Can All Tech Staff Empower Others?

I had a great meeting with morning with our half-time web manager (the other half of his position is to write for the school web and print publications). He’s ready to move forward to empower the MS and US staff offices to post direct updates to their divisional pages on the public web site using Contribute software, just as he has successfully done with the LS office this year. All the weekly content will be updated by them, and they also send an email to all parents in their division with the link to the new content and a downloadable PDF version if they want to print it. This replaces the emailed PDF version we once emailed out, which replaced the weekly paper version we had.

OES Online CalendarsThis is a pretty significant move for the divisional offices to have this level of participation, but time was freed up by discontinuing the print version that they had always prepared. This “distribution” of responsibility also follows the very successful creation of 8 calendar managers who maintain the whole school WebEvent calendar by submitting or approving events to multiple calendar layers. Again, we could have had one central person do this, but distributing the work empowered staff by altering their jobs (but replacing the non-centralized paper calendars they used to do).

To me, this type of distributed responsibility and training is very exciting. We do the same with the administrative databases (no central database report person, for example), the phone and HVAC systems (physical plant staff remain trained and in charge), the librarians (managing their databases and the AV and amplification systems), and of course the faculty (maintaining their own collaborative web sites, using the database comment and grade system, trouble-shooting their own laptops and printers, and taking ownership of their classroom technology and projects).

We even empower our parent volunteers as much as possible– the online parent volunteer system was specifically designed so that the lead organizers could alter options and assignments and get reports at will. (Our custom developer of the FileMaker Pro SIS system does a great job of designing himself out of the system in terms of year-to-year changes.)

This is a hard row to hoe. It can take a lot of follow-up to effect change, and sometimes it seems like we spin our wheels. When it works, however, we solve problems instead of maintain them. In fact, in many situations, everyone on our tech staff is charged with trying to empower others and distribute responsibility and ownership of the the new ways of doing things. This can be messy, and it radically affects how we choose new systems and deployments, but we also feel it’s cost effective and true to the mission of the school. Integrating technology is part of the lifelong learning curve of everyone on campus, even if difficult and slow at times.

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