For the last several decades, the information technology used in schools has been evolving. Electronic digital computers (in various forms) and networks first augmented paper resources and records, but now they are replacing print. 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. These are seriously complex information technology (IT) systems. In the vocabulary of IT professionals, they are enterprise systems (or perhaps business systems in small schools) and managing them requires specialized expertise.
Recognizing the need for IT expertise to keep these systems operational, schools have hired a variety of professionals to manage the networks and devices and data systems. Usually, these professionals arrive in schools with little knowledge of education beyond their experiences as students. Programs that train IT professionals (trade schools, professional organizations, community colleges, and universities) focus on the technology and how it supports business applications and functions. Many who work in school IT have experience in managing IT in other businesses and industries and they find the strategies that were effective there are so effective in schools.
IT professionals with incomplete or inaccurate knowledge of the users and the needs of the users may make decisions that adversely affect teaching and learning. This is not their intent; they are performing their duties in the manner they are accustomed and have been trained, but the users in school are different from the users in business and industry. Obviously, this can be problematic. Equally problematic is educational leaders who do not feel competent to guide and direct the technology leaders they employ.
The preceding paragraph captures a common situation: IT professional who don’t have sufficient understanding of schools to design and manage IT appropriately, and school leaders who do not understand IT sufficiently to design and manage it properly. Appropriately and properly (along with reasonably) are words that are defined in chapter x where I present an overview of effective decision making in schools. For now, it is enough to recognize that expertise with IT and expertise with education are necessary to keep educational technology functioning the way educators and their students need.