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Corporate IT Support and the 21st Century User 9 November, 2011

Posted by paralleldivergence in ICT in Education, Internet, technology.
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TRADITIONALLY, ICT Support is a regimented service, based on providing known or predictable support for a limited range of products in a carefully structured business environment. Users are supplied with access to standardised hardware systems and applications that have been approved in the standard operating environment and their range of access is limited according to their status. When they are faced with a problem (aka ‘incident’), they are usually directed to one recommended path to gain ICT support, but often they have a negative perception of it – too arduous to report and too long to wait for action, leading to a view that ICTs are too unreliable to use.

Courtesy: The IT Crowd

Consider the grade 5 teacher who through a sweeping school improvement initiative has had her blackboard replaced with an Interactive Whiteboard, projector and laptop computer. She has undertaken the necessary professional development and made major changes to her work practices to incorporate ICT-based teaching in her repertoire. She has been successfully teaching with her new resources and has transposed most of her content to digital form because of the efficiency and student-engagement gains it offers. Suddenly, the IWB goes blank. Thirty sets of ten-year-old eyes gaze at her. It’s 10am and there are still many hours of the teaching day left and so many possible points of failure to check. How does traditional ICT Support resolve the extended repercussions of this incident for the teacher and her students?

Meanwhile, at Progressive Boys High School, the year 10 students have been asked to make sure they all bring in their school laptops in order to complete an on-line assessment task scheduled for a 10am start. In four separate classrooms, the 110 students must logon, visit a specific web page and complete a series of questions and activities in order to show competence in their course. It is quickly discovered that in total, eight of the laptops are not working for varying reasons, fifteen students are unable to logon due to username/password issues and one of the classroom wireless access points is not functioning. The four supervising teachers look on dumbfounded while the school’s only technology support officer scurries between laptops to try make connections. How can traditional ICT Support assist the flailing TSO to allow what should be a reasonable ICT-based assessment activity to operate?

And what about the 21st Century back-office worker who has discovered and dwells in the real-world of consumerised information and communication technologies? He has implemented a brilliantly-effective solution for managing and tracking workflows with his entire team using a free and mobile cloud-based service because IT do not offer a service that fills this growing need for his team. Aside from the concerns of privacy and corporate data security, how does traditional ICT Support deal with the growing need to provide new, effective and integrated applications as well as access potentially viable online third-party solutions?

A revolution is taking place in the enterprise today that challenges the status quo of restrictive end-user standards, policies, support methods, and budgeting decisions in place. The approaches traditionally associated with the IT department are not optimal in this new era and the real business impacts of failures must be recognised. Boundaries between work and personal technologies are diminishing, and employees expect the technologies they rely on in their personal lives to be available to them in their business lives, and vice versa.  Corporate IT Services must enable, not hinder the obvious benefits of this progress in the workforce. How well is IT Support functioning for you in your workplace?



1. Dave - 9 November, 2011

Agree with all said in the above article.
Home and work is no longer a discrete boundary.
Ditto home and school.
The cloud can do all that the old centralised models tried to do.
Users need to be empowered to provide their own troubleshooting.
Centralised systems can no longer cope with the rapidly expanding diversity.
So many problems are caused by custom corporate firewalls, secure servers and insistence on supportable software.
Be much easier if they just handed it all over to Google!

Dave - 9 November, 2011

And to add – how is it that so many people master complex smartphones yet stumble in the work environment?

2. Darcy Moore - 9 November, 2011

Important reflections, Stu.

I suspect that we need more leaders telling effective stories about what we are trying to do in education. There are so many mixed messages that many cannot see a way forward.

I believe we need a philosophy that supports personalised learning and expects individuals to collaborate re: all manner of solutions. The technology must support this ideal of individualised growth. One size does not fit all. Pre-service training for teachers does not appear to be addressing these issues at all or even 1:1 laptop learning effectively. How many of the instructors at university have 1:1 experience or even a history of integrating technology into the classroom?

The Big System approaches to curriculum, assessment and accountability continue to grow and alienate many young learners. The past (pen and paper exams and factory models) reverberates in a present that makes schooling look very anachronistic. I suspect that a nation-wide analysis of absenteeism would reveal some disturbing trends.

An aside: some say that third party providers will be increasingly locked out after the LMBR is finished and the centralisation will be complete.

