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   DataBus - Vol 41 No. 5: August-September, 2001
TechSETS: Making Progress in Support of School Technologists

TechSETS Logo Working under contract with the California Department of Education, the Imperial and San Diego County Offices of Education have joined to create TechSETS, the first project of its kind to focus specifically on technical support in California schools.
TechSETS primary function is to develop resources and support for school technologists, which have been defined as individuals responsible for planning, installing and supporting technology in schools. While there have been several efforts to improve support for technology, most have focused on developing teacher skills to support classroom technology. While these efforts will continue and can assist in providing adequate technical support, TechSETS will focus its attention on the support system and the individuals charged with making it work. TechSETS is a project created by technical people for technical people. The relationship with CEDPA and its membership is one that will continue to be a high priority for the project.
The first four months of TechSETS have been spent developing the foundation on which to build. Three primary areas have been the focus of attention and include the Technical Expertise for California's Helpdesk (TECH) Program, the matrix of skills, and website planning and development.
TECH Program to share expertise
A critical component of the TechSETS project is the team of experts from across the state that has joined together to be the driving force for the majority of project activities. After a highly competitive statewide recruitment for participants, 22 individuals representing each of the 11 CTAP regions were selected. The TECH Team is a diverse group representing expertise in the broad range of technology in education issues faced by California schools. The technical caliber of the team is second-to-none, and will be put to task in the Summer TECH Training that was held in San Diego on August 2 and 3.
For two days, the team was challenged to take a comprehensive look at technical support and develop strategies and content to meet the broad range of needs in schools. The team's work will set the stage for an exciting year in the project. Each participant will select a primary area of focus for the year, in which they will spend considerable energy to collect, develop, and /or disseminate resources to help support technology in schools.
The team will serve to be an important outreach component of the project. Each participant will be conducting workshops in their region to expose schools to TechSETS and train individuals in its use. Based on the model used in the TICAL Project, these regional workshops will serve an important role in the dissemination and marketing of project activities and resources. The TechSETS marketing strategy includes reaching both school technologists and administrators. Many of the issues faced when attempting to adequately support technology need strong administrative support. This becomes especially evident when sound technical solutions conflict with individual freedom or agendas. By providing consistent information and data in which to base decisions, TechSETS will strive to bridge this gap.
As you find TECH participants working out in your region, let them know your thoughts!
The TechSETS Matrix
TechSETS has been charged to develop a matrix of skills that school technologists should have in order to successfully support technology in schools. The project will then work with training providers and other vendors to map available training resources to these skills.
The approach to the matrix development is to identify the services required in a school, the tasks to be performed to support the service, the skills needed to accomplish the tasks, and the training opportunities to gain the skills.
The matrix is in draft form and will be published for public review in August and September. CEDPA members will be encouraged to review the matrix closely and provide feedback as appropriate.
TechSETS Website: Easy access to resources and information
The TechSETS website is being developed with the needs of technologists in mind. Quick and easy access to resources and information will be essential to the success of the project. The website will include areas devoted to general information, membership, training, support, and tools and other resources. While the following is an initial blueprint of the TechSETS website, the project will actively solicit input from the field to provide the most meaningful content possible.
  • A general information area will provide information and links to project partners and sponsors, the Advisory Board, the TECH Program and profiles for participants, project news, events and general contact information.
  • A membership area will provide access to the Profile Center where visitors can update and manage their TechSETS account. While many of the resources available at the site will be publicly accessible, the site will rely heavily on dynamic content customized to the individual member. A secure site will also be created for TECH Participants to record evaluation data and report their monthly activity.
  • A training area will provide access to the matrix and training resources available to acquire technical skills. Resources such as streaming media clips and training modules will be developed which target specific skills identified in the matrix. A secure site will be created for training providers and other vendors to input information regarding their training and other resources which align with the matrix of skills.
  • The support area of the website should prove to be a valuable asset for schools struggling with specific issue related to technical support. An intelligent knowledge base of technical problems and resolutions will be created. Members can search the knowledge base and post questions in a variety of categories. The project help desk staff and TECH participants will work together to respond to questions and build a comprehensive support system for school technical support staff. Members will also find case studies, white papers and other models of success to consider as they work to improve technical support in schools. As TechSETS has found while conducting regional focus meetings, many school districts in California have found ways to provide strong technical support and are doing great things with technology in learning. Schools and districts across the state can learn from these "stories of success" and best practices in technical support.
  • A "best of the best" approach will be used to develop a tools and other resources area of the site. The project will research tools and resources used successfully by schools and industry and make them easily accessible. Tips, tricks and downloads will put valuable resources at the fingertips of support staff across the state.
In the end, an online resource is only as valuable as the degree to which the content and information meets the clients needs. TechSETS must meet this challenge.
Keeping grounded in school needs
Are the resources and information gathered by TechSETS relevant to California schools? Is it making a difference? If so, how? These are important questions that need to be asked often. TechSETS can only be a valuable resource if schools find value in the information, tools and resources collected by the project. Wexford, Inc., a non-profit educational agency and project external evaluator, has joined to answer these questions and others to ensure the project stays grounded in school needs.
Another key element to this end involves gathering feedback and advice from the field. The advisory process for the project brings together key stakeholders and others to guide project activities and includes an advisory board, vendor focus groups, regional and small focus groups, and personal interviews.
Recognizing the value of a close working relationship between TechSETS and CEDPA, two positions on the TechSETS advisory board have been reserved for CEDPA. Seated on the board representing CEDPA and its membership are Scott Sexsmith and Oswaldo Galarza. Other key organizations represented on the advisory board include CTAP, CUE, CENIC/DCP, CDE, CCSESA, ACSA, CoSN, and WestEd. A listing of the advisory board membership is available online.
The vendor focus groups have been especially helpful and will continue to be an important partner in developing the project. Focus groups from both the vendor and technical training communities have participated in planning sessions and have made significant contributions to the project. The ability of TechSETS to channel these communities in a statewide approach has great potential.
Launch date rapidly approaching
As TechSETS prepares to launch at CEDPA in Monterey on November 14, we look forward to serving your technical needs and increasing support for technology in California schools.
TechSETS is one of four Statewide Education Technology Services funded by the California Department of Education. Combined, the SETS provide a comprehensive support system for California schools. Learn more about each project by visiting their website below.
  • California Learning Resource Network (CLRN) www.clrn.org
  • Technology Information Center for Administrative Leadership (TICAL) www.portical.org
  • Cost-Effective Technology for Classrooms (C-SMART) www.c-smart.org
  • Technical Support for Education Technology in Schools (TechSETS) www.techsets.org

Some of the material in this article is from an upcoming article to be published by OnCUE newsletter of CUE, Inc.
Todd Finnell is Director of Learning Technologies at the Imperial County Office of Education, and is under contract with the San Diego County Office of Education as TechSETS Project Manager. He welcomes your comments or suggestions and can be reached at .