Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Are Sys Admins and Network Managers Police Persons?

Having spent the last eighteen months in the IT security business (I'm originally a tech marketer from the imaging industry) I'm constantly surprised at the range and responsibility of the jobs Network Managers and Sys Admins are required to undertake - especially those that work in education with all the attendant responsibilities that looking after other peoples' kids entails.

A recent post caught my attention about qualifications in e-safety for those hard-pressed information system plumbers - I don't mean that in a disparaging way either to plumbers or techs - if the information stops flowing, starts leaking, gets backed up ... do you have the skills, knowledge and stomach to unblock the u-bend? - I certainly don't.

I digress - back to the post from the BCS - their core premise is that e-Safety should be taught as a part of the national curriculum (I agree) but there hasn't been a structured way to teach it (I agree) and that the IT department usually ends up having to carry the can for a myriad e-safety problems and incidents (I agree).

To quote The BCS directly:  "You wouldn’t send someone who came into a school with a knife to the design technology department, but with internet issues, people usually get directed to the IT department - and the issue is bigger than that."

The creation of a structure to teach e-safety to our kids can only be a good thing - especially if it's delivered by properly qualified teachers.  The reclaiming of the teaching environment from the techs by continuous education of all teachers in IT related subjects (not just as 'users' of tech) is an important step in this process.  

This also raises the issue of where responsibility (and accountability) lies in hard-pressed schools and LAs for delivering e-safety (and the attendant tech paraphernalia that it requires).  In the eyes of the law it's pretty clear (teachers, employers and Governors) but in practice it all seems to be all over the place - with the IT function getting dumped on because it's 'computer or internet related'. If you read some of the threads in Dr. Brian Bandey's e-Safety Law in Education LinkedIn group they illustrate the complexity of this evolving problem. 

So - going back to the title of this piece - Are Sys Admins and Network Managers Police Persons?  In my personal opinion they should be exactly that - they should provide a safe infrastructure on which to base education.  They shouldn't be considered as policy makers, judges or arbiters of standards just because a computer is involved in the process.  These functions lay with the educators, policy makers and legally accountable members of the education community - who (again in my personal opinion) should step-up to the challenge and properly understand some of the (seemingly transparent) technology that they currently use and rely on to keep them out of the law courts.

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