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ISTE 2014 – Build a technology support team people love

June 30, 2014

These are my notes from the various sessions and conversations and activities at the ISTE 2014 conference in Atlanta

Matt Penner
Director of Information and Instructional Tech
Val Verde Unified School District

Todd’s note: Matt spent an hour or so with some great stories and engaging ideas on his thoughts on having a great tech department. He did a great job, with great stories, and great tips.

Department sits under Education Services, not business services, although they do a tonne of stuff for business services.
Application Services, Network Services, Ed Tech (1 in house, 28 partial in schools)

Tech Department Reputations
Tends to be bad

Why did we get this way?
– Users like to shoot themselves in the foot
– Growing complexity and scaling of problems
– Can only put out so many fires
– Easier to manage systems than modify behaviour

We’ve forgotten why we exist…

What’s the point of our department if we’re not making our user’s day?
Why did you get into this job in the first place?
Weren’t you passionate about creating solutions?
When was the last timed you “wowed!” Someone
Wouldn’t you like to do that every day?

90% of my job is about people! and I’m probably lying about the other 10%

Check out:
Book Howard Behar – It’s not about the coffee

We aren’t a technology department, we’re a people department, that happens to use technology.

If you’re in IT, you had better like interacting with users or you had better find a different place to work.

Techy people often hate interacting with users!

How do you want teachers to feel after they hang up the phone?

Who’s the face of IT?
Techs out in the field – how they dress, how they act
Helpdesk on the phone – are they friendly and helpful?
Website, systems – do they work?
E-mails from the department

Even if the communication isn’t from the department, any individual communication appears to come from it.

Increasing Department Morale
– Automate, automate, automate
– Catch them doing something right
– Publicize praise
– Lead, don’t manage
– 360 Reviews (any time you review someone, get everyone to review them)
– Put the right people in the right places
– Have fun!
– Ask how you can improve!
– Get involved!

IT wants to create/build
Boring to put out fires all day

Another recommended Book:
Gary Chapman – The Five Love Languages

Some Tips
Learn how to communicate – people are willing to wait when they have more knowledge and information about what is going on.
Don’t be the cable company – (I’ll be there some day, between the hours of ….)
Develop Partnerships – They’re going to try and do it anyway, don’t make them hide it. It would be better if you were there to teach them how to swim.
You have to be willing to build the bridge 75% of the way

Improving Department Relations
– You have to be willing to ask!
– Meet with them! Directors, Principals, and teachers
– Surveys
– 360 Reviews

Get engaged!
Braveheart – “Do you know what happens if we don’t go?” – Nothing.

You have to be extraordinary.

When budget cuts happen, be the one that teachers say “don’t you dare take tech away!”

Isn’t it frustrating when sites buy technology without our input? So why is it we act bored, or put out when they do?

Buying new things without having tech involved, is like a train with no tracks or direction.

Matt loves tech, and his department loves tech, so be the best



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