Over at Assorted Stuff blog, Tim Stahmer (@timstahmer) shares a real story–Chipping Away at the IT Barriers–about how IT staff–led by the CIO–didn’t want to support a particular mobile device. However, this time, the leaders in charge didn’t take “No!” for an answer and did an end-run around the entire Technology Department, obtaining support to buy the equipment.
A small group of principals here in the overly-large school district decided to bypass the usual bureaucratic channels, along with all the IT denials, and took their case for Chromebooks to directly our Deputy Superintendent (with a great deal of support and encouragement from our little cheering section).
To our surprise, he approved their proposal to purchase a limited number of the Google-based devices to test in their schools. The initiative only involves a few classrooms in five six schools so we certainly aren’t talking about any major shifts in thinking. But potentially it does represents a big crack in the IT barriers.
Of course, nothing is ever simple in our world. As you might imagine, our CIO1 is not happy.
The “Nonstandard Computer Exception Request” she signed (required by regulations) includes this pissy little declaration: “No requests for hardware or software support associated with these devices will be made to IT personnel.” It also forbids the schools from using the standard Google administrative dashboard to manage the Chromebooks, conveying the message: this is our sandbox, keep your crappy toys out.
Wow, that story sounded familiar! I ran into colleagues from a large urban district I worked in who complained about the exact same issue. In Tim’s scenario, the mobile devices were Chromebooks, while in that of my nearby colleagues’, it was iPads.
As a technology director, this is pure foolishness! Some key tenets that I keep in mind:
- Build your infrastructure (e.g. network, internet) to enable ANY device.
- Identify instructional needs FIRST, then match the device.
- Support stakeholders, guiding them in their efforts rather than trying to roadblock them and stall them at every turn.
Comment: I don’t know that I would use the term “conservative” to refer to tech leaders who refuse to consider devices other than the ones they are prejudiced for. Seems to me they are primarily possessive and inflexible–usually to avoid any complications that might (or in the case of Chromebooks might not) be involved in supporting different devices. I was very grateful to work with a tech director who was always open and who would do anything to support the education process that he could get funding for. Others are not so fortunate.
Response: Thanks David, I adjusted the blog title!
Hammer & chisel. Available online at http://goo.gl/bM3jxG