and software programs that provide information-management and data-processing capabilities (Frazier, M., Bailey, G. 2004). Schools and districts have been using administrative computing in a number of ways: creating and managing student records, developing course schedules and managing students enrolment in the courses, personnel and business records management. There are other varieties of information processing, management, and purchasing that the district may require such as: food services, students textbooks, and employee benefits. The director of technology should understand and assist with the administrative computing needs. Working with administrators, curriculum designers, office staff, and business office to develop a solution for their technology needs and consulting with vendors about their products are some of many responsibilities that the director of technology's job. Putting in place a well planned information system in schools will significantly improve stakeholders access to information they need for making decisions. Administrative computing need may be wholly supported by the technology director or he may assign the needs to one of technology staff.

Teaching and Learning[edit]

In an educational organization, director of tecnology plays a very important role especially in the areas of teaching and learning. Inspiring teachers to use technology effectively in classroom will ensure that director of technology are having the greatest impact on student education and motivation. Teaching and learning calls for useful and quality educational software, curricullum integration, instructional technology research, staff development, and creating web-based resources and instruction. The selection and purchase of educational software is very important and demands for a careful selection. Scheduling and providing regular technology sessions to help update and improve teachers technology skills that can be adopted in classrooms is a must. Considerable time is required for training and working with teachers to help them integrate technology into new and existing curriculum. Director of technology will be expected to frequently conduct research and collect data relating to the effective use of technology in school districts. Successful staff development program allows a school district to prepare teachers and students in turn to use technology naturally as part of the school's curriculum. All of these require capable hands and careful planning which cannot be accoplished by just one individual. However, the technology director will have to champion the course and put in place working model.


Highlights of some of the major areas of a school's technology need indicates that people are required to do the work. Depending on the work needs, the director of technology would have to fashion out what the needs are for the district or a school. While it may be decided that all technology need should be supported in house, it is always a good rule of thumb to consider outsourcing of some of the work. Cost analysis will be very handy in detremining what choices should be made between total in house support versus outsourcing. A challenging task technology director may face is in providing technical support to all users in the school or district. Faculty, staff, and students often need on-site and on-demand technical assistance with equipment, software, and technology implementation in classroom. In order to avoid downtime, effective procedures and standards should be in place for providing assistance to users and resolving software problems in a timely manner. This will help to avoid a situation whereby teachers and users consider technology support and advise as a barrier to their use of technology. This may require establishing a dedicated help desk to provide immediate technical assistance to users by phone or e-mail. Worthy of consideration is the technology budget when making this important decision.

Budgeting for the Tech Support Needs of the School District[edit]

[edit]

Budgetary situations in many states is beginning to improve after several years in which tax collections were down significantly. However, as the financial situation of the state may improving schools are not getting enough money to fund all of their technology needs. To reduce hardware costs and increase purchasing power of their hardware dollars, schools may consider factory refurbished equipments which usually includes demonstration items, cosmetically damaged units, and factory-defective systems which have been repaired, tested, and recertified to meet the original equipment specifications. Some of these are often sold with warranty and can be purchased at considerable savings.

Searching For a Qualified Staff[edit]

As District Technology Director, when determining how to staff your district, you must take a hard look at how many people you will need to adequately support the amount of users and resources you are responsible for. Too few people will put a stress on the department and on the district causing poor feedback and performance. Too many people will be a waste of district funding.

An excellent calculation tool to assist a technology director during the staffing process:

A study by MIT and IBM called “Project Athena” helps determine the human resource skills necessary to support a total technology environment and established the following variables and staffing ratios to come up with an equation:

Resource estimate: W/500, where W is the number of workstations.
Resource estimate: U/1000, where U is the number of users.
Resource estimate: C/15, where C is the number of Clusters (physical workgroups sharing servers, printers and other peripheral equipment).
Resource estimate: A/50, where A is the number of supported applications.
Resource estimate: V/1, where V is the number of distinct vendor operating systems and platforms.
Resource estimate: L/25, where L is the number of licenses.

