21 Ideas for Getting Off to a Good Start
So, you're about to start a new job as leader or manager of educational ICT. It can be scary as well as being fun. And you know what they say: you don't get a second chance to make a first impression. It's good to have a "shopping list" of things to do, or at least get started on, as soon as you walk through the main entrance. Here are 21 suggestions you might like to consider.
Ask for some space on the staff noticeboard
Having an ICT section of the staffroom achieves two things. Firstly, it's a very practical way of making information available to your colleagues. Secondly, it serves as a reminder to everyone that ICT exists.
Write an entry for the staff bulletin
How often you do this, and what sort of entry, will be determined by the nature and frequency of the bulletin. If it's a weekly sheet informing staff of current things they need to know, an occasional entry like "The printer in room 4 has been replaced. If you'd like any help with using the new one, please see the ICT technician, Freda Bloggs" would be appropriate.
However, if it is more of a magazine-type publication that comes out once a term, offer to write a regular piece under a heading such as "Computer Corner" or "Tony's Tips".
Get to know your team
If you have only just joined the school, you don't know the members of your team, and they don't know you, so in your first team meeting ask each person to say who they are and what they do. For example, one of them might be the Child Protection Officer, or in charge of the stationery cupboard.
I would advise against giving anyone more than 2 minutes at the most -- including yourself. Quite frankly, nobody is interested in your career history: they will assume that, as you have got the job, you must be able to do it.
If you don't have a team as such, like in a primary (elementary) school, the same sort of thing applies. For example, what do you know about the classroom assistants you'll be working with?
Find out who's doing good stuff in ICT
Not just in your team, but in the school in general. Maybe, for example, one of the science teachers has a penchant for databases. That was my experience once, and she not only promoted the use of ICT in science, but also ran staff in-service training sessions for me on how to use the database application we had in school. Maybe one of the children's mother is a graphic designer who uses desktop publishing in her work.
Find out about technical support
Who does it? Are you in charge of them, or is a completely separate area? What do you have to do in order to get technical support?
Depending on the answers to these questions, you will not only find out some useful practical information for yourself, but they may flag up some issues that you may want to take up at a later time.
Start or streamline an equipment loan system
I've been into quite a few schools where non-ICT staff were either not aware that they could borrow equipment, or the system for borrowing equipment was either non-existent or convoluted. If part of your job involves promoting the use of educational technology across the curriculum, this is something that will need sorting out.
Wall displays (1)
If you're allowed to, use the wall space outside the ICT rooms to display useful information and pupils' work.
Wall display (2)
As above, but inside the rooms. Don't take the easy way out by using some poster that appeared in an educational magazine 7 years ago.
Start a review of the scheme of work
Does it reflect your aims for the students? Does it need updating? Is it so dated that it needs replacing altogether? You don't have to answer these questions straight away, of course -- the important thing is to start asking them.
Start a review of the department's resources bank
There's not much point in having a great scheme of work if the resources look dated or simply won't do the job. If you liken this to a home decoration project, you may have a brilliant plan on paper, but if your paintbrushes are past their use-by date you will find it much harder to do the plan justice.
Start a review of security arrangements
This broad heading covers a whole range of things. Where are software licences kept? Where and how are staff and student passwords stored? How accessible is the server room? Are the rooms and laptop trolleys kept locked or otherwise secure?
Who has the keys to the computer rooms, laptop trolleys, pocket camcorders and other equipment?
If it's you or a member of your team, that is a recipe for real inconvenience for both the keyholder and anyone wanting to gain access. How about asking the school receptionist to keep them instead?
Identify the staff who wish to get involved
Is there a member of staff who is passionate about computer graphics and would run a club? Are there teachers who would welcome the chance to teach, or support in, a lesson a week of ICT? It's a good idea to keep your eyes and ears open. One of the best teachers who ever worked in my department was a PE specialist who wanted to have a go at teaching ICT. She was later joined by a history specialist.
Develop a basic introduction to the department
This does not have to be War and Peace; in fact, it will be more effective if it is very short and to the point. How do people book a slot in the computer room or a laptop trolley with a class set of laptops? How do they borrow a digital camera? What should they do if they forget their password? Who is who in the department, and in technical support? This is the sort of information that new staff and students want to know.
Carry out an equipment audit
What hardware does the school possess, what are the serial numbers, where is it, and how old is it? This information is crucial both for planning the best way of allocating resources between areas, but also for planning for equipment replacement. Serial numbers will be needed should you have equipment stolen in a break-in.
Carry out a software audit
What applications are on the school's network? What is each one for? What age ranges are they suitable for? How can a teacher access them? As well as informing staff where programs are that they may wish to use, this sort of information can also help to prevent other teachers from buying programs that the school has already.
Develop a booklet (or booklets) of what's available in school
Drawing on the two audits just described, such booklets can be really helpful in getting newcomers to the school familiar with what they can make use of, and where they have to go in order to do so.
Have a suggestions box or book or wiki
Perhaps it would be a good idea to state in writing that you will consider all suggestions, but not necessarily implement them! It would be good to let people know that you have seen and considered their suggestions, because people like to feel that they have been listened to.
Putting a suggestion box in place can be a good thing to do if you have a particular problem that is proving difficult to resolve. Sometimes people come up with really good solutions that you will probably not have thought of for yourself because of being too close to the issue.
Create a booklet or poster describing the procedures for using the room
Eg whether all computers should be switched off when the lesson is over. (Sometimes it's better to have them left on until the end of the morning session and the end of the afternoon session, as that can save time at the start of the lesson -- and may use less energy in some circumstances.)
Get on top of your finances
What's your annual spending allowance? How much is left? What has the money been spent on? What should it have been spent on? Is there a separate allowance for capital spending, eg replacing computers after three years?
Explore the staff facilities
What do the staff have for their own exclusive use? Is there a computers and printer in the staffroom, for instance? Are all teachers given a laptop as soon as they start? What is the quality of the facilities for staff use?
Are there any that you think I've left out? Please let me know what you think of this list, and of any you think are missing.
If you have a little more time, why not work your way through 31 Days to become a better ed tech leader?
For a more generic look at what new teachers might do when they start the new term, see the excellent Welcome advice to new teachers by David Andrade.
This is an updated version of an article first published in the April 2009 edition of the free newsletter, Computers in Classrooms.