Approaches to Technology Support
From the Field
Illinois Tech Geeks
Illinois K-12 School technology professionals established tech-Geeks.org in December 1999, as a conduit for technical support. Tech-Geeks.org is used to give advice, get advice, share technical experiences and broadcast security issues. This is an all volunteer, no cost online tool for Illinois educational technology leaders.
Tech support can be staffed in a variety of ways. The skill sets of the staff involved with tech support help to drive the planning, organization and delivery of support that results in meeting district needs.
Once the central components of tech support have been identified, districts can begin to define where tech support will be based, the ways that help tickets will flow through the service pathway, and how tech support will be staffed. A more detailed, tactical tech support plan may then include spelling out exactly who will use which devices, when, and for what purposes, as well as how various problems will be managed. Tech support typically begins with a helpdesk or service desk, but also can include service-level agreements with various providers, and both live and media-delivered face-to-face training and online support, school-based/school employees, student tech support teams, and tech support cooperatives. One consideration: If there is a lot of demand, the “front line” may spend much of its time dispatching tickets to other people instead of trying to solve specific problems. If there is less demand and a highly skilled and knowledgeable person taking the first request, many of the requests may be able to be handled immediately. Regular monitoring of tech support implementation and impact can provide valuable insight about whether and how teachers and students use technology, as well as barriers to use.
Service or help desk
No matter which model or combination of models for tech support districts select, the work starts with the Service Desk or Help Desk. This acts as the central point of daily contact between service providers and users, serving as a focal point for reporting incidents and for service requests. It also can provide an interface for other service management activities, such as change, problem, configuration, release and continuity management. Help desks can be coordinated by the district, intermediate unit or via a Service Level Agreement contract with a private company. If the district is entering a contract agreement with a private company, it is important to include minimum expectations and checks and balances for meeting expectations in the contract.
In House Support
From the Field
Kuna Middle School Student Tech Support
Kuna Middle School – Kuna, ID. Kuna Middle School recently launched a 1-to-1 program for 800 students and 40 Staff. Kuna’s tier one support is provided by students.
[An initial cadre of students were trained and then they train other students to help provide technology support. Based on experiences at the local high school, educators have found this student support system to be effective in quickly addressing tech support issues and providing students the experience to support their peers. 1:1 Project Site: https://sites.google.com/a/kunaschools.org/kms-1-1-learning-project/home KSD MOUSE Squad Site: https://sites.google.com/a/kunaschools.org/khs-mouse-squad/home
- School-based/School employees: A common school tech support model involves campus-based school employees who provide support ranging from managing incidents and service requests to communicating with users to supporting instructional applications. One advantage of this approach is that the tech support personnel typically have a better understanding of the instructional needs, students, climate and school context where technology will be used for learning than an external provider. A downside is that cost of hiring support staff may be viewed as prohibitive, particularly as demand waxes and wanes. Some districts host full time Service Desks and others employ particularly knowledgeable teachers as part time tech support for school buildings, in some cases with those people providing professional learning and mentoring to teachers above and beyond tech support.
- Student Staffing of Tech Support: Staffing tech support with students is another approach that districts have found to be successful. This model provides initial tech support training (and potentially course credit) for the students and for a school staff lead that will coordinate the student tech support plan.
- Review the state and federal privacy laws related to student information.
- Address how to manage student access to other student’s information.
- Create a plan to monitor student work to avoid inappropriate or illegal activity.
Many schools and districts currently include some level of service plan with providers when completing their equipment purchasing contracts. Considerations related to level of support, costs and long-term sustainability should be reviewed when considering incorporating the service level agreements to equipment purchasing contracts.
Tech support cooperatives
Another staffing option, cooperatives, combines the capacities of multiple groups such as schools, districts, or regional units to offer a variety of services, including tech support. Cooperatives offer the opportunity to reduce costs and share expertise. Many cooperatives, such as the Kentucky and Illinois resources cited here, offer cloud-based software and disaster recovery as well as the tech support associated with those services.
- Example: MyTechDesk California MyTechDesk is a web-based ticket management system developed and operated by the Imperial County Office of Education 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. Schools or districts outside of California may access the system for a fee.