To determine the total human resources (HR) required they came up with the following formula:
HR = W/500 + U/1000 + C/15 + A/50 + L/25 + V



An example of this formula for determining appropriate staffing levels would be a school district with:

  • 1,000 workstations
  • 2,000 users
  • 30 clusters (e.g. school offices)
  • 25 applications supported
  • 3 operating systems (Linux, Windows XP and Mac)
  • 25 licenses required for different software packages.

The staffing would be determined as follows:

HR=1000/500 +2000/1000 +30/15 +25/50 + 25/25 +3/1

HR= 2 + 2 + 2 + .5 + 1 + 3 (Estimated total of 10.5 support staff necessary for this environment)


Found at: [1] - (Arfman & Roden,1992)


Where to find qualified people to fill the positions[edit]

  • Internet job search sites such as Dice.com, Monster.com or Careerbuilder.com
  • The people you are outsourcing to may be interested in a full time position
  • Post job openings on your district website (may generate internal and external interest).
  • Local technical schools have a pool of fresh talent to choose from (this is better for finding entry level technicians)
  • Make sure to be VERY specific when listing requirements in your job posting to eliminate wasted time spent on weeding through unqualified candidates.

Interviewing To Find the Right Candidates[edit]

Sometimes organizations interview candidates themselves however, others use staffing companies also known as "headhunters" to locate candidates for technology positions. These candidates are thoroughly pre-screened by the staffing company to ensure that he or she is a good match for the available position. This can help save time during the interview process filtering out candidates who are unqualified.

What to look for while interviewing:
Personal Skills

  • Personable and pleasant
  • Good communication
  • Check references to determine the impression left on previous employers

Professional Skills

  • Technical abilities
  • Professional development
  • Product knowledge (hardware/software)

Education

  • Degrees
  • Certifications
  • Future goals

Typical Technology Staff Positions, Requirements and Salary[edit]

Director of Technology

  • Duties: Overseer of all financial decisions related to technology within the district, staffing and grant writing.
  • Requirements: Masters Degree in educational leadership/instructional technology
  • Salary Range: $65,000-$125,000

Technology Integration Specialist

  • Duties: Plan, test and integrate hardware and software into the district
  • Requirements: MCSE, CISCO and other technical certs, technology background
  • Salary Range: $40,000-$75,000

Network Administrator

  • Duties: Administer servers, users, storage, antivirus, software licensing
  • Requirements: Technical background, MCSE, CISCO, technical certs etc.
  • Salary Range: $40,000-$100,000

Network Technician

  • Duties: Network design and structure, architecture and repair
  • Requirements: A+, N+ certs, specific computer certs (ex: dell laptop etc.)
  • Salary Range: $40,000-$85,000

Desktop Technician

  • Duties: Maintain computers and peripherals, support computer users
  • Requirements: MCSE, CISCO and other technical certs
  • Salary Range: $30,000-$50,000

Helpdesk Operator

  • Duties: 1st level of contact, helps users with computer issues, elevates to next level if unsolved.
  • Requirements: A+ certification, MCP certification, pleasant demeanor, well spoken
  • Salary Range: $20,000-$40,000

Trainer

  • Duties: Supply necessary training to all district staff, software and hardware
  • Requirements: Technical and teaching background, personable, well spoken, patient
  • SalaryRange: $30,000-$65,000

Outsourcing[edit]

A major consideration when determining the profile of your technical department's heirarchy will be weather or not you will bring certain responsibilities in-house or outsource these responsibilities to another firm. Cost, necessity and convenience are main factors which will aid in the decision to outsource certain functions or not. Something to consider is that full time, in house employees may cost less per hour when compared with outsourcing tasks to a technical firm however, full time employees also typically receive benefits such as medical, vacation, sick leave, and pensions which can be very expensive.


Larger organizations:

  • Typically have larger budgets which allow for more full time onsite technical staff.
  • Sometimes have multiple people in the same position (such as desktop technicians) to ditrubute the workload.
  • More of the organizations technical needs can be addressed in-house making time less of a factor. Most technical needs can be attended to faster than if they were outsourced.


