Tech Support as a Tech Teacher

Providing Tech Support for Your Classroom Teachers (Without Over-Working Yourself)

With all the advances in technology based learning, tech support for schools has not grown to match the increased need.  Many schools find that the people who are provided for tech support are inadequate to the sheer amount of tech needing support, or the school does not have a dedicated person to provide tech support at all.  So, as one of the most technologically proficient members of the staff, the tech teacher is often asked to furnish tech support on top of their teaching duties.  How do you do it all?  Here are a few ideas.

Put your time into making guides and procedures that will save you work in the long run.  Make sure every staff member is familiar with what they are, how to access them, and will follow the troubleshooting steps they provide before they call you. 

Do everything you can to make sure that whenever teachers are trained on new tech, the technology is actually being implemented.  Time wasted training people on things they do not use is time that cannot be spent training them on how to work with the tech they do use.

If they don’t already, encourage your school to rely mainly on web-based software applications rather than software installed directly on the school computers.  These kinds of programs usually have their own troubleshooting, leaving one less thing for you to worry about.

Look into setting up a cooperative.  This could look like a tech person shared between a couple of nearby schools, or a team of teachers within one building who share the responsibility of addressing tech issues.  You could split these duties up by type of problem, grade level, or even days of the week.  Your district might be interested in setting something of this nature up too.  The Imperial County Office of Education developed and operated MyTechDesk, a web-based ticket management system for all California school districts tech support teams. My Tech Desk is supported by the K-12 High Speed Network (K12HSN) grant, funded by the California Department of Education. All support resources are available to California schools at no charge, and schools or districts outside of California may also access the system for a fee.

If you are able to share the load, be very clear about who teachers should go to for each tech problem.  You can waste an awful lot of time running around telling people that they’ve got the wrong man (and helping people regardless of if it’s in your assigned responsibilities just encourages them not to bother learning who they should be contacting).

Utilize your students, especially if you work with middle or high school.  Provide tech support training (and potentially course credit) for the students, as well as for a school staff leader that will coordinate the student tech support.  At a 1:1 high school in Massachusetts, the creation of a student-run Help Desk alleviated some of the demands placed on the IT department while at the same time creating a school culture where students became partners in pedagogy. 

Take a look at my post on Technology Inventory Check-Out Systems to help you streamline keeping track of your school’s hardware.

If you are expected to help your school with data management, invest your time in learning a few formulas for Sheets or Excel.  You’d be amazed how much you can automate.  Heatmaps are a great way to draw attention to important data in your sheet. You can highlight particular values or outliers using conditional formatting to apply a color scale, quickly pointing out lower and higher values in your student data, or add sparklines to your sheets in order to quickly see trends.  Check out this guide.  With lots of people working on a sheet, you can lock down some of the data to prevent mistakes. Lock sheets and even individual cells, or if you don’t want to completely lock down cells just use the option to show a warning before they’re edited.

If you’re still having trouble meeting the demand, always remember that you can just say no.  You can’t support anyone if you’re letting yourself be run into the ground.

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