IT learning in schools is becoming increasingly important in the world of work and the IT industries. There is however a problem, with a shortage of decent IT support workers to assist in classroom activities many children are not getting the right level of information technology education they need. Unfortunately it seems to be a problem of staffing; heads at various schools have argued they do not have enough IT support staff to teach lessons effectively.
A serious issue is the lack of knowledge amongst IT support staffs, many teachers have stated they have trouble maintaining their networks adequately. Added to this support staffs are finding it increasingly difficult to keep up with new technologies in the IT world.
Along with this problem of keeping abreast of developments, implementing new technologies has also been a problem for support staff. The crux of the matter is that there is too much development and not enough staff to support the learning, IT learning has exploded and there are not enough IT technicians to cope with this explosion.
In the world of business, one IT support worker is usually employed for every fifty PCs, this is not a number schools can maintain. For instance IT support in a business typically costs seventy pounds annually for each computer. For a school with a thousand computers, twenty members of IT support staff would be needed at an annual cost of seven hundred thousand pounds. Schools simply cannot afford these rates.
The IT department in most schools is usually spread too thin, in some cases it has been one tech support worker to almost fifteen hundred computers. The consequences for this are that more time is spent fixing problems rather than updating technologies. Subsequently learning can suffer as there are less computers working and less time spent teaching.
Support staff only have enough time to use 'quick fixes' and getting to the root of problems is rare; as a result the problems reoccur and ever increasing amounts of time are lost. A good analogy is a sinking ship, IT support staffs have time to purely keep it afloat; any time spent on the ships course is minimal.
Unfortunately for schools and education more generally, they are facing the same IT support problems as big business or the public sector. The difference however is that most schools do not have the funding to answer these problems sufficiently to ensure efficient education and learning. For most schools the balance of staffing their technology departments and keeping up with curriculum requirements is a troublesome one.
New technologies are increasingly difficult to implement in schools, teaching on outdated computers is rarely advisable but in most cases little can be done. This is not just hardware, software developments are also hard to keep up with for schools as this can be extremely expensive and also hard to install. Once again, dedicated software support is needed by most schools.
Clearly it is the funding structure that needs to be changed, IT support workers can earn far more in business than in schools and this is something that needs to be addressed. Funding unfortunately seems to be reactive and budgets are based around the minimum figure it costs to keep an IT department running. Unsurprisingly this has led to the situation that those in education do not have the skills and equipment to teach adequately, while those who do, are attracted into the business world by higher salaries.
Fundamentally it is a funding issue, as the IT industry is one of the most rapidly growing in the commercial world; increasing numbers of students will wish to enter it. The job of education is to equip these students with the right tools to achieve success. If the funding of IT departments and an increase in IT support workers does not occur, the next generation may fall behind in the technical revolution.