What is the role of the IT Network Lead to enhance Teaching and Learning?

The below post is based on my recent presentation at the EdTech Summit in Birmingham, my first face to face conference in over 1 ½ years where I was asked to present on my role, which is effectively leading IT Services and how it fits into supporting and encouraging the use of technology in teaching and learning.

I think it is important to tackle this question by breaking it down a little;   The first thing I believe that is worth looking at is who should lead on the use of tech in relation to teaching and learning.    For me the answer to this is simply that it is unlikely that any single person will possess all the relevant skills and experience in relation to school strategy, technology, pedagogy, curriculum content, classroom management and a variety of other factors.    Leading technology in a school requires a team of people working together with the network lead, director of IT or whatever title is in your school, being one of these people.    So that maybe answer the overall question, that the IT network leads role is to work in partnership and collaboration with other tech leaders in a school to support, empower and encourage others in the use of technology within teaching and learning.

And what does effective use of tech in teaching and learning look like?    This is a really important question.   It is sometimes easy to consider tech use to be high impact, flashy, high tech, etc, but the reality of it is that good tech use should largely be transparent to the teacher and learners, being simply the natural way they do things.   So, it is important to acknowledge this and therefore accept that good technology use may be subtle and nuanced much in the same way as good teaching is, rather than something obvious that jumps out and hits you in the face.

And then there is the word “enhance”.    So, technology can bring more to the teaching and learning experience, making it better?    Am not sure how comfortable I feel with this and the possible implication than teaching without tech might be a lesser experience;  I believe great teaching can occur even without the use of tech.   Tech is simply a tool but a tool which brings with it a variety of options and a flexibility which may not have been as possible or easy to achieve without tech.    Borrowing from the SAMR model, tech could augment, an alternative word to enhance, modify or even allow the redefinition of learning.   The potential is beyond simply enhancement.   It is also worth acknowledging that we increasingly live in a technology enabled world, and therefore technology is likely to be the norm in the world beyond schools our current students will eventually be faced with.

In terms of the wider IT teams and their involvement, here I have a worry that IT teams are often the staff behind the curtain, invisible in their day-to-day efforts, until things go wrong.  This isn’t right in my view as IT teams work hard day in day out to make things work, to set things up, to manage and administrate and to ensure that technology simple appears to work.  The reality is that lots of work goes in on a day-to-day basis, even when things are working well and the technology has become almost transparent in its use in the classroom.   There needs to be greater acknowledgement of this and of IT staff’s role as partners in teaching and learning.    And this from someone who has been a teacher, a teacher and IT admin and an IT Director.

Conclusion

IT Network Lead, IT Manager, IT Director, or whatever you want to call them should be actively part of discussions regarding technology strategy.  They should be seen as partners in the process of teaching and learning using technology;   They may not necessarily bring the pedagogical knowledge or curriculum content knowledge, but they bring the technology knowledge.   And above all leading tech in a school is a team effort!

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Author: garyhenderson2014

Gary Henderson is currently the Director of IT in an Independent school in the UK. Prior to this he worked as the Head of Learning Technologies working with public and private schools across the Middle East. This includes leading the planning and development of IT within a number of new schools opening in the UAE. As a trained teacher with over 15 years working in education his experience includes UK state secondary schools, further education and higher education, as well as experience of various international schools teaching various curricula. This has led him to present at a number of educational conferences in the UK and Middle East.

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