Bill MacKenty

  Home     Computing     Teaching     Bushcraft     Games     Writing     About  

Should Instructional technology specialists be geeks?

Posted in Educational Tech on 03 - June 2010 at 05:52 PM (13 years ago). 141 views.

I have a confession.

For a long time I have believed instructional technology specialists should be geeks. I thought if you teach computers, or you are involved with integrating technology, you should also be a geek. If you are advocating for the use of technology in the classroom, you should be prepared to setup, fix, configure, diagnose, and understand highly technical issues. This has been a bias of mine for at least ten years. I always feel weird when an instructional technologist is advocating for technology but then doesn't know what to do when a computer doesn't work.

A geek, (imho), is someone who has deep understanding of programming, networking, servers, operating systems, hardware, plugs, ports, cables, switches, printers, d&d, math, science, and star trek.

However, as I leave my school, I realize my belief may be a bit misinformed. When you have people who are solely responsible to integrate technology, I think there is better and deeper integration. To do technology correctly, you need integrators AND technicians (sort of raises the old ROI on technology and education, huh?). This may seem like an "uh duh" sort of observation, but in schools, we usually have severely limited technical support, and very little dedicated instructional integration specialists. I think this might be different in the business world - you have your tech department, and then you have your training guys. In education, your computer teacher is usually your tech support, tech integrator, and network administrator. Your technology strategy must include integrators and technicians working in harmony if you want to do technology right. Your technology vision must be clear and focused on the how of technology rather than the what.

In my current school, where I work as an instructional designer, we have an instructional technologist in the elementary school. I see the work a dedicated instructional technology specialist has done; it's exemplary. Really a shining example of how great technology can be in education. This person isn't a geek; they have decent technical skills, are quick to apply common quick-fixes, and certainly not a luddite by any definition. When they bring a technical problem to my attention, I know it's probably a good problem - not something trivial or silly. They can re-image machines, send machines out for support, and order parts for replacement.

To answer my own question, no. I don't think instructional technology specialists need to be geeks. But schools need to understand this distinction. I do not believe technology can be "done right" alone - it requires harmony between "people people" and geeks.

Schools need both.