By Ramiro Zuniga, Ed.D.
(Part 1 of 2)
In my work over the years, I have found that many school districts unintentionally fail to consider the same aspects of technology. In part one of this two-part series, I will discuss replacement cycles and preventative maintenance.
Typically, everyone is fully onboard when it comes to researching and acquiring technology solutions. Some would describe this phenomenon as a rush to acquire cutting-edge technology. School district personnel make every effort to create comprehensive technology plans that will create opportunities for the acquisition and the integration of technology solutions.
What I have found missing from many technology plans is a replacement cycle for technology equipment. Those in the technology arena know that technology equipment becomes obsolete after four or five years. With certain technology equipment, this may occur sooner. I always recommend including a replacement cycle as part of any technology plan that calls for technology equipment to be replaced in five years, at the latest. In addition to a replacement cycle, I also suggest including purchasing technology equipment coupled with a five-year warranty, if possible. This combined strategy provides a great deal of relief for school district technicians in having to support the new equipment should it break down.
The end result of forgetting to include a replacement cycle in a technology plan can be overwhelming. It is a very difficult task to support obsolete equipment in desperate need of repair while simultaneously learning new operating systems loaded on newer machines. I have actually witnessed situations in which students and teachers make the most of using computers with different operating systems within the same classroom. I can’t even count the number of classrooms I’ve encountered that have technology equipment that is a decade old.
Let me be clear, there is no excuse for decade-old equipment and yet I have plenty.
I fully realize that initiating and maintaining a replacement cycle comes at considerable cost. In my mind, the greater cost is the burden that is placed on computer technicians being asked to maintain obsolete equipment. Even worse is the frustration teachers experience trying to teach with outdated equipment.
A second, often forgotten area is preventative maintenance. Preventative maintenance includes inspecting, testing, cleaning, and replacing parts or equipment in order to prevent equipment failure. The cleaning of equipment is the most commonly forgotten activity of preventative maintenance. Some would argue that this activity is more often avoided than forgotten due the amount of work involved. The two most common situations in which this occurs is within network closets and in computer chassis.
Interestingly enough, network closets are quite often visited by technicians and network specialists. These closets are full of equipment that constantly generates heat. This heat is pulled and pushed by fans intended to keep each piece of equipment as cool as possible. Forgetting to clean this equipment will allow dust and particles to accumulate over time. This accumulation will lead to equipment air vents becoming clogged and thus not allowing the heat to be removed from within the chassis of each piece of equipment. The end result of this accumulated heat is a shortened life of network equipment. Of course, the breakdown of network equipment leads to a disruption in communication and services potentially affecting an entire organization. The situation is basically the same with computers as it is with network equipment.
Preventative maintenance is a task that should be ongoing and routine. Minimally, each piece of equipment should be cleaned out on an annual basis.
In part two, I will discuss the need for better tracking of technology and the thought that curriculum should direct the integration of technology in schools.