In Chaos we Reign

Perhaps this title is somewhat melodramatic and even a suggestion of self-indulgence, but if we have learnt anything in this crises or pandemic or whatever we label this virus (and I won’t be quoting Trump), it is that technology and those of us who lead it, manage it and use it are suddenly the unsung heroes and needed more than ever.

Under those geeky looking Clark Kent glasses and side parted hairstyle is the superman bursting through the clouds to save the world from Chaos (or at the very least the ability to login from home). And, not just bursting through any cloud, but these days it is actually The Cloud!

In the swoop of a few short weeks, technology and IT departments have taken centre stage. Everything, and I mean everything has to be delivered through digital mediums. Our peaceful ballroom dance has been injected with jazz, tap, ballet and hip-hop all within a matter of days. IT departments are expected to know it all – from OneDrive sync issues to video recording and production – I mean its technology, right?

What do you mean you don’t know how to make our Mother’s Day lunch go online with musical performances, live presentations, digital lunch tables, fireworks and an interactive gratitude video? How can this be – you’re the IT guy aren’t you?

Fortunately, we could do it and we did. With a little help from Google and some sleepless late nights.

I still recall the early network management era convincing the School Executive that overseeing those ‘flashing lights’ and ‘spinning disks’ in our make-shift ‘data-centre’ in the back of a cupboard (away from human sight) did serve a purpose after all. A very significant cog in a complex set of gears and pulleys that keeps the wheel of our organisation turning – steadily, readily and reliably. Perhaps the money we asked the finance managers to invest now in ‘cloud technology’ and ‘hybrids’ and ‘infrastructure as a service’ is paying off.

Is this a ‘I told you so’ moment? All the convincing and critical planning, business strategies, deployment, procurement and the endless days upon days of staff training has prepared us better than most for this exact situation. I reflect now, having to write reports every month about business continuity for those School Council papers. What better way to report the continuation of our business, our delivery of education than watching first hand all our students learning from home and all our staff, both teaching and non-teaching working remotely? And not only working but actually thriving in this space.

The fact is, as an organisation we haven’t skipped a beat. If anything, turning our lives upside down and shaking us up like a martini (shaken not stirred) has reinvigorated and opened our minds to see so much more potential with the use of technology. This crisis has forced our hand to do things we wouldn’t normally do in our everyday working lives. Why haven’t we had a staff meeting online before reaching out and engaging everyone who can’t be in the same room at the exact same time? Why haven’t we imported worksheets into OneNote and annotated and collaborated in real-time? Why haven’t we ‘live streamed’ an assembly to students on an exchange or who are interstate or overseas? Why aren’t we using a drone for virtual open mornings to potential families that can’t make it on the day? Why can’t I wear blue jeans and a tee-shirt every day? 

I am not suggesting that remote learning can and should replace face-to-face class time and personal engagement with students. But, I do believe that the lessons we have learnt and the possibilities we thought were pie-in-the-sky stuff will become a normal reality after this crisis, and leading inevitably into the next one. If I had the opportunity when I was younger to do my job effectively whilst being home more often to watch my young children grow I would snap up that opportunity. Don’t let this possibility escape you. For many this crisis has realigned our thinking to appreciate what really is important in life. So, there it is. Now your IT people are philosophers as well.

I must say I’m proud of my team as I watch them go about their day helping and assisting the school community with their technical needs. The need for support has increased 10-fold during this time but their attitudes, commitment and desire to provide support has never wavered. I’m grateful that they are received with kindness and appreciation as they are welcomed into homes via computer screens and digital devices alike. Not everything runs seamlessly. If they did we wouldn’t have a job. But sometimes the simplest of problems can cause a major roadblock and as corny as it sounds, a smile and gratitude when we fix it does make it all worthwhile. Oh, and by the way, there’s a reason why we ask you to reboot your computer – fixes 90% of problems (just saying).

I’m also proud of our staff who have adapted to such substantial changes. It speaks volumes about our culture and leadership. I said earlier that we were prepared better than most but it still requires people to find new ways of doing things, an open mind to be curious and be creative like never before. We ask this of our students, our own children even but how many grownups follow their own advice? I’m thankful the staff have dealt with every challenge I have thrown their way head on. Teachers have had to create virtual classrooms, absent of markers and whiteboards and workbooks – all essential resources. Classroom management has transformed from ‘listen please’, ‘eyes up’ and ‘quiet girls’ to ‘stop muting’, ‘blur your background’ and ‘turn your camera on’. We placed very high expectations on teachers, testing their resilience and comfort zones. If the IT guy is superman then teachers are the batmen, the spidermen and wonder women of education. 

Daniel Andrews has finally given us light at the end of this digital tunnel. We will breathe life back into the corridors and classrooms of our School by the end of the month. It’s almost time to dust off computer labs, turn on the classroom flat screen panels, fire up the Vivi’s and Wi-Fi and program the digital school bell in readiness for Period 1. Clark Kent will soon don his full framed glasses, button up his shirt over the bright red ‘S’ and await incognito for the next chaos and once again begin his reign.

Mr John Toulantas

Director of ICT

Up next