Don’t throw the IT out with the bathwater

I’m just going to start this out by putting a link here.  If you’re interested in educational technology, then I think you should click it.

I come from a strong IT background – 4 years of IT work as an undergrad and then 10 years of professional IT work at the same University.  In the Educational Technologist’s role as steward we cannot forget the basics of keeping the house in order.  It may be easy for some people to say, “That’s the business of our IT department” – but being easy to say doesn’t make it any more correct.

The final number for UNC’s fall 2010 enrollment put the university at 29,390 students across all programs (source).  The IT staff supporting that less than 30,000 number was about 500 in ITS, and then additional, non-negligible personnel through other department support groups probably totaling no fewer than 100 (wild guess on my part, but I’m willing to stick beside that number).

UW-Milwaukee has a similar enrollment size of around 30,000, and while I don’t have the exact number of IT personnel, the org chart for the central IT organization seems to have fewer than 500 spots.

Those are universities.  The picture within most public schools is less favorable.  I have seen the school where my sister is an Assistant Principal, which is by no means an impoverished school and lies on the outskirts of Chapel Hill, but even so I probably wouldn’t trade my gaming desktop at home for all of the technology there.

The computer-based educational technology that we do has dependencies on the sure and reliable operation of computer systems.  For all of the talk that we bring forth about “How to use Google Hangouts for X” or “Why the web is transforming blended learning” – there needs to be an equal dialogue about how we preserve the ability of systems to accomplish these things.

And that dialogue doesn’t need to always be overbearing or so loud that it drowns out the signal of the core ed tech things that we do, but it needs to be present because we are stewards of technology.  So here’s my contribution to that effort today (along with a separate tweet about the virus).  At the very least I will know that I have worked to inform people.

Even if it’s “the job of the IT department” – IT departments at different institutions are going to have differing capacities for addressing the issues that come up.  And pointing out whose job it is once something goes down isn’t going to be nearly as effective as doing what might have been done beforehand by an informed Educational Technologist to see to the integrity of their own systems (and system dependencies).


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