Smaller organizations:

  • Usually retain 2 to 4 technical staff
  • The smaller staff are generally well versed in many of the technical needs of the organization.
  • Technical needs that are not covered by the onsite staff can be outsourced to companies that generally specialize in that particilar need.
  • Outsourcing may mean wating extra time for projects to be completed

Support and Retention of the Best Technology Staff[edit]

Once the best people are hired and in place, the next biggest challenge for any TD rests in the support and retention of the technology staff. Retaining good employees is an important process in any type of employment, whether the setting is academia or industry. Retaining employees takes a balance of benefits and compensation. Human Resources (HR) is responsible for the earliest negotiation of the employment package, but the TD is responsible for the day-to-day efforts that give employees reasons for staying.

Develop a Plan for Retention of Technology Staff[edit]

The TD must develop a plan for retention of technology staff that includes preventive measures to ensure employee satisfaction. [2]

A few recommendations for keeping tech staff happy are:

  • Give staff challenging work assignments

Staff should be encouraged to be creative by implementing new and more efficient ways of performing their duties. Instructional technology staff can experiment with emerging technology in order to createfresh ideas for curriculum. Hardware specialists can implement cutting edge technology to keep the school district perform optimally.

  • Give staff a connection with the department’s mission

In addition to their usual duties, staff should be involved with the internal processes of the department such as developing procedures, contributing objectives, goal setting, and decision making.

  • Give staff the opportunity to learn new skills

Reskilling ensures that the staff’s skills remain current. Since technology professionals know they will need ongoing training to keep up with the fast changing tech field, offering potential employees the opportunity to update skills through professional development is a good incentive for staying. Retraining also leads to advancement opportunities and increases in pay, both good motivators for new and existing employees. [3]

  • Give staff opportunities for career advancement within the school district

Have annual reviews that include effective appraisal, evaluation, and goal setting. Allow forrestructuring within the department to offer incremental steps towards advancement. Because the tech field is an evolving profession, restructuring has become an important concept for the TD to understand and implement. Restructuring is the process of addressing new responsibilities that the tech staff will encounter due to emerging technology. Job structures should be reviewed on a regular basis to determine relevancy and classifications should reflect changes. [4]

  • Give staff a competitive salary

Take initiatives from the high tech industry and offer innovative compensation and benefit packages that are inline with the current marketplace wages.

  • Give staff professional-looking working conditions

(See Work Environment below).

  • Track employees’ morale and the department’s mood

By keeping regular meetings both individual and departmental, the TD can stay ahead of potential problems. Create opportunities to recognize staff with a formal employee recognition programs. Identify resources that promote employee recognition and reward. [5]

  • Give staff an organizational culture

Offer an work place that adds fun in the work life. A positive work environment provides the opportunity for team building.

  • Give staff the opportunity to network and learn from others in their field

Offer perks such as attending conferences and tradeshows, and annual memberships in professional organizations.


As schools turn to more highly developed technology environments such as Managed Learning Environments (MLE) and Virtual Learning Environments (VLE), the bar will be raised for the basic level of competency required of technology staff. For example, web design and programming skills, will be a required skill set. Retaining uniquely skilled professional staff will become increasingly important because of the high demand for these individuals. Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) in the UK has a few suggestions for retention.[6] JISC proposes a move from a traditional pay structure by identifying levels of competence and competencies and rewarding talented staff accordingly. JISC also says that awareness of motivation and its effects on employee morale is the key to staff retention. JISC is comprised of experts in the education and technology sector that provide funding for research and development for innovative uses of technology in learning environments[7].


The benefits of working in the academic environment, as opposed to the high-tech industry, are points to be exploited by the TD in retention of good employees:

  • Fewer work hours – employees can enjoy a normal working day.
  • Less pressure than meeting the demands of high-tech jobs in the corporate world. Staff can achieve a better balance between work-life and home-life.
  • A more casual work environment - the dress code is more relaxed
  • A job stability that is not as volatile as the high-tech industry.
  • A more accommodating work environment - in addition to vacations, other forms of compensation that the academic environment is able to provide are benefit packages that include special arrangements for time-off and flexible time schedules.

Supporting the Technology Staff[edit]

In addition to retaining staff, the TD will also be responsible for the support of staff. This support will be in the form of personal, emotional, and physical support. Personal support is addressed in the above retention section. The focus of this section is the physical support of employees.

