Beem, K. (2002, June). Tech support. School Administrator, 59, 6-10.
Beem's principal thesis is that the casual approach to bringing the American educational system into the information age was misguided and not very well thought out. In the initial phase of computerization of education, simply placing a few computers in classrooms and a few more in computer "labs" was sufficient to the task. As the technology became more sophisticated, however, and the benefits of LANs, WANs, client-server architecture, e-mail, and other technological attributes of computing surfaced, it became clear that management of information technology (MIT) was not an activity that could be consigned to spare-time teacher or administrator duties.
First was the issue of access, as school districts sought to be wired to the information superhighway. That involved a significant range of expertise and tech-savvy. Immediately access was obtained, then maintenance became an issue, and its complex technical requirements were outside the scope of part-time or spare-time capacities. Network failures, especially persistent ones, would have the effect of discouraging teachers from structuring lesson plans around computer/Internet access. Technical support, in other words, is a decisive feature of technological access, and even on-staff technical people with high-tech-dedicated duties might require technical support.
Technological expertise in school districts is highly variable around the country. Beem cites the LAN management duties undertaken by a math teacher in a district that has 150 workstations, and the 12,000 workstations in Beaverton, Ore., that are maintained by five full-time tech-support staffers. Increasing professionalization of tech support is undoubtedly the wave of the future, and school-district funding realities make this problematic. Thus school districts are turning to outsourcing.
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