California Educational Data Processing Association
The DataBus - Vol. 38, No. 1
December, 1997-January, 1998
SIG 1997-98: Making Connections and Managing Resources

Peering: Forums to help IT administrators manage technological issues, human factors.

Warren Williams, Ramona Unified School District

Late Thursday afternoon in Sacramento. A city waits to reward its visitors with a walk along a reenergized waterfront, a visit to the State Capitol or enjoyment at one of the many eateries famous for the repast and entertainment. But in a room crammed with computers linked to the Internet sits fifty public employees and technology industry representatives seemingly unaware of the charm and excitement that can be theirs. The meeting is the CEDPA SIG being held at the annual conference. And while no stick-in-the-mud individuals, the people congregated there are interested in the technology issues that confront public education in California. At this particular meeting, E-Rate consumes the discussion but many areas of concern are covered and most issues are addressed to the satisfaction of all in attendance.

CEDPA's Special Interest Group (SIG) meetings have provided IT professionals with a forum for the exploration of topics relevant to information management in K-12 systems. This year, CEDPA will bring five SIG meetings to its membership. The first will have already happened by the time this article is published. On December 3, Jeff Raikes, Vice president of Microsoft North America will have delivered to a SIG meeting thoughtful insight into Microsoft's directions as they relate to IT professionals. His appearance at the SIG indicates the importance attached to the work performed by members of CEDPA. Microsoft is hosting the meeting at its Orange County facility. The additional four SIG meetings will occur in January, February, April and May. January and April meetings will be at a location in Northern California with February and May returning to Southern California.

As the nature of IT has shifted from classical data processing tasks on tightly regulated and controlled mainframe networks to loosely confederated amalgams of workgroup nets, so has the SIG focus shifted. Educational leaders increasingly call upon the IT professional to manage the entire spectrum of information technologies on voice, video and data networks. Data warehousing, network infrastructures, and assistance in the delivery of instruction are all projects that IT personnel can be expected to coordinate. IT managers find themselves not only dealing with standard account code implementations, but also E-Rates and Digital High School initiatives.

It is incumbent upon today's managers to find more efficient, less costly and more sophisticated methods for not only implementing new and emergent technologies, but a great deal of attention must also be paid to those human factors necessary for the successful completion of projects and for sustaining daily operations. In many cases, additional workload has been assigned to IT departments without a commensurate acquisition of staff. Training, stress management, salary negotiations, constantly evolving job specifications and motivational techniques are all components that affect human performance as school and county offices move to a greater dependency on the work performed by the IT department.

IT personnel are relatively comfortable with the concept of mission critical as it relates to business operations and attendance. As the world becomes more technologically based, they are increasingly finding themselves as focal points for all of a district's or county office's mission critical tasks including communications - student to student, parent to school, school to county office - instructional delivery, data proliferation and disaggregation, and remote or distance learning. As educational managers find their operations evaluated on "measurable standards," IT professionals are called upon to assist in the development of electronic portfolios and data warehouses.

SIG meetings this year will focus on using technology to assist the IT professional in managing those human factors and technological issues that confront them daily. The meetings will use the traditional format that has served our members well. An open forum/discussion period will begin the meeting. Members will share their concerns and expertise. Frequently these forums are the only place in the State where our members can engage in collaborative discussions for IT professionals.

After a working lunch, CEDPA will host an organization or corporate representative to provide insights into directions and solutions that can assist IT managers accomplish their jobs. As CEDPA's reputation has expanded, the quality of the speakers that can be attracted has also increased. The intent this year is to bring CEO and CIO officers to meetings to share their visions and expertise. Their insights will hopefully assist the membership manage the complexity of issues faced on a daily basis.

Finally, SIG meetings can not be successful without the input of the membership. For this reason, CEDPA will begin to host a new listserve. It will have a twofold function:

CEDPA hopes that SIG meetings this year can assist you in managing the variety of tasks needing your attention. Please engage us in our on-line forum. To enroll on the listserve send an email message to . Include in the message text - "subscribe SIG".


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