Beyond technology capacity

Many times when we work with new schools implementing GenYES or TechYES student technology leadership programs we find that they have a lot of technology, but that the perception and reality in the classroom is very different.

It’s one thing to know that you have wireless in all your schools, but do you really know if it’s useful? That it reaches every classroom? That when the 26th device logs in, the whole system breaks? Or that the new filtering software is so aggressive that almost every search ends up with a “NOT ALLOWED” message? That you have brand new projectors, but no projector bulbs? Hey, you know those IWBs you installed in every classroom? Did you also know that someone locked up the box of special pens somewhere and no one can find them?

Is there a a way to move beyond the traditional “technology capacity” survey that counts hardware and software?

Yes, I think there is, you just have to ask. But be prepared for the onslaught of reality!

I think technology capacity breaks down into three parts:

  1. Inventory – do things actually exist, how many, etc.
  2. Use – do people know about them, trust them, and use them
  3. Reliability – are things easy to access, in working condition, reliable and if there are problems, can they get help quickly.

Part #1 is pretty traditional and still important – how much, how many, etc. I think most schools have a handle on #1. If not, get counting!

But if you want to be brave and ask further, how about these questions?

  • Network server space – Can it be used by students and teachers. Do people know how? Is it easy to access, reliable, and is there enough space? Do files suddenly go missing? When someone runs out of space can they get more?
  • Email – Do teachers check their email (how often)? Is it reliable, or do emails or attachments disappear? Do students have email, use email for classwork, and can they access provided email at school and home? Does the mail filter label too many things as spam or make suspected spam hard to retrieve? Can teachers request email senders to be put on a whitelist?
  • Web access – Beyond calculated bandwidth, is connectivity good in all classrooms, or does bandwidth fluctuate? Can you log into network reliably ¬†and can multiple machines log in at once, or are devices “kicked off” at random? Is filtering non-intrusive; can teachers easily request to unblock something and are those requests handled quickly?
  • Hardware – Beyond “how many” – does equipment work, can you get cables and other required parts? If there are consumables (like video tapes or projector bulbs) can you get more?. Can you easily move files from cameras, scanners, recording devices, etc into other computers for processing? Can you get parts and repairs when needed?
  • Software – Beyond “the list” – Are versions up to date, and can you get upgrades when you need them? Do you have software to create projects (other than slideshows and word processing) – video editing, animation, programming, simulations, audio editing, graphic programs? Do you have enough, are they age appropriate, and are the computers powerful enough to run them?
  • Tech support response – Beyond average response time, what is the average time for issues being fixed to the satisfaction of the person having the problem? Is there a standard way that problems are reported, tracked, and fixed? Do people know how to request help, and is the system working – or do you have a low problem rate because everyone has given up hope of ever getting help?

I’d love to hear your additions to this list – I’m sure I’ve forgotten many important things!