What does IT look like in schools today?

More than two years after the pandemic, Iowa City Schools CIO Adam Kurt reflects on the changes

What does IT look like in schools today?

Adam Kurt, Iowa City School District Director of Technology and Innovation (Photo courtesy of Iowa City School District)

Refurbished laptops are seen in 2020 in Iowa City School District offices. The district’s IT Help Desk has set up a drop-off point for laptop repairs. (Newspaper)

IOWA CITY — School districts’ information technology departments faced a surge in requests for help as an unprecedented number of students learned online at the start of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic.

In one week in 2020, the Iowa City School District’s help desk received 2,100 support requests as the desk was the first point of contact for many families starting the school year this fall. Historically, support requests have remained under 100.

IT workers helped hundreds of families get home Internet, which included a hotspot or Internet service at home. Other requests were for help with device repair, account login, and questions about accessing online classes.

More than two years later, the Iowa City Community School District continues to see a record number of requests to its help desk, said Adam Kurt, the district’s director of technology and innovation. Iowa City schools offer Internet access to about 1,450 students, which is about 10 percent of the student body, he said.

The Gazette recently spoke with Kurth about what has changed—and stayed the same—in information technology in schools since 2020.

Q: Can you go back to the beginning of the pandemic and how your department worked to meet demand?

A: It was an extremely difficult time. Our request was huge in terms of providing support to people so directly. The nature of the requests we received was radically different.

We have worked very hard to train our staff to ensure they have the ability to directly address many of these requests. We will try to make sure that the people taking the initial requests have the tools to solve them right away.

I expected that, especially after the start of last school year, we would see our demand drop to something close to normal pre-pandemic levels. We set records (for number of requests) every quarter every year, which surprised me. Our fall quarter this year had the largest ticket volume we’ve ever seen.

Q: What do you see for the future of your information department?

A: One thing that is likely to be a constant change is the need to keep learning outside the walls of the classroom. This was new to many of us at the beginning of the pandemic, but it will never go away.

Our world is becoming more and more interconnected, but at the same time, this does not mean that we will see a shift to completely digital technologies in the classroom environment. People want more personal interaction between students and teachers.

This is where we’ve seen a backlash with people wanting to move away from digital. We used to use technology in the classroom because it was fun and exciting to use, but it’s not as fun and exciting anymore. We need to have better reasons when we implement technology in the classroom.

Q: What are some of the lessons you’ve learned over the past two years?

A: It is really critical that we have the infrastructure in place to support the digital delivery of educational materials. We—along with other districts—realized that we needed to have a platform that served as an online classroom for anything a teacher wanted to post, including assignments. This is something we had firmly in place at the intermediate level, but not at the entry level. Implementing this was a big improvement.

Q: The help desk became the first point of contact for many families at the beginning of the pandemic. What does this look like now?

A: With most of our students transitioning back into the classroom, we are no longer as often the first point of contact for them. Our range of support is truly extensive, but for most families it is easier and more convenient to make a request through their teacher or school office.

Comments: (319) 398-8411; [email protected]

Leave a Comment