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How are ICT decisions made in your school?

Traditionally, schools have made ICT decisions by referring to an “ICT committee” or by following the lead of the ICT head teacher/IT Director.

The ICT committee varies from school to school—some may incorporate teachers or admin staff only, some involve parents, some invite students.

For big issues, such as a school administration system, all of these should ideally be represented.

But there are problems here: problems of knowledge, problems of trust.

The knowledge needed for any large scale project goes way beyond what platform it will run on, or how much it will cost.

Increasingly, data and its manipulation for the basis of any large scale school system, whether that be an admin system, or a Learning Management System, or a simple markbook. Staff want to have ICT save time, not create work, so smooth and seamless flow of data is key to any deployment.

Want to set up a classroom in Google? You should be able to use the existing student names and other relevant data that is already in the school’s management system.

Likewise for student welfare packages, email lists to parents, financial packages and so forth.

While there could be an argument for the one package to do all these things, it simply doesn’t exist, or at least it doesn’t exist unless the workflow of schools is to be changed to suit the software system.

Schools will want to bolt on specific packages that do things the way that they want and therefore it’s important to consider where the truth lies.

By truth, I mean the single source of data so that, say, once a parent’s email is changed, it ripples through everything. Ror the same reason there is only one location that holds student medical, or welfare, or academic data.

There is an additional knowledge component – that of who does what, when, why and how, and I don’t mean only the control of access to data entry.

There’s a cradle to grave flow of data—data that will be used by a variety of departments.

The fact that John was captain of the First IX soccer, or that Janet was House captain in their final year may be of great use to the archivist or school historian and they need to be able to access those data simply, not have to trawl through excel spreadsheets that someone has put onto a shared drive.

The flow of data – who is responsible for data entry and for correction or amendment, and the use of those data are often the province of one or two specialised people within the school.

Hence these people need to be in on the decision making: they know what they want and their input to the discussion should be trusted. They should confer with other users of data so that dulication of effort (and data) can be indentified and extinguished.

This trust should also mean that they are responsible for their area and can’t blame IT for their decision or if things don’t work as advertised. (Let’s face it, very few things work as advertised first time in the IT world)

Computer systems are simply becoming too big for one or two people to have sole responsibility over.

It’s sad when a school glosses over these needs as they “haven’t got the time” to discuss further.

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