The Work Environment

The TD must provide an adequate work environment for her/his employees. Although the actual renovation and construction work will be directed through the Facilities Department, the TD will certainly be involved in the space planning process of the technology department. The typical school district is traditionally comprised of buildings spread out over a designated area that serve the academic needs of the children who live within its boundaries. Administration buildings, high schools, and numerous middle and elementary schools are the usual assembly of buildings. Technology departments can be found in all these buildings and the TD needs to assess the needs of each school to determine how many technology staff to provide. After the TD establishes the number of personnel she/he will manage, the space requirements for each person must be determined. If the TD is taking over an existing department, an assessment of space usage should still be done. The TD should conduct interviews to determine the staffs space requirements. While some jobs such as secretarial and administration positions require a standard work area, a computer workshop demands special considerations. If a staff person’s computer is down, the TD must provide a service for repairs. Whether this is done in house or outsourced, space must be provided for the storage area for the disabled equipment or additional workspace for repairs.

Interviewing each technology support (TS) staff will provide the answers to questions such as:

  • How much work surface does each TS staff person need to work on hardware that is brought into the shop?
  • How much storage space is needed for the hardware awaiting repairs and awaiting pickup or delivery?
  • Will the TS staff need office space as well as shop space?
  • What kind of equipment does the TS staff need to perform their duties?

Front View of a Computer WorkShop Bench

The answers to these questions should provide the TD with enough information to begin planning the space requirements for the technology department’s computer workshop. In addition to space requirements, the TD must also know what kind of work surface is appropriate for the efficient functioning of each job. The computer workshop will need workbenches for the TS staff to perform the repairs. A typical workbench should have all the essential equipment that the technology support staff will need each day, plenty of storage space for tools and work surface space for making repairs. The workbench will need a power supply with grounded electrical outlets and multiple LAN connections for testing equipment. It will also need an antistatic mat covering the top of the work surface. When considering the needs of the staff, their comfort and health should be a primary concern. Ergonomics is the study of the interaction of humans with their environment. It‘s design methods can improve the wellbeing of the worker and optimize productivity. Principles of ergonomics, put into practice can alleviate headaches, eyestrain, back problems, posture, carpel tunnel, and a host of other ailments. [8][9]

Ergonomics Checklist

Other important areas to be explored are:

  • Administrative computing is the technology system involved in information-management and data-processing. Will the tech department provide support for these systems?
  • Instructional technology integrates the use of technology into the curriculum. Should the tech department be responsible for integrating technology into the curriculum or will the need be filled by a separate department? If the TD is also responsible for instructional technology, then the space requirements to accommodate these functions and activities will change the size and type of the tech office.
  • Will the technology department provide help desk support services to staff? Will the technology department also provide training to staff and faculty or will another department be responsible for technology training? Collaborative work spaces for two will be necessary in order to provide one-on-one training and small seminar spaces will be necessary for group training.

Footnotes[edit]

1. http://www.aztea.org/resources/whitepaper/staffing.htm - Arfman & Roden,1992)

2. http://www.certmag.com/articles/templates/cmag_career.asp?articleid=95&zoneid=66 For additional hiring tools, see “Ace the IT Job Interview.”

3. http://www.compstrategies.com/staffdevelopment/sdresources2.html Computer Strategies: Collection of Resources (1999).

4. http://connect.educause.edu/library/abstract/RecruitingandRetaini/39655 Educause: Recruiting and Retaining Information Technology Staff in Higher Education.

5. http://www.recognition.com Rewards and recognition Website.

6. http://www.jisc.ac.uk/search.aspx?keywords=retaining%20staff&filter=s&type=adv&sort=relevance&method=all Search for “Retaining Staff”

7. http://www.jisc.ac.uk/ Joint Information Systems Committee(JISC)Website.

8. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ergonomics Posture, Movement and Ergonomics Website.

9. http://www.ergonomics.org/ Ergonomics, from Wikipedia the free encyclopedia.

References[edit]

Frazier, M. & Bailey, G.(2004) The Technology Coordinator's Handbook. ISBN 978-1-56484-211-4.