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Meet Nick – he’s our new ICT Network Manager. He’s a trouble-shooter and lifesaver.
He’s also a plumber, trauma surgeon, bomb disposal expert, counselling psychologist and professional plate-spinner.
When everyone else in the school has pressed the panic button he’s there with his ‘Keep Calm – turn it off and on again’ attitude and ‘We’ll soon have this sorted’ air of confidence. He makes us feel warm and fuzzy.
Without Nick, the school would simply stop working. He’s a walking helpdesk – user-friendly, intuitive and ubiquitous (albeit not 24/7).
But Nick’s life is full of pains and problems that would keep the rest of us awake at night. He doesn’t make a fuss, preferring instead to describe the myriad ICT issues thrown at him as ‘surmountable challenges’.
His is a world full of human error, broken motherboards, bad URLs, printers out of toner, password resets, website blocks, swipe cards that fail to open doors and projectors that won’t show what’s on the laptop screen.
He deals with disaster prevention plans, wrongly deleted data, corrupted software, hardware fails and connection black spots. Then there’s the colossal responsibility of e-safety and keeping on top of filtering and keyword monitoring.
Server and teacher meltdowns are his least favourite issues to deal with – but he secretly enjoys advanced content and the sheer volume of it, since he knows that people need him to decipher it.
His day pretty much revolves around preventative maintenance and stopping the kind of ‘incidents’ that can cause a school some serious wobbles. Ask him if he likes his job and he says “I wouldn’t swap it even for managing Barcelona”.
Deep down, however, I know that Nick has a few pet hates – missing mice, staff emails sent to students by mistake, network cables left unplugged, viruses turning data to slush. He takes a dim view of having to change projector bulbs and filters, and says the housekeeping involved in looking after 20th-century lamp-lit projectors is far from eco-friendly and ‘a glorious waste of time’ in an age with lamp-free technology.
He’s now got low-maintenance lampless projectors on his wish list. I agree, from a management point of view, that we have to do all we can to reduce our energy and carbon overheads. We must spend a couple of thousand pounds a year replacing bulbs, and I dread to think how much power we use.
Under the surface, we know Nick is paddling frantically to keep our school community running. His job description is complicated and unrealistic, and I should know – I wrote it. He’s responsible for all the wizardry associated with installing, configuring, operating, maintaining and developing of the school’s ICT and technical infrastructure. It’s a big ask and a big task.
We’ve been locked in to an ICT Managed Service for years now, which hasn’t really met the needs of the school. Nick therefore has the unenviable task of developing and managing the school’s ICT infrastructure and overseeing its transfer back in-house.
This has been a huge job, as he’s had to specify new cabling, carry out a review of the wireless network and develop a strategy for replacing a range of equipment across the school. We’ve got plenty of stuff that’s nearing the end of its life-cycle. Items once seen as powerful and robust classroom tools now just look a bit embarrassing, leaving us with egg on our interfaces. Our graphic calculators are virtually museum pieces!
Nick’s got to have his finger on the pulse. He has to talk to staff to see what they need, compile a proper inventory and infrastructure map and draw up a plan in agreement with the Senior Leadership Team. We rely on him to be in the know as to what’s ‘out there’ and to get us the best deal – which means striking up good relationships with companies and negotiating with salespeople.
School leaders define the ICT vision together with Nick, so that we can use our ICT as an effective teaching, communication and administration tool. But that said, the accurate information we need to implement a sustainable ICT strategy comes from him.
Please don’t leave us, Nick!
Written by John Dabell
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