My district has a new IT department. Yippee. Previous to this, we had an MIS department. But like all things in public education, change is accomplished via novel monikers. Regrettably, that seems to be all that has changed.
The old MIS department was not particularly bad. They were just old. Trained in all things Microsoft and Novell, they had steered the district down a path that left us with old machines running old network clients on old operating systems. This led to a mode of computer usage that was highly patterned and not easily adapted to any developments in technology after the turn of the past century. As obnoxious as this may have been, it was also quite quaint and led to some true hilarity for anyone with a tech-y side. For instance, the moment that I had to explain what a "wiki" was to my various superintendents as I looked to implement one for my students...in 2007. To say nothing of the various run-in's with our antiquated and hypersensitive web filters (IUCN's "Red List" was blocked, for example--admittedly it is obscene). Or the time when a beloved colleague was taken to task for having the audacity to plug in a wireless router. In my current nostalgia these things seem funny. In present action, they were not.
The MIS department was done in by their own hesitancy to change with the times. Widespread failures in implementing a shiny, new student management service led to the firing of the entire staff. Thus did the IT department come into this world, sprung fully-formed like so many Greek dieties.
I will cop to initial hopefulness about the new folks. Young, unkempt tech's wander our hallways or manipulate our computers via custom written scripts. A ticketing system has been established. The director of the department actively solicits suggestions and inputs about various things! These things seem almost too good to be true. Had I died and gone to informational paradise?
Regrettably, it seems I was temporarily over-exuberant. As the year has progressed, more and more has come to the forefront to give me cause for concern. The tech's grumble about the monarchical grip kept on system privileges that locks them out of actual implementation of their labors. The ticketing system seems laggy and unresponsive, helmed by a secretary who doesn't seem to comprehend the phrase "java script error." And the director, whom originally seemed so open to collaboration, now seems to be unwilling to discuss any actual issues or pay anything more than lip service to suggestions. In fact, there seems to be actual resentment towards myself and my malcontented ilk.
And so the cliche rises again: the more things change, the more they stay the same. There doesn't seem to be anyone in the field of informational technology that is actually interested in doing anything democratic or particularly rational with the power they command. If they do exist, they stay well out of the public schools. Rather, the main theme continues to be consollidation of tremendous power in as few hands as possible, while stifling any ideas that would require a change of mindset. In retrospect, perhaps the old MIS folks were the better option. At least they had the excuse of being old.