MCSD Whiteboard: Technology team keeps students linked to learning |

MCSD Whiteboard: Technology team keeps students linked to learning

Moffat County School District
For Craig Press

For those of us who spent our school days toting multiple hardbound, glossy-paged, 10-pound
textbooks back and forth from our classes for a decade, it might be hard to imagine the world of
today’s Moffat County student.

But the reality now is physical math books and history tomes are largely a thing of the past for
school kids. Today, education is accessed digitally. From the texts themselves to schoolwork,
homework and tests, so much of what Moffat County School District kids do now relies on
reliable tech.

And that means they — and the 300 or so faculty and staff in the district — rely on three very
important women.

Vicki Haddan, technology director for MCSD, said she and her two staff members, Heather
Higgins and Heather Hamman, are responsible for about 5,000 devices. That includes internet
and WiFi accessibility across six school buildings, phones, thousands of individual computers’
and tablets’ functionality, server uptime, and software and security to support it all.

If a student can access her geography lesson, it’s thanks to these three. If a teacher can send
out a note to his students, it’s thanks to them. If a first grader’s parent is confident letting him
spend time on a school-sanctioned website, it’s thanks to them.

And, if anyone doesn’t know how to use a device, piece of software or program of any kind, it
falls on Haddan, Higgins and Hamman to help them figure it out.

“I love being that person that helps people,” Haddan said. “That’s what we do. We help people
feel comfortable with technology. Our goal is to never make people feel they’re not adequate —
never make them feel bad about their ability to use technology, and that’s students or staff. We
get it. It’s not their world. They don’t need to know what we do.”

Between servicing help tickets that range from 20 a day to 100 a day — Haddan said her team
is extremely proficient at beating their 24-hour response-time goal — for their 2,500 technology
users, maintaining the systems that make it all possible, or monitoring the safety of the children
in their care, the trio stay extraordinarily busy. But, they say, it’s worth it.

“There are so many rewards,” Haddan said. “We love to see students be successful. We love to
see our staff embrace technology that might not always be their thing. We love when they see
something that helps them.”

Haddan said she spends an enormous amount of her time working proactively to stay ahead of
dangers that might be presented to students with access to the internet and monitoring those
students’ activities when online. That comes down to not just inappropriate or dangerous
content or contacts; it’s also about monitoring mental health.

“Our biggest challenge is keeping kids safe,” Haddan said.

Higgins is the team’s hardware expert. An Apple-certified tech, she’s capable of repairing the
physical devices that the district relies upon to access their programming.

“People don’t always expect we’ll have that on our staff,” Haddan said. “She is a rockstar
repairing all the desktops and laptops. The real deal.”

Both Higgins and Hamman make a point of being present in the district’s school buildings.
“It’s important to us that we’re visible in the schools,” Haddan said. “So the two Heathers spend
time in buildings every day, scheduling a time at Sunset or at the Middle School so the buildings
know when we’ll be there. Every school.”

As computer technology has become the ubiquitous tool of education that it is today, Haddan
has seen the shift away from looking at tech as a niche discipline and the more current
understanding of its essential nature in the classroom and elsewhere.

“We don’t teach technology as a standalone class anymore,” she said. “It’s integrated into every
classroom every day, and people should understand that. We don’t teach computer class now,
it’s just not what we do. It’s integrated into every class, every day. My goal was to have all the
computer labs gone last year, and we did it. There is now just one lab at the high school with a
very specific purpose. Really, the labs were for the teachers — kids didn’t need them. They
know what to do.”

For the team of three, there’s no question there’s a burden of responsibility for keeping the
district’s people connected to what they need. But, Haddan said, it’s a worthwhile pursuit.

“I really enjoy it, but it’s a huge responsibility to make sure, when people walk in the door, their WiFi is up, their phones are working, their devices do what they need to do,” Haddan said. “If
the internet’s not up, we don’t get much done in a classroom. But we have an amazing team,
and we love being part of this work.”

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