Instructional technology facilitator. Tech integration specialist. Digital learning coach. No matter the title of the educational technology resource person at your school, you know who they are. They may be assigned only to your campus, or they might serve multiple campuses in your district. They may wear different hats depending on how your organization functions: computer troubleshooter, tech fix-it person, technology lab teacher, or instructional mentor and coach.
Building and keeping positive relationships with your instructional technology staff (ITS) can be a great benefit to you and your students, not to mention the ITS who is part of your team! Having served in this role in various combinations at the campus and district levels for more than 15 years, I can offer some first-hand advice for working with IT staff.
1. Make your ITS feel a part of the team
An ITS is frequently the only person in their position on your campus. Make sure one of your department or grade-level teams adopts them! Teams often celebrate birthdays and other life events with each other, get together for happy hours, and serve as a base of support for one another. If you adopt your ITS on to your team, you’ll have the opportunity to build personal bridges that will strengthen your working relationships and might subconsciously move your team up on the ITS’s help list!
2. Say “Hi!” when you see your ITS
Teachers are busy all day every day, and when they see their ITS in the hall, the first words out of their mouths are almost always, “Hey, I have a question for you!” It’s an ITS’s job to answer your questions. But it’s also nice for them to be acknowledged with a “Hi, how are you doing?” prior to being asked a question, or even just to hear “Hi!” from someone who has no other requirements of them at all.
3. Ask your ITS for input when planning lessons, and share your ideas too
Are you looking for ways to put new energy into an old unit or lesson? Are you and your kids tired of using PowerPoint for everything? Make an appointment with your ITS to discuss ideas for new tools and approaches. Be as specific as you can with your objectives for your lesson as it will help your ITS brainstorm ideas. If you come across a new-to-you tool or approach on your own, let your ITS know about it. They love learning what works best for teachers from teachers.
4. Invite your ITS to observe technology integration in your classroom
When your ITS is running around troubleshooting issues all day, they often don’t see the important learning happening in classrooms. Make an appointment with your ITS to come observe what is happening in your classroom with technology. Let your ITS know you’d like feedback on a specific aspect of what’s going on, such as whether the students are clearly understanding and accomplishing the task or how classroom management could improve. Your ITS will love being involved, and they might just wind up bragging on what you’re doing and sharing the learning ideas with others.
5. Let Your ITS know when something they’ve shared has worked for you
ITS’s provide training during conference periods or after school as well as sharing edtech ideas via email or social media. If you try something they suggested and it went well, let your ITS know. If it didn’t go as expected, let them know that, too, and ask if you can work together to make the experience better the next time. Just like teachers want to know how their instruction has impacted students, ITS’s want to know about their instructional outcomes.
6. Follow procedures for requesting technology help
Some schools have an online form for reporting problems with technology. Some ITS prefer an email. Follow the established protocols. The procedures are there to help make sure your request doesn’t slip through the cracks. They also help your ITS be more efficient in meeting your needs. A sticky note in the ITS mailbox or a hurried hallway conversation could delay your request. As a bonus, following established procedures makes it easier to follow-up on an issue that hasn’t been addressed in a timely manner. A gentle, “Hey, I put this request in a couple of days ago. Have you had a chance to look at it?” has a way of moving your need up the priority list.
We all find our jobs more enriching and enjoyable when we’re valued for who we are and what we know. Anything you can do to communicate that your IT and their contributions are appreciated will help build a positive relationship and benefit teacher and student learning on your campus.