Compared to IT users in business, school populations are different. They bring different skills to the IT they use, they need more flexibility more often than business users, and their needs change over time (only to return to the original need). These characteristics arise from the facts that students have emerging literacies; it is not unusual for primary grade students to be only learning to read and the keyboard is unfamiliar, so graphic user interfaces and keyboards may be very difficult for students to use. Even with clear curriculum guidelines, teacher and students may have different information and computing needs than they had previously or those who teach similar courses. School years are also periodic. Just when all of the elementary school students are becoming familiar with the technology and they work, the school year ends, and teachers (and IT professionals) must prepare for a new group of neophytes.
All information technology professionals who work in schools make decisions and take actions that affect end users either directly (by providing troubleshooting, training, and other support) or indirectly (by installing and configuring systems and interfaces). Of course, IT professionals are involved with decisions about which devices to purchase and install and those are decisions that affect IT users’ experiences in the organization. For these reasons, all IT professionals in schools should understand the nature of these users.
For those who have experience managing IT in organizations where all of the users are adults and those who have completed typical IT programs in schools (including trade schools, community colleges, and universities) make very different assumptions about IT users than are true of school users. The users’ capacity to operate the devices, adapt to changes, and use the systems effectively all affect how systems are designed. Many IT professionals who honed their craft in organizations other than K-12 schools find school users are unfamiliar and the decisions and actions that produce usable systems in other organizations are not effective in schools.