Magazine article Technology & Learning

Networking and the School Administrator's Role

Magazine article Technology & Learning

Networking and the School Administrator's Role

Article excerpt

In talking about networking with administrators across the country, I have found three common areas of concern.

Networked computer labs have been found in schools on at least a small scale for more than a decade. Programs such as the E-rate are now making it fiscally possible for schools and districts to install sophisticated networks. There are plenty of people willing to suggest how this should be accomplished, but the ultimate decision needs to be made by the site level administrator working in conjunction with his or her school staff, district support people, and knowledgeable technicians.

Instructional/Technology Planning

Surprisingly, it has been common for networks to be installed with little or no conversation about why they are needed, but requirements for new funding programs require that applications include technology plans that specify how the network will be used. Whether mandated or not, such technology planning is a crucial first step.

Working with a representative committee of teachers, support staff, parents, and students, a building administrator needs to explore how a network fits into the school and district instructional plan. A key question to ask is who will use the network and how. The network's primary use may be administrative with the goal of freeing up time so teachers will have more direct contact with students. Perhaps the network will become a communication tool for students to work collaboratively with others on site or across the country. Or maybe it will serve in both capacities.

Whatever is decided, it's crucial to be clear about the purposes of the network and the ways it will improve the instructional program at large. Networks are costly, both up front and to maintain, and administrators and teachers must be able to articulate clearly why this expenditure will help children.

Network Design

Having a clear picture of how the network is to be used is also imperative for the next phase--designing the network. Good network design requires that you consider both short- and long-term goals for your school. First, find a professional designer who has an understanding of the specific needs of a school setting. There are many who are capable of putting together a network, but who have no experience with how schools function, or how technology is used in the classroom or lab. …

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