This guide is intended for use predominantly by school leaders.
Effective technical support is provided through creating:
While medium and large schools will find it easier to structure their support in the ways suggested, small schools will find the ideas and strategies useful.
Typically, a combination of three types of support are required for teachers and students to make effective use of digital technologies for learning.
Providers of each type of support might be school employees, contractors, volunteers, or companies. Support is usually delivered by a combination of providers with specialist expertise in providing either technical, pedagogical, or digital skills support. Often there is some overlap between the types of support that a provider might be able to offer. Expecting a single provider (be that a company or individual person) to support everything, though, is unrealistic and schools should seek to develop a broad base of support.
|Digital skills support||
Q1 – How would you rate each type of support provision in your school?
Q2 – Is there an appropriate level of each support type?
Q3 – Is there an appropriate balance of each support type?
The timeliness with which support is required will vary. Resolving technical issues or providing assistance to work out how to use particular apps might require very immediate support, whereas providing strategic advice or support with planning to use digital technologies for a particular learning objective is not as time sensitive but is likely to be just as important.
Schools need to establish clear and effective systems to address technical problems, requests for support, or suggestions for improvements. Such requests could be about technical, pedagogical or skills requirements. You should ensure support requests are recorded, prioritised, and then resolved in the most appropriate way and timeframe.
For most schools this is best done through a support desk system that is managed by a staff member. The role of the support desk is to ensure all issues are logged, prioritised, and then allocated to the most appropriate resource to resolve as outlined in the three tier support system below.
For schools with fewer than four or so rooms it might not be practical to have a separate support desk role. Instead, provide access for teachers directly to external helpdesks and keep records of support requests.
While there has been a tendency to use the e-Learning Leader in this support desk role, their time is better spent working with teachers and students to support learning rather than technology. Instead, we recommend that schools work towards the support desk function being delivered by a member of the support staff team. The e-Learning leader can still maintain an overview of the technical issues at play and assist with prioritising them without actually providing the front-line technical support themselves.
The centralisation of support requests is essential because it ensures a systematic approach to support and means that the appropriate level of response is allocated to each issue. This allows many issues to be addressed speedily and cost-effectively because the school is not waiting for external support nor paying a high hourly rate for issues that can be addressed more cheaply. It also provides a valuable log of all support requests registered which helps identify common system weaknesses that can then be addressed. This support desk approach places responsibility on staff and students to report issues appropriately.
Requests for support should be logged into a centralised electronic support system and managed from there. The centralised support system could be a simple shared spreadsheet or a more comprehensive specialist solution. Selecting a cloud-based support system is recommended to keep running costs low and to easily allow access from any device and when away from school. While using a paper-based job-logging book or a whiteboard might be acceptable to report issues, transferring them to an electronic system is recommended as this allows for easier access, discovering trends and historical tracking.
Ensure there are clear protocols around accessing a technician or support staff member. Everybody should log their requests with the support desk so that a systematic approach is taken and jobs are completed based on priority rather than "the squeaky wheel getting all the oil".
Once a request has been made, it is essential that expectations of how and when the request will be handled are clearly communicated and that updates on the status of the request are provided. It is also essential that the person who made the request, and any others affected, are made aware that the issue has been dealt with and are given the opportunity to provide feedback on their satisfaction with the solution.
The three-tier technical support model outlined below ensures the right level of support is provided at appropriate costs. This model applies to all schools, regardless of size, but in a small school the level 1 support might more commonly be done by the teacher and the level 2 support may only be needed on an on-call basis rather than on a regular basis.
Most technical problems that are reported are not complicated and there is a high degree of commonality of referrals. Level 1 support should be provided by low cost resources such as:
This tends to involve working at the technical maintenance and management level. A school should seek to establish or contract local level 2 expertise at tradesperson hourly rates. This expertise could be accessed in collaboration with other local schools and community enterprises. It generally makes sense for large schools to employ level 2 expertise but is more cost-effective for smaller schools to contract it in on a regular visit cycle or as needed.
At level 3, specialist engineering expertise tends to be required and the hourly rate will be correspondingly high so a school needs to limit their need to contract this. Small schools may never require paid level 3 support. A very large school may be able to afford to employ expertise at level 3, but the majority of schools should seek to use a trusted technical support provider. Schools can reduce costs by looking to share this expertise with other schools.
You should aim to reduce the need for anybody to need technical support in the first place. This could be done by:
Schools should avoid:
Subscribe to the newsletter.
Note: You can manage your email subscriptions using the links provided in the email footer.
Quickly access ideas and resources to teach with, through, and about digital technologies.
Join these groups to participate in topical discussions with other teachers/educators.