EDITORIAL: Centralizing Technology in the District

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EDITORIAL: Centralizing Technology in the District

In hopes of alleviating the frequent problems that students and teachers face when using district technology, the Tamalpais Union High School District Board of Trustees has begun to examine the organizational structure of its information and instructional technology programs.

An agenda from an April board meeting noted that the district is considering a plan to centralize all technology operations, including the possible creation over the next few years of a central information technology (IT) team based at the district office, not the school sites.

While the board and district officials are right to reassess the district’s technology policies, the idea of streamlining technology operations through the district office is misguided.

Rather than centralize technology operations, the district needs to improve local on-site technology management by hiring additional tech support personnel and basing them at the school sites.

When technology problems arise at Tam, both students and teachers rely on Charlie Uhl, Tam’s lone IT Systems Specialist to fix such issues.

In general, once tech support requests are submitted, Uhl is able to respond to the given problem in a timely manner. Understandably, given the scope of Uhl’s responsibilities—which have grown exponentially in recent years to include the maintenance of some 800 systems on campus, installing new software and setting up new devices—certain on-site technology related problems remain unresolved for longer periods of time.

Having Uhl, an expert on the distinct technology needs of Tam teachers, students and programs, is essential to ensuring that we have an easily accessible resource to turn to regarding tech-related issues.

Rather than relocating IT specialists, the district should consider hiring an on-site IT specialist, who would act as an assistant to Uhl.

If administrators are resistant to the idea of increasing the size of the payroll, the district should consider creating student-run tech support programs, like those that have already been implemented across the country.

Within the Tam District, tech-savvy students could sign up to be TAs (teaching assistants) for their on-site IT specialist. During these TA periods, participating students could first learn about relevant IT information and later apply their knowledge when responding to tech support requests.

This would both decrease the tech support response time and provide students with the opportunity to participate in a hands-on learning experience.

As technology becomes more ubiquitous, it’s inevitable that computers and other devices will have an increasing presence in the classroom.

In anticipation of this increase it’s important that the district and its board acknowledge the importance of on-site technology support before reorganizing technology operations.