UK schools are packed full of technology, from printers and scanners to interactive screens and headsets. With this ever-increasing volume of kit it can often seem like technology gets in the way, breaking or functioning badly when it’s needed most.
We interviewed Michael Dean, an IT manager in Birmingham to understand how schools can keep ahead of technology frustrations for the best IT experience for students and staff.
Understand that there is no typical IT problem
Michael noted that he can get called out to anything from fixing a toner cartridge, to re-establishing internet access to up to five schools in any one given day.
“There is no ‘typical’ day for me as IT manager,” Michael explained, noting that his day is a mix of handling new projects or completing any large jobs left over from the day before.
“There is no ‘typical’ day for me as IT manager,”
Because of the variety of work and the fact that much of it is off-site, he acknowledges that this does have a knock-on effect to staff, which he knows can be frustrating at times.
“I wish teachers knew the amount and variety of work we have on our plates. I think there is a perception that we just sit around in our office drinking coffee, but that’s a rare moment. Just because you’ve found us sat down doesn’t mean that we’re quiet.
It is important to understand that maintaining a school IT system requires a real mix of tasks and IT managers play the ultimate juggling act, so trust that your IT manager has a strong system in place for prioritising your school’s most urgent tasks.
Prioritise low-maintenance technology
School technology budgets are being squeezed tighter every year, which means that existing systems need to work harder than ever to keep up with the financial pressures while still future-proofing the school and proving a great educational experience.
“You get to be really creative as an IT manager coming up with solutions for the school, as budgets really are increasingly tightening.”
“I’m looking for products that last longer and things that we can repair ourselves if need be,” said Michael. Products with lower maintenance needs are great, as they allow IT managers more time in the day to handle one-off tasks, while also allowing a solution that runs at top performance longer.
For schools, clever long-lasting technology is a better investment than the latest suite of new computers, or other new technology.
Realise that school IT necessitates creativity
“I love my work,” Michael concluded, “I love keeping things running for all different types of people from a technology standpoint and making the most out of the limited resources in education due to the tight budgets. You get to be really creative as an IT manager coming up with solutions for the school, as budgets really are increasingly tightening.”
This creativity comes in many forms. Michael has done it all, from recycling old technologies to make room for newer, lower maintenance versions – which he did with the projection systems at Bishop Challoner Catholic College – to creating a more connected network.
“I’m looking for products that last longer and things that we can repair ourselves if need be,”
While not the most visible of IT solutions, Michael noted that one of his proudest achievements was the network infrastructure update he led, which future-proofed his school for the increased number of required connections thanks to today’s generation of device-laden students.
Many school IT frustrations can be solved with patience, creativity and ingenuity, and Michael finished with noting that reliability and communication are key to creating a great learning environment.
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