February 2006

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This weekend I am traveling to Wisconsin Dells for the Wisconsin Society of Science Teachers Annual Convention. This is a great convention, and I was excited to see a workshop that teaches using Windows Movie Maker.

Lo and behold, this is not a program that is on our district server. So I went down to our IT department (in a seperate building as our district supports 3 large high schools), and asked if Windows Movie Maker could be added to the image next year (as it can be a very valuable tool for United Streaming). I was expecting to justify the benefits, curricular use, etc. But they simply replied “sure, Brian”.

This isn’t the typical interaction with IT, but I’ve grown to know my IT people pretty well in the last few years with my continual complaints, err ‘constructive criticism’. I am sure most of you have had some struggles in getting what you might want or need from IT. So I thought I’d give you a few friendly tips:

1. Be persistent. Often, IT people are overworked and understaffed – thus, requests seem to get overlooked easily. Don’t be pushy, but keep reminding them of requests; let them know you won’t just forget about it.

2. Have ‘curricularly relevant’ ideas that will justify your request. For instance, it would be nice for our district to allow access to Yahoo and Hotmail, but there is no curricular need for this request. HOWEVER, I just asked IT to unblock the DEN blogs (as blogs are usually blocked by default), as I was able to argue that this is a valuable resource for teachers in their own professional development.

3. While seeking curricular justification, see if you can show how it may be used effectively in other districts. I often find that when I say “the XXX district next door allows it” (and can support this), then IT is much more willing to look into my requests.

4. Get a few major supporters on your side. E-mail messages are harder to ignore when you’ve CC’ed your curriculum coordinator, building principal, etc – and they support your initiative.

5. Be patient. There are some limits to what can be done, and when they can be done – you may have to wait until the next year, etc. For instance, to get a lab set of computers in my classroom, I was told to wait until new computers were purchased for teachers. Thus, the older ones were donated for use in individual teacher classrooms.

6. Volunteer your time with IT. I have volunteered my time with IT to help them from time to time. This year, our district adopted eSembler for a grading program, and I volunteered to train on it before the school year started. From there, I could train others in its use. Scratch IT’s back, and they’ll be more likely to scratch yours.

7. Be creative. Before I was able to get ‘district computers’ in my classroom, I scrounged up whatever I could. I asked students if their parents had older computers lying around to donate (many did, as a lot of families upgrade often). This also shows initiative, as I setup a network in my classroom on my own. Thus, when older computers were distributed (see point 5 above), I was able to get the first batch of computers – I was already able to show that they were used in my classroom effectively.