about this column.
August 3, 2001
School Technology Advisors
© 2001, Douglas E. Welch
August is a time for all of us to think about heading back to school, but for high-tech careerists, school has become a place to teach and assist, as well as learn. Computers and other technology are a major part of our schools and our society today. We who understand this technology owe it to ourselves and others to educate both students and faculty in the use of this technology.
More than a computer lab
Today, many schools have computer labs that allow students to work on their homework, use tutorials or access the Internet. What is missing, though, are knowledgeable people to help maintain these systems and insure that they are being as useful as possible. Too often, computers are dumped on a school's doorstep without proper instruction or software. It is up to the already overtaxed school teachers and administrators to figure out what to do with these computers.
First, high-tech careerists can help school administrators to sort through the confusing mish-mash of technology they have and develop a coherent plan to use the technology to their best advantage. No one should expect a typical high-school principal or teacher to have a complete grasp of the computer industry anymore than you would expect yourself to have a complete grasp of the teaching profession. High-tech workers have experience with the technology and can show school staff how to install it, maintain it and upgrade it -- or can simply offer to do it themselves on a volunteer basis.
Second, if grants are being written, you can be a great resource to the faculty. You can provide information on products and services, noting which items might be on the road to obsolescence and steering the faculty elsewhere. You can also advise them when they are being given closeout computers or other technology so that they have a clear understanding that the manufacturer may not support it. There is nothing wrong with benefiting from closeout merchandise, but it is best to be aware of the possible pitfalls, such as lack of support and repair parts. Offer yourself as a resource. You may be surprised at the response. Too often school administrators and faculty are left on their own when considering the computer needs for their schools. Most would gladly welcome your experienced input.
Third, form a technology committee within the existing Parent Teacher Association within your local schools. You could even expand this to include a committee at the school district level. Get the word out that you are available for consultation and advice to anyone who might need it. You are not there to dictate technology policy, but more to offer whatever assistance you can provide. Perhaps parents need information about their childrens use of the Internet and how to make it a safer place. Perhaps parents are feeling unable to keep up with their childrens technical knowledge and want to be more informed. If you provide your knowledge and time, the parents, as well as administrators and faculty, will quickly find a way to your door. There is a technology knowledge vacuum in schools today so any assistance in filling that vacuum will be greatly appreciated.
Whats in it for you?
Some of you might ask this question. Like all the work you do, whether paid or volunteer, the benefit to you is exposure to new possibilities. You may find yourself working with people who could become new employers, new clients or new friends. Immersing yourself in any community, be it your local schools, clubs or churches, opens you to opportunities that might be missed otherwise. You never know what might lead to your next job or project.
There are also intangible benefits to working more closely with your community. You can develop a better understanding of those around you, their fears, their needs and they can come to understand you better. Too often, especially here in Southern California, we lock ourselves behind our gates and walls and pretend that those around us dont exist. This can lead to alienation and a fear of others in our community. Reach out, in any way possible, and the rewards will flow to you in unimagined ways. You have knowledge that others would gladly share. Making your local schools and your community a better place benefits everyone - including you.
about this column.
Douglas E. Welch is a freelance writer and computer consultant in Van Nuys, California. Readers can discuss career issues with other readers by joining the Career Opportunities Discussion on Douglas' web page at: http://www.welchwrite.com/dewelch/ce/
He can reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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