Not everyone looking after computers has a professional ICT background. David Maida meets the teachers who ‘know a bit’ and have ‘fallen into’ the role of keeping their school’s technology up and running.
David Day is one of a special group of people. Officially, his job title is Deputy Principal for Piopio College. Unofficially, however, he knows that when he walks into a classroom, teachers more often than not will ask him to fix something technological.
Chances are there’s someone like him at your school – you may even be one yourself. Without any formal training (and no extra financial reward) he’s the guy who looks after the Waikato school’s basic computer maintenance. He’s the ‘accidental’ ICT manager.
“Most days I’m here at six in the morning and I go home at 5.45 in the evening,” explained Day. “It can be quite difficult. It’s a very large role really. We’re running a 140-computer network here.”
A school’s ICT manager (or facilitator or co-ordinator or any number of similar titles – or no title at all!) is generally responsible for keeping computers up and running, keeping the network online, managing the website, and cybersafety. It’s not always a simple task, even for those with highly developed backgrounds in computing, let alone those with little or no formal training who have ‘fallen into’ the job.
“In a sense, I see it as a contribution I can make to the school,” said Day.
Kerrin Broderson is someone else who just happens to be filling the role of an ICT manager. In real life, she’s a teacher at Te Aroha Primary School but has wound up looking after the school’s computers as well.
“The Deputy Principal used to do the computer stuff. But he moved on and took all his skill and knowledge with him,” she said. “I was probably the next best fit for taking that on.”
Broderson’s been the de-facto ICT manager for four years while still working as a full-time classroom teacher.
“Generally I do it in my own time,” she said.
Without a technical background, she’s unlikely to be making huge repairs to the server but she does look after the school’s Web page and maintain the things she can.
“I’m one of those people that will sit and keep doing it until I find the answer. If it takes me two hours, that’s fine. I’d rather find out myself than ring someone.
“The teachers know I have limited capabilities and I do what I can. It’s just little things. I’m not having to do huge management issues.”
Nevertheless, she has taken one computer course and is now working on a degree in ICT in the classroom – hoping in the future she will have ICT time factored into her schedule so she won’t have to do it in her own time after school.
David Day’s fascination with computers dates back to the school’s early days when they were excited to receive their third Apple 2E.
“It started because I got pretty passionate about it in the early 80s. It’s mainly my own fault I guess for being interested in technology and the things it might be able to do for us in a rural school.”
But he can’t do everything. Day has not completed Server 2003 Training and, therefore, relies on outside companies to help him occasionally. Thankfully, sometimes all it takes is a phone call.
“If they can talk with me for five minutes on the phone and it’s fixed, it’s a lot more effective for both of us.”
Day has worked alongside various contractors when they’ve done upgrades on-site, such as installing a new server and network switches.
“I could see how they were setting things up, partly to give me confidence that when they took off I could keep the thing going if I needed to.”
Brian Rowlands has probably taken his ICT skills to a level a little bit higher than your average teacher-turned-ICT manager.
“I do a fair bit of programming – network management tasks and writing scripts to do things,” he said.
Rowlands is the computer network manager for Greymouth High School and has taught himself computers over the last 20 years.
“It’s just a passion I’ve got. I spend a lot of time writing and learning programming. It’s something I enjoy. It’s a mental challenge.”
Rowlands also teaches networking, computers and maths. But he says he still answers callouts to help teachers “find the ‘on’ switch” and shortcuts they might have deleted.
“There are heavy times and then there are pleasant times when you don’t have so much on,” he added. “When you walk in on a Monday morning you just can’t go and say that what you thought you’d do for the day will happen.”
These ‘accidental ICT managers’ might not understand every inner-working of the mail servers but when it comes to handling the little things which keep the computers up and running, they do the job just fine. David Day also believes ICT has given him some great opportunities at the school – and the chance to give something back.
“The most important thing is being able to have a vision for the future of where the technology is going,” he added.
From the other side of the fence
Michael Billington doesn’t have to worry about having ICT time factored into his schedule. He does it full-time. He’s the ICT Director at Murrays Bay Intermediate in Auckland.
“We’re probably one of the biggest ICT uptake primary schools in the country. We’re right at the cutting edge. We’ve always been at the leading edge of anything to do with ICT. There are computers everywhere here,” said Billington.
He also has a full-time on-site technician to look after the network.
All teaching spaces at Murrays Bay Intermediate are ICT-rich with smartboards and up to 14 computers in each classroom. But, perhaps surprisingly, he’s also self-taught and has no formal training in computers. He does some technical work when necessary but he’s not running around all day fixing hard drives.
“We have money put aside to run the network using professionals.”
Billington says the school’s ICT budget is the size of some school’s entire operations budget. Nonetheless money remains his biggest hurdle.
“We’ve had to manage our funds well. We’ve got very good staff who do very well at that.”
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Categories: Issue 3