Advocating for my colleagues and their students

I’m putting on my PPTA cap here:

In the last week, I’ve been asked to advocate for three teachers in other schools on the issue of their students’ IT needs. In a nutshell: they’re all secondary school music teachers who want apple computers. They report aggressive, defensive, deceptive or arrogant IT staff who do not seem to understand what schools are for.

I’m aware that these IT staff may read this post, so I’m treading very carefully here and I ask that you do so too if you reply. Please: understand that these are not my opinions of IT staff. They are what my PPTA members report to me.


I also want to disclose that:
  • I’m stoked with the IT staff at my school (Epsom Girls Grammar School)
  • I’m the PPTA ICT rep for Auckland
So, some direction: how should a teacher advocate their IT needs? How do resolve conflict when it gets this bad (and it really is this bad)? Are teachers qualified and/or experienced enough to make big decisions about hardware or software? Do teachers in other jurisdictions encounter the same problems or is this a symptom of tomorrow’s schools? Primary teachers…?

13 Comments to “Advocating for my colleagues and their students”

  1. Jeannette James 19 September 2011 at 12:04 am #

    Great start to an integral discussion. I will be very interested to follow this one. Ultimately, we need to trust our IT staff- they would know information that we may not even be able to consider or possibly comprehend. They would see potential issues that may arise that may never concern us directly. If communication is open and logic explained, hopefully all staff members can contribute to future decision making for the good of the WHOLE school.

    • stevevoisey 21 September 2011 at 12:59 pm #

      I have received over 50 responses to this on a school tech list serve that I subscribe to. It’s clear that there are a great number of open minded highly skilled IT staff out there – but some of the responses that I received were very negative. They basically said that if you ask us nicely then we’ll consider it – classic victim mentality.
      One very wise tech said:
      “Finally, whilst I agree that we should all be nice to each other etc and ask politely, I ask my staff to remember that we are an ICT service. Thus our job is to help others. If someone is continually rude to us then I’ll deal with it but at the end of the day I am offering a service and getting all uppety because someone didn’t ask that nicely isn’t going to improve education (our main focus I presume).”

  2. Fiona 19 September 2011 at 9:20 am #

    Hi Steve,
    Agree with Jeanette re communication. If a school is operating as a learning community I would be looking for decision making informed and guided by learning. This relies on establishing quality relationships and interactions to be effective.

    All participants (students, teachers, support staff, family/whanau) have a role to play in this decision making and will need a shared understanding about the role of curriculum and assessment in improving outcomes for students.

    Maybe in the scenario you describe the IT staff could be supported by students and staff to better understand their role as participants in a learning community.

    Have to take this opportunity to support your comments about the IT staff at Epsom Girls…during EduCampAKL they were with us all the way during the planning and were also there on the Saturday when 80+ teachers arrived with multiple devices wanting to access this school’s network. Demonstrated for me some key messages about a shared understanding of learning and the roles of all participants.


    • stevevoisey 21 September 2011 at 12:40 pm #

      Thanks, Fiona
      I have passed you comments on to our techs. They will really appreciate that.
      This is a communication and management issue. Teachers need to be clear and link their needs to outcomes. Techs need to listen and respond. There is no room for an adversarial approach.
      I have seen this work well, but I really want to work out what to do when it doesn’t.

  3. Innes 19 September 2011 at 10:55 pm #

    My mechanics’ role is not to tell me that I should continue with the Skoda (apologies to Skodas) or that I should not drive the Porsche that I really need/want. Their job is to make whatever I choose, for my own soundly researched and professionally based reasons, function well. If their knowledge is limited only to Skodas then I need a new mechanic. Nor should they be able to determine that my new Porsche can only run on some of their designated roads – history is littered with this nonsense. The conversation should be about what make ‘my’ car run efficiently and effectively. Sounds like EGGS is setting pathways for the future – enough of the roadblocks.

    • stevevoisey 21 September 2011 at 12:52 pm #

      The trouble with this analogy is that you don’t take a skoda to a toyota mechanic. IT staff are generally too specialised to offer objective opinion on platform choice.

  4. Has an apple and a mac and ubuntu 20 September 2011 at 6:30 pm #

    I think part of the problem is that IT support do not trust Apple, they possibly are in fact scared by the technology and what is required to get it running. They themselves have only been trained on Microsoft Applications and lack the skills to be able to provide support for Apple Products. They are possibly also scared by the fact that every other teacher will want an Apple, and why wouldn’t they and where would the IT support come from, they may in fact have to retrain in providing support to another operating system. I would hate to think what would happen when I ask for an Apple Mac, to run windows and ubuntu.

    • stevevoisey 21 September 2011 at 12:50 pm #

      My concern is how much learning is being held up by the IT staff because of their ignorance – that is presented as “I’m a mac, I’m a PC.”

  5. hitechteacher 20 September 2011 at 9:43 pm #

    As a teacher who came from the IT industry I have experienced both sides of this debate. Frankly if you are expecting or needing IT staff to have “shared understanding about the role of curriculum and assessment in improving outcomes for students”, then you have a situation where the cart is leading the horse.There is no way that IT staff should be dictating IT purchases to Management and teaching staff. Frankly (and I might upset a few people here) this problem doesn’t seem to me to be about IT or “PC’s vs Mac’s” but rather symptomatic of dysfunctional management within the schools concerned.

    • stevevoisey 21 September 2011 at 12:48 pm #

      “dysfunctional management.” #sheesh!

      I think that FEAR is bad basis for a decision. Management are afraid of disaster, so they err on the side of caution. That in itself is a good idea, but I’ve seen management DEFER to IT staff – who in turn err on the side of protectionism. They don’t want to look dumb.

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