During all the tumult of the last two years of schooling, from remote to hybrid to masked in-person, educators prioritized the social and emotional needs of students. A full 70 percent of schools now offer mental health programming, according to a recent survey from the American School District Panel and 20 percent of these schools say they added these services as a response to the pandemic disruptions. Shifting toward helping our students’ emotional well-being is vital and, in many cases, has shown extraordinary results. But we need to make sure we don’t forget the social and emotional health of district IT staff.
Think about how much stress we all felt especially at the beginning of the pandemic. Not only was there personal stress but schools went remote instantly. District and school IT staff had to not only set up 1:1 programs on the fly, but also find new remote learning software and create helpdesks for thousands of students.
It’s clear now that part of a well-thought digital strategy for the future includes wellbeing support for IT technicians and school support staff, too. For example, such support can come from tools that ease cumulative stressors by saving time, lightening workloads, improving communication, and simplifying or automating procedures. Embracing a digital strategy that runs right across all areas of the school ensures that every staff member can benefit from the advantages offered by technology.
I asked Nele Morrison, the technology director at Pittsburg Independent School District in Texas, to give additional insight about how they’ve managed through the pandemic. Even though some campuses in his 2,500-student district east of Dallas were 1:1 before the pandemic, none had a program allowing students to take computers home. In a matter of days, Morrison and his six-person IT team had to develop the logistical plan of a new 1:1 program that they quickly realized was going to be permanent.
Morrison said that picking the right software to help oversee the new programs they started lightened his staff’s load. His district used inventory management software to keep track of the district’s laptops. When the district went remote, it upgraded the apps it used for classroom management to allow for enhanced reporting and web conferencing features. Pittsburgh also used software that allowed the IT department to remotely control, diagnose, and fix Windows laptops and PCs.
No matter how much technology or management software in place, though, Morrison said in the end Pittsburg made remote, hybrid, and in-person learning work during the pandemic because of the quality of its IT staff.