Education Opinion

Four Keys to a Modern IT Approach in K-12 Schools

By Matthew Lynch — October 02, 2018 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

By Andrew Graf

The majority of school district IT departments are short on time and resources, and this makes it hard to implement technology effectively. In a recent survey of K-12 IT leaders, 45 percent said they don’t have enough IT employees to support their existing technologies well, never mind trying to add new devices and systems.

This problem has serious implications for student success. As education becomes more personalized and data-driven, teachers and administrators are increasingly reliant on technology to help them diagnose students’ precise learning needs and deliver highly targeted instruction to fill these knowledge gaps.

If school district IT departments are going to support the demand for new technologies successfully, they will have to learn how to do more with less. Fortunately, IT staff can work more intelligently and use their existing resources more effectively by become more proactive in their approach.

Here are four ways that school district IT departments can adopt a more mature and modern approach that will allow them to be more successful, despite having limited resources.

Resolve problems, not just incidents.

In too many K-12 districts today, IT staff are spending most of their time reacting to technical issues that arise, rather than focusing on preventing new issues from occurring. Taking the time to analyze the root cause of an incident and trying to fix it, so you don’t have those kinds of problems any more, can reverse this situation and pay big dividends over time.

IT leaders should carefully analyze the nature of their service requests and look for key trends and patterns that reveal underlying problems. For instance, if you are receiving a large number of service requests to fix a broken projector, maybe it’s time to replace your entire fleet of projectors with new, more reliable units.

It can be challenging to adopt a long-term, big-picture view when you feel like you’re buried in immediate service requests, but there is training available to help IT leaders in making this shift. For instance, I would highly recommend ITIL certification, and the Help Desk Institute (HDI) has some tremendous resources to assist with problem management as well.

Manage change more effectively.

About 80 percent of unplanned downtime is inadvertently caused by IT staff themselves, according to the IT Process Institute. For instance, a technician might be trying to update a switch, but it accidently brings the entire network down. The firefighting that ensues consumes valuable IT resources, and it might have been avoided through better change management.

Best practices in change management call for IT leaders to think through the potential impact of making a change, then plan an effective pathway that will cause the least amount of disruption. Following these practices can reduce the likelihood of unforeseen consequences that eat up limited staff time.

Build an IT knowledge base.

With knowledge-centered support, organizations create a knowledge base of articles explaining IT procedures, solutions to problems, answers to frequently asked questions, and so on. A knowledge base serves as a useful resource for IT staff as they seek to resolve issues, and it also reduces the amount of time needed to train new IT staff.

IT employees create this content as a by-product of answering questions and resolving problems for users. In this way, documenting their responses to IT issues becomes an organic part of a school system’s business process.

Developing a knowledge base takes time, and it requires discipline to adhere to the process. But this investment can pay off in a big way. Organizations with knowledge-centered support see a 30 to 50 percent increase in the number of IT service requests that are resolved during initial contact.

Add a self-service portal.

Once you’ve built a sizeable knowledge base, you can leverage this content to help students and staff resolve their own IT issues. This is a key opportunity to reduce your service workload.

Many IT departments end up answering the same questions over and over again, which is very time-consuming—and a waste of staff labor. Having users consult a self-service portal before contacting IT with their questions can reduce inbound service requests by up to 70 percent. And yet, in the survey we commissioned, three out of five respondents ranked their self-service abilities at the low end of the IT maturity scale.

Self-service resolution is also less expensive than having IT staff fix technology issues. An HDI analysis revealed that the average labor cost of a service call is $22, while self-service costs just $2 per incident.

When school systems take a more proactive approach to IT management, a scarcity of resources doesn’t have to stand in the way of integrating and supporting new learning technologies. By optimizing their use of resources, IT departments can spend less time on the tasks they’re doing now, which frees them up to take on new challenges.

Andrew Graf is the Chief Product Strategist for TeamDynamix, a provider of IT service management and project portfolio management software for education and government enterprises.

The opinions expressed in Education Futures: Emerging Trends in K-12 are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
Trauma-Informed Practices & the Construction of the Deep Reading Brain
Join Ryan Lee-James, Ph.D. CCC-SLP, director of the Rollins Center for Language and Literacy, with Renée Boynton-Jarrett, MD, ScD., Vital Village Community Engagement Network; Neena McConnico, Ph.D, LMHC, Child Witness to Violence Project; and Sondra
Content provided by Rollins Center

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Hundreds of Conn. Bus Drivers Threaten to Walk Off the Job Over Vaccine Mandate
More than 200 school bus drivers could walk off the job in response to a vaccination mandate that goes into effect Monday.
1 min read
Rows of school buses are parked at their terminal, in Zelienople, Pa. Reopening schools during the coronavirus pandemic means putting children on school buses, and districts are working on plans to limit the risk.
Rows of school buses are parked at their terminal, in Zelienople, Pa. Reopening schools during the coronavirus pandemic means putting children on school buses, and districts are working on plans to limit the risk. <br/>
Keith Srakocic/AP Photo
Education Briefly Stated: September 22, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
9 min read
Education Schools Get the Brunt of Latest COVID Wave in South Carolina
In the past few weeks, South Carolina has set records for COVID-19 hospitalizations and new cases have approached peak levels of last winter.
4 min read
Two Camden Elementary School students in masks listen as South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster talks about steps the school is taking to fight COVID-19, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, in Camden, S.C. McMaster has adamantly and repeatedly come out against requiring masks in schools even as the average number of daily COVID-19 cases in the state has risen since early June. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)
Education More States Are Requiring Schools to Teach Native American History and Culture
Advocates say their efforts have gained some momentum with the nation’s reckoning over racial injustice since the killing of George Floyd.
3 min read
A dancer participates in an intertribal dance at Schemitzun on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation in Mashantucket, Conn., Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. Connecticut and a handful of other states have recently decided to mandate students be taught about Native American culture and history. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)