Teachers know that definitions are important. When terms are used with no definition or ambiguous definitions, the remainder of what is trying to be conveyed is garbled as far as the recipient is concerned. So what exactly is meant by “technology infrastructure”? We hear about it all the time and I contend even those who work in IT often have a difficult time explaining what it is.
This term is analogous to the term “information systems infrastructure” as traditionally used throughout the technical community and commerce. Both Technology Infrastructure and Information Systems Infrastructure are composed of those systems, data, and personnel which provide for the automated access, processing, summary, delivery, and support of information needed by the district. There are no systems closer to the core of a school district’s mission critical needs than those instructional systems needed to aide learning in classrooms since they aide children’s learning.
The organization that I run (TechSETS) provides lots of great content for IT professionals in the education sector—one of which is the figure below which is designed to demonstrate infrastructural dependence.
You are at the center of this figure and as you can plainly see, are dependent on many layers of infrastructure for availability and reliability of what is used in a typical school district. To access personal documents or shared documents, you must first have available a local area network (LAN) from which you can access site based resources and the district wide area network (WAN). However, without support for local systems and resources, these wouldn't be available. Once the WAN is accessed, district level services and resources are available (e.g. email, off-site student information, and etc.) Via the district WAN, access to the systems, services, and resources are available through your County Office of Education (COE) and the Internet.
Today’s school district information systems infrastructure rivals that of many substantial corporations and depends on many internal and external resources for its success. Because of this, more and more technologists refer to what used to be known as 'infrastructure' as 'endostructure' (meaning a structure dependents on internal AND external components). Many systems are expected to work seamlessly across a network architecture which provides for shared information, collaboration, and communications. Systems are no longer islands but part of integrated architecture of information, networks, software, and hardware.
But simply architecting and maintain the infrastructure isn’t enough to have a robust district technology system. Dependent relationships between systems multiple systems are where things can get potentially messy. For example, a school district’s IT infrastructure may include multiple databases such as:
- Student assessment
- Teaching resources
But these systems are often interconnected with systems that exist beyond the walls of the district’s infrastructure such as COEs, California School Information Services (CSIS) at the CDE, the State Teachers & Public Employees Retirement Systems (STRS & PERS). In addition to these organizations, the school district’s infrastructure also interplays with employees or students that may be working from home that need to access their intra-district information.
So when you think of IT infrastructure, think layers of systems and databases that work in context of external systems and databases to collectively provide the information systems needed for a district.