In math class, you show your work and in English all your work is invisible. The work of a school district's Technology Department is very much like the work in English class, all the effort in never seen. In the classroom, multiple platforms should communicate without effort. This effortless communication should occur at the school site level, too. But, with so many specialized needs communication is not alway guaranteed. Through beginning my own journey in Enterprise Architecture, I might begin to see the need where holistic strategies that could help my own school district (Bernard, 2012).
I am a teacher. I work in my little room, use a few programs on my Mac, and watch as students write on their Chromebook. Sometimes, the phone will ring, I send a kid to the office, and I mark down the absences in eSchoolsplus. On Fridays, I stay after school to enter grades into the computer. I could repeat this pattern every week and never see the invisibly connected infrastructure that supports all of these activities. The program that takes the attendance is the not same program that collects and keeps student grades. Macs are not Chromebooks and these two different machines require different support. I don't even want to know what is required, behind the scenes, to keep track of all student log-ins, from the Chromebooks to online programs like Accelerated Reader. When a teacher pauses to think about the invisible requirements that the modern day classroom puts on a district's IT department, the realization of the complexity of classroom technology can be overwhelming.
Now, as a Technology Liaison for my district, I have the ability to see the picture in a larger context. In fact, for several years now I have had the sole responsibility of running report cards for my entire school site. You see, our Learning Management Systems do not talk to each other. We have two LMSs, eSchoolPlus, and SchoolLoop. Teachers keep track of students grades and assignments in SchoolLoop, while eSchoolPlus is used everything else, including attendance. Every progress report and quarter grading period require me to download a .CSV file from SchoolLoop, change the file format in Microsoft Word, and upload revised .CSV file into eSchoolPlus. This downloading, revising, and uploading is done at every secondary site in the Pajaro Valley Unified School District. In essence, report cards are still done by hand.
I am at the start of my exposure to Enterprise Architecture methodology and already I am left asking a lot of questions about how policies, procedure, and as Dr. Scott Bernard (2012) states "the battle of best practices" (Bernard, 2012, p. 35) plays out in my district. Let me give you an example that happened four days ago, on the first day of school. Let me set the stage, I have 38 students in my class, these are 6th graders new to our school. My task is to set the tone for the entire year and at the same time make the students feel welcomed and safe. I took the students for a walk around the school, pointing out important locations like the bathroom, and while walking two students are "play" fighting in line. I call both up to the front of the line, continue the tour, and when we return to class I wrote a letter home for both students. Later that day, one of the same students gets in trouble by not responding to me when called upon. I wrote a second letter home for this student. The second day of school at the kid with the two letters home is a no show. I look into his file and I find out that this student should be at another school site in a Special Day Class. I bring this matter to my school's new Assistant Principal, a former SDC teacher, and he informs me that the SELPA system does not talk to our district's LMS. I don't know much about EA but I have already recognized a problem EA could solve.
To put it plainly, "EA was described as being as both a management process and an analysis and design method" (Bernard, 2012, p. 49). The business of a school district is a complex and messy venture. Countless departments and school sites all have their own technological needs. Measuring success in multiple programs and processes is not always clear. The vicissitudes of public education make the planning for technology difficult at best. Perhaps EA is the process for success?
Bernard, S. A. (2012). An introduction to enterprise architecture. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse.