Edtech for IT: Scheduling Resources

Prior to the wide-spread adoption of one-to-one initiatives, most computing resources in schools were shared. As a result, it was necessary to adopt a strategy for scheduling time in the computer room, presentation spaces with high-quality projectors, and similar resources that existed in small numbers. Since one-to-one computing has become the norm in schools, the need to share computing resources has reduced, but there are still situations in which individuals or groups may need to reserve time when they can use shared computers or devices. Increasingly, the shared computing resources are human resources rather than computing resources. For example, teachers may schedule time with technology integration specialists or other IT professionals to provide additional support while they and their students are creating with unfamiliar technology.  

To facilitate scheduling or reserving these shared technologies, IT professionals install and maintain room booking systems. Effective tools make the schedules public, so they can be viewed on the Internet without logging on or passing through other barriers. The most effective schedules will be mobile-compatible, so the harried teacher who is finalizing plans for the day can say to a student, “hey, go check the schedule to see if we can print our posters in the computer lab today.” Once a student confirms the resource has not been scheduled by another, the teacher can log on to the system to add a reservation, but not edit others’ reservations. Further, each account can have specific permissions so that he or she can reserve only the resources appropriate for the user. For example, only those who have received training in using the 3-D printer are allowed to schedule time on it, or only those teachers whose courses necessitate special software can reserve certain computer rooms. 

One of the difficulties that is commonly encountered with using scheduling tools in schools is the unusual time increments that characterize the daily schedules in many schools. While many scheduling tools are designed for businesses that are likely to break days into 15-minute increments, schools break days in various chunks, and it is not unusual for different days to be divided into different chunks. Further, some schools have multiple bell schedules, for example students in grades 7 and 8 may follow the “middle school schedule” but the students in 9-12 follow the “high school schedule” in schools enrolling students in grades 7-12. IT managers can increase the use of scheduling tool by making them easy to use, including allowing users to select time blocks on the schedule that correspond to the daily schedule blocks used in the school. All of these can complicate the problem of sharing common computing resources, but none generally are a barrier to sufficient access.