Edtech for Edleaders: A Rationale

Opening the door and peering into the wiring closet where network devices are installed can be an intimidating experience. These rooms tend to be filled with white noise (generated by fans moving air which is cooled by air conditioners that operate day and night during all seasons) and racks of switches with large tangles of cables connected to ports with blinking green (or at least you hope green) lights indicating healthy connections. Other devices found in those rooms have far fewer ports and cables, but they are the most important devices as one (the unified threat management appliance) protects the network and its data from malware (viruses) and other threats (including hackers who attempt to hijack your data for ransom or use your network to their own purposes) and another (the gateway) connects all of the devices on your network to the Internet.

It is possible to “break” the network by disconnecting the wrong cable or turning off the wrong device in the wiring closet. To keep the network safe, the prudent IT professional will secure the closest and the devise it contains, but the prudent school administrator will understand how to gain access if necessary.

Who has access to the IT network can be a contentious topic in school IT management. IT professionals know how to configure it and they (very reasonably) want to minimize unskilled and unauthorized individuals from accessing it. School leaders can generally be considered unskilled in regards to IT network administration, so it is reasonable to limit their ability to access certain features of the network configuration. At the same time, school administrators are the individuals who are ultimately responsible for what happens in schools and who might need to take steps to prevent previously authorized individuals from accessing the network. In most situations, IT professionals and school administrators are professional and ethical (even when they disagree), but IT networks (and the data contained on them) are too valuable to be controlled by too few individuals.

As computers and networks have become vital for school management and teaching and learning, it is no longer appropriate for school leaders and teachers to avoid understanding the many services that keep the IT networks in their schools functioning for students and teachers. Everyone involved with IT management in schools must be able to differentiate local area networks from the Internet (to understand the total costs, management options and limitations, technology support); and also differentiate consumer, business, and enterprise networks (and the complexities of the management tasks that arise from large scale networks).