Thank you for your insight about using technology in education. I agree that you can try to prevent every possible problem that could happen when using technology, but you will often end up preventing learning. In most cases, where we try to make sure we protect things from happening with technology in schools, there is an educational cost to doing that.
What is the best way to make these prioritizations?
These are educational decisions. In many cases, the decisions are made with a limited educational point of view. We have a large number of schools in Vermont with very good network structures but the educators in the schools have not progressed with technology integration. Schools need a structure where there is a designated information and communication technology educational leader. Schools need to identify an educational technology structure/committee/group in the schools that is led by the educational leader. Then have those discussions within that group where there is more than one point of view.
Is it just up to the network admin?
The network admin is a partner in those decisions. It is not an "either or" situation. Remember, there is also compromise.
Does anyone else have time or care enough to sit down and look at these issues?
If you don't take care of these issues and leave it one person, you will continue to have scenarios where you place barriers you did not know were barriers.
First, thanks to all of you for responding to my query regarding this most recent virus outbreak. One thing I learned from the many useful replies was that our practice of giving adults administrator access to their dedicated work computers is certainly adding to the problems we are having with this virus. This has caused me to do some pondering about our practices and the price we pay to achieve the goals we have set out.
A cost benefit analysis.
In any school, and most organizations I imagine, you have people with varying levels of comfort with technology. When we decided that using technology as an integral part of every students learning experience was something we needed to do, it became necessary to look at ways to get all of the faculty to the highest level of technical proficiency possible. Some people take to using technology like ducks to water. They were no problem. Then there is a group that isn't really enthusiastic, but they'll give it a try, especially if they are convinced that it will improve their student's learning. The people we are really having to work with fall somewhere on a spectrum from not interested to totally afraid of computers and want nothing to do with them. One strategy I've seen work with this later group of "reluctant" technology users is for them to discover a use for technology that relates directly to their personal lives. Sometimes it is Skyping with a grand child or organizing their photographs into slide shows. All of a sudden this person is learning computer skills that you could not force them to at the barrel of a gun. It is an easy sell then to say, "How about making slide shows with your kids?", and the first step is taken and a fear of technology is overcome.
Barriers prevent all users, whether the pioneers or the Luddites, from using technology. Not being able to install a printer, a plugin or even that neat program your peer in another school just emailed you a link to is a barrier. Feeling like "they" think you are incapable of using your own computer in a responsible way, so they don't trust you with full control is a barrier and an excuse to not take responsibility. Possibly never making mistakes because things are so locked down only the pre-approved uses are available. We all learn from mistakes.
Is our job as technology people in schools to provide a tool for a narrowly defined purpose? Or is it to cultivate a faculty that is technically proficient and able to grow and adapt to new technologies, even innovating without the permission or oversight of the IT department?
This outbreak is pointing out all the "one off" computers that we do not have images for. I just spent 6 hours re-installing everything on a Sony Avio laptop that didn't even have drivers on the Sony site (they would be more than willing to sell you a CD). Images are absolutely necessary. One off computers are unsupportable.
With imaging people are told that they must back up their work, if we re-image the computer anything stored on the hard drive is lost. Some people do this, many don't. Thank heavens for Knoppix live CD and those free USB sticks Dell just sent out. Still, it would be nice if people would take responsibility for their own stuff.
Training - in a school in the 5th year of AYP there is no time. To suggest training so people can avoid the most recent virus outbreak is totally impossible. So email and copier meetings. This gets to the people who "get it". The people who need it the most only learn the lesson when their computer is infected. Never the less, they still learn (see making mistakes above).
While I'm spending several days a week fixing computers that are infected with viruses I am not setting up the iScsi NAS to prevent the server from running out of room. When the day comes when we do use up the last megabyte no one will care why I wasn't prepared. Support is a finite resource, if it is being used to achieve one goal (technology proficient staff) you may not be able to achieve all other goals (wide spread use of multimedia in the classroom, requiring huge amounts of network storage). What is the best way to make these prioritizations? Is it just up to the network admin? Does anyone else have time or care enough to sit down and look at these issues?
I've rambled on enough. Thanks again to everyone who chimed in, and may we all have successful technology using schools.