Triaging #edtech

IT systems fail. All IT professionals (and all IT users) know this. The reality is that the “to do” list for IT professionals in schools is often too long to allow immediate resolution of failed system. Further adding to the reality is that not all failed systems can or even should be resolved. IT professionals set priorities about repairs (which is reacting to malfunctioning repairs) and schedule the repairs along with project work (which is designed to prevent malfunctions).  

IT professionals must develop skill in triaging calls for IT support to decide what gets immediate attention and what waits until later. Unfortunately, there are no rules that guarantee the correct triage decisions will be made. Many factors which are described in this section affect triage decisions, and the situation given high priority one day may be given a lower priority another. All IT professionals understand that one of the most important things to do to do after starting a new position in IT support is to identify “the complainers.” These are the people who give the best feedback on the functionality of the systems, they raise concerns immediately (as opposed to other users who try to manage with less-than-optimal technology), and they tend to be the individuals who use the systems the most and for the most purposes. The IT professional who can satisfy this group will generally be perceived to be responsive and effective.  


It is an unfortunate reality that IT can be used to create unsafe situations. If there are threats, bullying, or other potentials unsafe situations and your expertise is needed to documents, investigate, and remove those threats, that needs to be given highest and immediate priority.  


It is also unfortunate that IT can be associated with situations that can present legal liability. These may be associated with unsafe situations, but they can also be associated with human resource issues or other circumstances in which safety is not threatened but data needs to be secured or actions documented These also receive highest priority. When dealing with issues related to safety or legal issues, no IT professional should be working without school administrators participating in the decision-making; ideally they would be present when any work was being done and they will both direct the IT professional and also receive frequent and detailed updates on what is happening.  

Large Numbers 

One standard criterium for prioritizing IT troubleshooting in all organizations is “fix the problem that will get the most users back up.” This rule of thumb applies in school as well. 

One-Time Events 

Teachers often arrange for their students to have special one-time only opportunities. Before the COVID pandemic, field trips and guest speakers were common one-time events. As video conferencing platforms gained popularity in the years before COVID, these events were increasingly technology-based. Because these events cannot be easily rescheduled and because they represent very valuable opportunities for students, these should be given high priority when they are scheduled.  


Because schools are hierarchical organizations, certain stakeholders can be understood to be of higher priority. It seems reasonable that school administrators should be given the highest priority as they are the most politically empowered individuals. It is difficult to justify this decision, however. Whenever I am faced with prioritizing and one of the problems has direct impact on students, then that one goes to the top of my priority list. 

Tip: Be aware that some school administrators do not share this view. In multiple interviews for technology coordinator positions at schools, I have made it clear that my priorities are resolving IT issues for students first, and I have seen the school administrators react negatively to that answer. If I notice that reaction, I will usually withdraw from consideration.  

Beginnings and Ends 

School schedules are periodic. At the transition between school years and marking periods, there are some information needs that must take priority. For example, ensuring class rosters are accurate, attendance can be recorded, and grades can be reported are among the tasks that must be reliably and quickly accomplished at these times. For this reason, ensuring the SIS is functional and accurate is the highest priority at those times. Because these are scheduled well in advance, many IT professionals will be sure to minimize scheduling other high-demand events to coincide with beginnings and ends.