“We don’t have 29 users on the server. We have 29 *people* using the server. We’ve got to humanize the technology.” – Dan Maas (Twittered by budtheteacher)
It’s interesting to me that sometimes one of the greatest protests I hear from educators about technology is that it dehumanizes the classroom. They feel that way for various reasons–they may view the technology as a barrier between themselves and students, they may feel uncomfortable with it, they may not be getting effective, friendly training, and they may not have “friendly” help with the technology/logistical end of things. They may feel dehumanized by how they are treated when having difficulties using technology.
Dan Maas’s comment at Learning 2.0: The Colorado Conversation was very right on. It’s easy for IT departments to get isolated from their campuses. Decisions may be made for the good of the “network” but sometimes not much thought is given to how to communicate this back to the staff.
While sometimes one sees great improvement in these matters in a district over time, there still seems to sometimes be a fundamental “disconnect” in understanding between educators on a campus and the IT staff. Teachers like to know why. They like to know when. They like to be prepared for their class, and if a last minute glitch prevents that, they find it very stressful as time is short. Teachers want their views to be respected, especially teachers with a great deal of technology experience/knowledge. Teachers without that knowledge also want to be respected because what they do is not all about the technology–it’s about teaching and they need to be respected for their skills as teachers.
Teachers on a campus need to understand decisions better as well, and they might be willing to if there were better communication.
So much of this boils down to telling your story–the IT department needs to tell its story–the positives, the challenges, at every opportunity so that teachers know it is a partnership and that the IT department is working hard to solve problems. The teachers need to tell their story back to the IT department–both the good and the bad (too often do we just tell the bad? How often do we tell the IT department what worked well?)
How about an internal newsletter from the IT department? How about a sit and chat session now and then? How about the IT department members being invited into classrooms and labs to see what is going on in them so they can better support things? The more transparent the process on either side, the better. The more understanding that goes both ways, the more human the process–the more we don’t objectify one another but actually begin to understand one another. And the more that happens, the more effective all of us become in our mission–which is to educate our students.