Running Educational Technology as a Business

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What makes a high performing technology department in the educational field?

This is an offshoot of a question that we are currently having a discussion about in my department. What I believe makes a good technology department in an educational setting is how you run it. I run my site like I’m the owner of the business. The students, teachers, administrators are all clients or customers and need to be treated well for my business to thrive. Part of that customer service is to make the customer happy no matter what the policies or procedures are that are already in place.

Customers don’t care what steps you need to follow to fix their problem, they just want it fixed. We have a service desk that everyone has to email or call to get tech support to respond. But, at times it just isn’t possible during a lesson to get an email off or call in the problem, so they might just ask me when they see me on campus if I can fix something or if I can answer a question. Well of course I can answer a question and I will fix their problem, but I always ask for them to take the time to call or email the service desk during their planning time or at the end of the day. I put their request into my blackberry under tasks and move on with the other service requests that have been called in. I get to their request when everyone else that has called in has been taken care of, but I don’t forget them. More often than not the request for that task comes across my email by the end of the day.

Another way that I take care of my customers is to have them CC me on an email to the service desk. Emailing the service desk is slower, normally an hour before I get a service request, but the CC to me gets to my Blackberry right away. That means that I can take care of the problem before I actually get the service request. It also means that if the issue is something other than what is sent to me normally I can let the teacher know that it has been directed to someone else for service. This helps me by giving me a heads up earlier and maybe even saving me some travel time to the room because I could already be in their wing when I get the email. If it is an emergency, the staff knows to call the service desk to get a priority call to me immediately. Email is for normal issues that do not affect the teaching of the students immediately.

The two things that I just discussed are to me just being proactive in your service. The next few things are what I call being proactive in preventing service requests and customer initiated service.

What I mean are things that I do ahead of time to prevent technology breakdowns. One of the best things I’ve used in my network administration is the HP WebJet administrator. It is a tool that connects to all my printers giving me their status, emailing me warnings of alerts that I have set. I can log into the WebJet admin and see all my printers, filter them, see the monitored printers that have warnings or have a critical status. I can see when toner is low and needs replacing, I can see paper jams or when the paper tray is empty. When I see these problems I can email the customer to alert them to add paper, or to pick up a toner to replace their own. I can also go out to fix a jammed printer before a teacher knows there is a problem.

A piece of major technology that we have is Promethean ActivBoards in all of our classrooms. They are interactive whiteboards with projectors and a laptop connected to them. One of the biggest things that can go wrong with them to put them out of commission is for the projector bulb to go blow out or just stop working. Proper maintenance of the projector is a must to get the longest life from a bulb. My bulbs average 2500-3200 hours of use, whereas the recommended life of the bulb is 2000 hours. Why am I getting 500-1200 more hours than what the manufacturer expects? Because I clean the filters on a schedule, once a month. It takes 2 days to do the whole campus during planning time, but it keeps the bulbs going and the costs down.

Speaking of costs, if you keep the costs down you increase your profit. Now, I know that I’m not personally making a profit from keeping the technology working, but not replacing toner until it’s out, keeping the projector bulbs clean and running longer saves on new replacements which costs money. I save, the district saves. I try to turn a profit for the district and that includes energy. The savings by turning monitors and printers off just overnight can lead to $15,000 of savings a year in just one same school of 700 students. Multiply that over a whole district and you can see the savings to the taxpayers in the district.

Lastly, I believe in continuing education for myself. I am always reading, finding new or better ideas for the things I already do. If you don’t grow you are going to be left behind. If you don’t treat your staff like they are your customers you are not going to succeed.

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