School IT administrators play a crucial role in supporting the day-to-day ecosystem, maintaining and upgrading edtech for classroom teaching and learning. It’s a demanding, important job that requires technical proficiency, knowledge of the latest IT innovations, and the ability to manage numerous tools. So what’s it like being on the frontline of schools’ IT support?
We interviewed a school IT technician with more than 15 years of experience to learn their perspective on everything from the tech solutions they design to resource pressures. Here’s what they had to say about their day-to-day role, what they like best about the job and how it’s changed.
A typical day
“It’s my job to ensure the school can function from an IT point of view. I aim to give 100% of staff, SLTs, teachers and pupils access to all their learning. We are using tech more and more; everything is now on a screen and a board, so there are almost no lessons where there’s no IT needed at all. I use staff meeting time just to have a play on the technologies, so we can all look at it together and teachers can get used to the different equipment – it’s like refresher training.”
Keeping an eye on edtech evolutions ensures schools’ edtech ecosystems don’t fall behind. “I try to keep ahead of what’s around the corner, like AR and VR. These things come and go, but don’t always go anywhere. I expect learning to go online even more – it’s going to take over, and we will go more digital. Eventually, the classroom will be paperless and join the 21st century. There are big changes happening already.”
It’s part of an IT administrator’s job to coordinate how schools support students’ tech use. “Children have access to more technology than ever, and there’s a wide range being used. As tech lead, I want the children to use different devices and platforms so they can get used to that variety.”
What’s your greatest source of satisfaction? “The moment when someone says, ‘This has really made a difference, the kids really loved it, they were really engaged’ or when a teacher sees the light, tells me that this has saved them so much time, or made their teaching and learning better. When you speak to someone who wouldn’t normally do it and they’ve changed their attitude to really see the benefits.”
This account reflects the versatile uses and support of education technology. However, this is only enabled by adequate tech budgets, which 42% of IT staff believe are too small, according to The State of Technology in Education Report. Restrictive tech budgets limit the quality and impact of investments, and confine IT administrators to more basic tools. By improving this, IT staff can set up an edtech infrastructure to make the classroom and whole school run more efficiently.
The challenges of being an IT administrator
“There are whole groups of staff where IT skills are really lacking. Schools seemed to get left behind. There’s so much work to be done on IT skills and training. They use it every day but aren’t very proficient. They could do things much faster.”
“In terms of resistance, there are willing participants who are totally on it, wanting to know what’s next; others are drowning and can’t cope with the change. Digital training was always pushed to the background. For physical training, people would bite your hand off, but the digital training always got cancelled as something important came up.”
What would help school tech administrators roll out edtech more effectively? “The digital leadership of an organisation is key, as the support from the exec is very important. We see it on a Trust level with our execs, but in a school you have senior leadership. Some really engage with me as a resource and flourish digitally; others ignore it and don’t connect or send people on courses.”
As edtech continues to grow, it’s vital that IT administrators guide their schools’ investments towards the tools that offer meaningful classroom value. “I’ve seen plenty of fads and products rolled out that didn’t meet the school’s needs – they were product-led, so lots of things failed. For example, ours was one of the first Trusts to have a one-to-one iPad scheme, but it didn’t succeed. No one knew what they were doing. In reality, it was gimmicky. Now, the tech is much more pedagogically focused. It’s up to me to stop the avalanche, be the gatekeeper and slow the train down so we’re doing things well, rather than choosing fancy things.”
Find out more about how the edtech landscape and the role of IT administrators is changing by reading our report about the next 25 years in education.