3. Georgie - 9 November, 2011

I understand the difficulties any large organization would have in changing course when it comes to offering relevant, timely and progressive ICT support services. Changing a culture of fixed standards, user control, cost-management and strict security is not going to be easy. But end-users are more and more out-pacing their IT-masters. Take iPads and smart phones as just one example. They can bypass internet filters AND they can connect to corporate systems AND a large proportion of users have them. The represent a security risk for IT administrators, but they also represent mobility, efficiency and the whole concept of anything, anywhere, anytime that IT departments would like to think they offer.

If IT can’t deliver shared calendars, cloud based storage/backup and effective team communications like microblogging, then end-users will simply jump into Google Calendar, Dropbox and Yammer. Then you have to ask, “who are IT?” and “what do they offer?”

Great post Stu.

4. Paul Hall - 10 November, 2011

Stu, good musings at a deep and important level. I find myself these days doing a one-say-per-week IT support job at various schools, where the staff note IT issues in a book and I fix them off the list. Of the incidents/dramas, I’d guess I refer fewer than 10% to IT HelpDesk, since they are repetitions or sub-sets of issues that are well-known to me, and the fixes for which are also well-known.

The staffing limitations of the HelpDesk and the proliferation of more devices requiring support means that schools will have to rely on funding local support or the systems will grind to a halt, even with the benefits of Managed Servers, etc. As for the traditional hard-working Computer Co-Ordinator, I cannot imagine how he/she gets through the day as a teacher with all the other stuff getting thrown in the air.

5. Phil Devitt - 10 November, 2011

Is that it?
I was hoping for something ground breaking but all I got was reality. And the reality of the past seven years at that.
What are you going to do with it now? Discussion usually does not lead to decision making just more discussion until it dies.
An evaluation of the existing process by the stakeholders at the coal face would be a start.

6. paralleldivergence - 10 November, 2011

@Phil – Did you really expect a miraculous solution in a blog article? 🙂 Interestingly, there is about to be exactly what you ask for in NSW public schools – an evaluation of the existing process by the stakeholders at the coal face. Stay tuned.
@Paul – I think the TSO model in high schools as part of the digital education revolution has opened eyes to realise that local support makes a huge difference.
@Georgie – The questions you ask at the end of your comments are a slap for traditional IT structures who are starting to find themselves less relevant in the eyes of users. Soon the expectation from users will be that IT is just there, like electricity, water and pencils.
@Darcy – “The Big System” is a great analogy. Everyone remembers the turning speed of the Titanic. I think there’s definitely a need for all end-users to become more self-sufficient, and that’ll involve that word “learning” again.
@Dave – I was with you until you mentioned the “G” word. How would if be if Google ran absolutely everything I wonder. 🙂

Thanks everyone for the comments. Keep them coming. This is an important issue.

7. Dean Groom - 10 November, 2011

Recently I went to the home of my 8 year old daughter’s classmate, who had been given an oldish computer. She was over the moon to have this box, and her mother equally happy that I could plug it in for them. No internet and obviously low tech-skills in the household.

My own daughter is all over the internet, very independent, but very spoiled in comparison. The difference is not the quality of the machine, more that one child’s family has little background in technology. It’s easy to forget the ‘digital divide’, and that there are massive equity issues in using technology with students from the outset. Simply allowing a laptop to leave school immediately causes problems.

It blows my mind that some schools are dripping in technology and support – and that others are supposed to deliver a National Curriculum which is billed as fairer. For example, a kid who has to hand-score their music project for the HSC, or use free-ware, cheap-ware is at a significant disadvantage if another kid has top-end Apple-ware that score’s it for them. Even if it saves the kid an hour, it’s still an hour of work. Equally, how is a teacher supposed to attain the same level of knowledge and skill in that application, and how is the support system supposed to match both expectations.

All this BYOD and 1:1 stuff looks good in the media, and has in some instances put technology into homes that otherwise would have none, but I have said for a long time – that computing is still a science, not a consumer right, or social-pill, and today’s computer lab has been in decay for years, both in terms of gear, and the curriculum that is supposedly teaching modern computing skills and knowledge.

Personally, as a parent, I have zero expectation that school will even attempt to give my kids the ‘knowing’ needed, let alone deliver it. I’m cool with that though, what I’m not cool with are teachers who fail to engage them with the traditional, more effective tools that they are apparently experts in. Ironically they seem to have no problem using Real Estate.com, looking up cheap flights, or buying things on eBay – or bombarding the HelpDesk with the same question over and over.

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