Network Manager or Learning Technologist

Sep 23, 2006

Miles Berry

Whilst I’m looking after the strategic side of ICT at whole school (ie prep and senior) level in the new job, there’s no way that I have time to do the fun, hands-on stuff anymore (except perhaps for a webserver…), and so we’re looking for a network manager now to look after the day to day management and maintenance stuff, and contribute to moving the school forward in its use of ICT to enhance and support learning and teaching.

It occured to me as I was putting together the job description, alongside being asked to comment on another school’s Acceptable Use Policy for staff, how much of the way we do these things in schools is influenced by the models used in industry (see eg Becta on FITS), and how innappropriate much of this is to an educational institution.

Now obviously there’s a duty of care here to the young people in our charge, and I’m certainly not arguing for a free for all here, but surely a big part of education is about experimenting, exploring and finding things out for oneself and together – schools which lock down their internet connections, desktops, pupil and even staff owned laptops to such an extent that it’s only the technicians who can unblock websites and install applications are doing themselves a huge disservice. Such an approach places too great a limit on what pupils and teachers can do with the tech in school compared to outside, and thus disadvantages those pupils without access to the technology outside school; it also denies the chance for autonomous professional development amongst teaching staff, reducing such CPD as there is to the level of training on approved applications.

I suspect there’s much that schools could learn from the experience of the HE sector here, where of course AUPs are still in place and enforced, but students, staff and departments are, on the whole, a lot freeer to add their own hardware and software and use the net than their counterparts in schools. I suspect things are even more tightly locked down in the US, withDOPA etc, but in continental Europe, schools Internet access is much more rarely filtered: 71% of UK parents said children’s internet access was filtered at school, compared to 31% Europe wide (after us the next highest was Ireland at 45%). I wonder how they manage to square this more relaxed approach with their duty of care – perhaps they rely on teachers for this rather than technology. That said, the EU funded some interesting work onan open source content filter back in 2002.

Anyhow, if anyone reading this is interested (or knows someone who might be interested) in looking after our ICT infrastructure at Alton Convent, and helping take us forward, I’ve uploaded most of the details and would be happy to chat more via email. We’re a relatively small school, and thus this might best suit someone looking to move up from a technician post, someone interested in moving to education from industry (my above comments notwithstanding), or someone interested in the sort of learning technologist role we see in FE and HE.