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1.5: My Assumptions About Users of School IT

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    • Anonymous
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    The education and experience that prepares IT professionals to properly configure IT infrastructure in schools is unlike the professional preparation of educators. To earn teaching credentials, educators must complete undergraduate and graduate programs at accredited institutions of higher education, pass tests, and meet other requirements specified by the regulatory agencies that grant teaching licenses.

    The government oversight that marks educator licensing is not required for those who work with IT systems in schools. IT professionals become qualified to enter the field in two ways. First, they earn degrees from colleges and universities. Second, they pass exams created by professional organizations and companies that build and sell hardware and software. Interestingly, these two are not coincident. Consider an individual who earns an undergraduate degree in information systems. The graduate will have taken courses in network management, network security, databases, and other aspects of IT systems. Those courses are likely to be vendor- independent, so students learn the theory and practice of IT management common to all information systems. Cisco, the manufacturer of networking devices, certifies individuals who pass the exams they publish can properly configure the devices they sell, but make no claims about their other skills. The information systems graduates may be unable to pass a Cisco exam, but the degree program was not intended to prepare students for those tests. Because the contents of the tests are very specific, one may be able to pass a Cisco exam without holding a degree. Both individuals, however, may be qualified to properly configure IT systems in schools, but neither the undergraduate degree nor the Cisco exams address the needs of users in educational organizations.

    IT professionals who arrive in schools are likely, also, to have experience working in fields other than education. While the steps needed to properly configure IT networks are the same regardless of the nature of the users, the appropriate configuration does depend on the nature of the users. The differences between users in schools and users in business are relevant to the design of IT systems, and IT professionals may find the configurations that were proper and appropriate in business are proper but inappropriate in schools, thus they must reevaluate what they believe to be the best practices for managing and configuring IT. The differences between users in business and industry and those in educational organizations (especially K-12 schools) are based on both the skill levels of the users and the nature of teaching and learning as information tasks. These differences are summarized in Table 1.5.1.

    Some users of school IT do resemble users in other businesses and organizations; for example, in the business office of any school, there are professionals who manage finances. Those individuals need access to accounting software, so they can process invoices and pay bills just as finance professionals in all organizations. Those individuals will know the task they are assigned and will have been trained in how to do it. They will do that job daily (with regular and predictable variation such as completing and distributing tax forms) and indefinitely. The computer room in an elementary school served by that business office will be used by students who are early in the process of learning to read as well as teachers who are working on graduate courses, so the users of the computer room have much more varied need.

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    Table \(\PageIndex{1}\): Comparing IT users in different organizations

    Teachers are likely to vary their curriculum and instruction based on the needs of particular students and groups, and those may not be known until they meet the students and work with them for several weeks. Perhaps the most important characteristic of school users is the compulsory nature of being a student. Whereas underperforming business users can separate from the situation, the professionals responsible for school IT have a legal and moral obligation to provide appropriate IT environments and experiences for all students.

    This page titled 1.5: My Assumptions About Users of School IT is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Anonymous.

    This page titled 1.5: My Assumptions About Users of School IT is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Gary Ackerman.

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