The oil that makes the machine work

Even though we are in a regional area we give our staff and students access to the best technology available.

Schools cannot function without IT support, particularly when they are situated in a remote area, IE Journalist Sue Osborne writes.

Queensland ICT Professional Officer (Technical Support) Khovy Inthavong (pictured above) covers a huge geographic area providing support to schools in the north western region of Townsville Catholic Education Office. As well as providing support to schools and early learning centres, Khovy supports the Good Shepherd Parish in Mt Isa.

He would drive on average 500km a week servicing his schedule, visiting four schools as well as the parish and early learning centres. Add another 1000km when his schedule requires a visit to Winton.

Khovy’s association with education began early in his career. In 2003 he migrated to Australia from New Zealand and began work as a youth and disability worker, mainly with disengaged students in a flexible learning centre.

He started as a technician at Good Shepherd Catholic College, Mt Isa in 2007, moving into his current itinerant role with the education office in 2012.

With the closest town to Mt Isa being Townsville, some 1000km away, IT connections are crucial.

A few years ago, Townsville Catholic Education introduced Google Suite to the diocese. This paved the way for staff and students to use cloud applications.

Dramatic change

“Although this was quite a dramatic change and a challenge, it has enabled the staff to share documents more easily and collaborate more,” Khovy said.

“I’ve had teachers who have left the diocese contact me and say they wish they still had access to Google Suite. That is quite pleasing for me.”

Khovy said he gets a lot of satisfaction from making things run smoothly.

“Basically the school officer, the IT technician, is the oil that makes the machine work.

“Without us the staff, teachers and leadership team could not function effectively and it is rewarding to see the trickle-down effect of that, from the teachers to the students.

“Even though we are in a regional area we give our staff and students access to the best technology available.

“There is no disadvantage to them being in a remote area, as far as the technology goes.”

Lesson assistance

Khovy also enjoys being asked to assist in IT lessons. “Every day is different, and that keeps you on your toes and is rewarding.”

Working in a remote area can provide challenges when it comes to the amount of time required to get trades support or equipment and budgetary constraints, and it is not unusual for Khovy to receive calls on weekends and after hours when an urgent matter needs attention.

Khovy said the need for IT support in schools can only grow and there must be recognition and protections built in for them industrially.

“Working in a remote area helps build your resilience,” Khovy said.

The education drives the technological decisions we make, not the other way around.

Building on the toolkit

With a PhD in Astrophysics, Lisa Elliott (pictured top right) has been around academia and schools all her life.

She began studying education and science at university but decided to concentrate on science, to achieve her PhD.

In 2005 she moved to the UK and landed a job as a learning resources developer at a London school.

“I loved working with teachers,” she said.

Upon returning to Australia in 2012 she took up the role of Digital Resources Coordinator at Mount Scopus Memorial College in Melbourne and became the Secondary School eLearning Coordinator in 2014.

Looking after a campus serving 650 Year 7-12 students, Lisa said her role is to support teachers to meaningfully integrate technology into their teaching and their classrooms.

She works with teachers one on one, provides formal PD sessions and in class support, and has an open door policy for teachers seeking assistance.

Supporting innovation

With the introduction of G-Suite for Education, a recent innovation at Mount Scopus, Lisa played a leading role in its implementation, providing initial training for staff and helping teachers to leverage its power in the classroom and streamline teacher workflow. For instance, she showed them how to use Google Forms to survey their students and gather data to differentiate the learning for students.

Similarly, during morning teacher briefing sessions, she presents for a couple of minutes providing tips on how to use the technology that teachers have available to them. She has demonstrated everything from teaching staff how to flip their classroom by creating interactive videos using ClickView or Quicktime, to showing teachers the ‘rules’ they can set up in their inbox to minimise time spent on organisation and administration.

Lisa chairs the secondary school eLearning and ICT Committee, is a member of the Education Committee, and is part of a whole school committee that looks at what technological tools are required to ensure the College can fulfil its educational vision. Her role therefore includes researching innovations and advising how they further that vision and where they fit into the school’s current virtual environment.

“The education drives the technological decisions we make, not the other way around,” Lisa said.

Her role differs from Khovy’s in that she works on the teaching and learning side, not IT support. Mount Scopus employs an ICT support team as well as an eLearning team.

“The two teams work closely together, and the teachers have a good understanding of our roles, and the differences between the role of ICT and eLearning personnel.”

Due to the evolving nature of technology, change management is also a big part of her role.

“As teaching is always so hectic, it’s hard to introduce something new, and that is always a challenge.”

Lisa’s problem solving and presentation skills, developed as part of completing her PhD, help her with these challenges. Yet, having had previous classroom teaching experience with undergraduates, she knows that for teachers, their primary focus is enabling the growth of their students and any innovation must respect that.

“Teaching is always about the needs of the students and how to make learning happen for them. Ultimately, the technology has to be easy for teachers to use to seamlessly facilitate that learning experience.”