On IT in Schools

For the last several decades, schools have emerged as places filled with digital technologies. Regardless of the age of the students the school enrolls, the number of students, or the nature of the curriculum, all schools rely on information technology systems for teaching, managing student data, and for facilitating business operations. Students use Chromebooks, tablets, and computers. Teachers use a similar range of devices and interactive whiteboards, printers, and other peripherals, including some devices for special needs students. Administrators manage data and communicate with all constituents with the computer schools provide them. Building managers control building heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) and other systems via the Internet, and all aspects of business services are managed on digital systems. 

These are enterprise systems; they are far more complex (and expensive) than the networks we have installed in our home and even small offices). Although there are no millions of dollars at risk if the systems fail (as in other businesses and industries), their operation is essential to teaching and learning, efficient business operations, and securing data about children. For these reasons, the systems must be robust (they must handle a large load of users), reliable (available whenever and wherever they are needed), and secure (so that only authorized users access information).  

To ensure the IT systems are robust, reliable, and secure, school leaders retain a wide range of IT professionals. While some technology projects, such as large infrastructure upgrades and network design and installation projects, are completed by vendors and other external consultants, almost all schools retain professionals who manage the day-to-day operation of the IT and keep it in good repair. 

Schools are interesting places to work for IT professionals. The devices these manage may be the same ones installed in other places. The users, however, are unlike users in other businesses and organization. The computers are used for more diverse and unpredictable purposes than computers installed in other businesses and organization. As a result, the lessons IT professional have learned in business and industry do not transfer into schools to the degree one might expect.