August 16, 2021
Network admins and teachers aren't always in alignment when it comes to balancing student safety and learning.
While both share the equal desire for students to get the most out of their education and be safe doing so, their day-to-day responsibilities often take place separately, only overlapping when technology isn’t working properly.
This can lead to the two roles seeing each other as obstacles rather than partners. To a teacher, the network admin’s content filtering rules often block materials they need for their lesson plans or resources to better support their students. To a network admin, frequent complaints from teachers about tech issues and blocked content takes them away from their duties to support the district’s tech infrastructure and keep everything running smoothly and securely.
To create an environment where students can thrive and rely on EdTech to get even more out of their education, it’s crucial to create a united front between teachers and network admins.
Here are some key areas where network admins and teachers can collaborate.
Teachers can’t get the most out of EdTech if they aren’t aware of everything it can do. Network admins need to work with district leaders to create written professional development plans for teachers to receive consistent EdTech training.
To foster teacher engagement and buy-in for tech training, involve them in the planning process. Ask your teachers how they currently use EdTech tools in their classrooms, their comfort level with EdTech, and what they’d specifically like to learn.
When network admins and teachers collaborate to create a training plan, teachers are more likely to feel the training is relevant and supportive of their needs—and network admins can ensure the tech their district has invested in will be utilized to its fullest.
Make sure your professional development plan includes both synchronous and asynchronous methods. A combination of live and recorded webinars, training sessions with your vendor, practice exercises, and digital materials will give teachers the flexibility to learn in the way that works best for them.
One thing that can drive a wedge between network admins and teachers is the mutual frustration felt when teachers need to call on the IT team to troubleshoot minor tech issues.
IT professionals may resent the time spent on seemingly small problems like resetting passwords, unblocking websites, or managing virtual breakout rooms. Teachers can begin to feel discouraged by their need to rely on IT and may pass off EdTech tools as more hassle than they’re worth.
Having a handful of teachers who are confident in their use of technology and deeply familiar with the district’s EdTech tools can go a long way in bridging the gap between teachers and network admins. These teachers can become tech advocates, encouraging their colleagues to take advantage of digital tools in their classrooms and supporting them on minor questions without the need to involve IT.
The more teachers you can build up to feel capable of troubleshooting tech on their own, the more they can spread this knowledge and confidence throughout your faculty.
Consider setting up a professional learning community (PLC) for your district that focuses on EdTech and includes both teachers and IT team members. This can provide a dedicated space for the two to meet, share knowledge, and collaborate on use cases and questions. An online forum, chat tool, or Facebook group focused on EdTech can also serve this purpose, giving teachers and network admins a place to stay connected and support each other’s needs.
Sometimes, the disconnect between teachers and network admins stems from the fact that the district’s tech tools aren’t set up to adequately support the needs of both teams. Content filtering software is one of the most important EdTech tools districts invest in, and when misaligned, it can create a lot of friction between teachers and IT.
In the effort to keep students safe and comply with the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), network admins often apply filters that are far more aggressive than necessary. Broad, sweeping filtering rules often leave teachers and students unable to access quality education materials and resources that make learning smoother.
When network admins and teachers collaborate to understand CIPA compliance, student cyber safety, and the capabilities teachers need in classroom technology, districts can make an informed investment in the right content filtering software. Look for a vendor that offers a classroom management tool as part of their content filtering platform, and focuses on putting some control in the hands of teachers as end-users. Ask about the ability to lock in CIPA compliance rules across the district, but give teachers control at the classroom level, to adjust filters and unblock content at their discretion.
The right EdTech tools should allow both network admins and teachers to do their jobs more easily, effectively, and securely.
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