Successful media services directors have strong communication skills and enjoy working with young people. Typically, media services people are extremely organized, can deal with long-term and short-term projects at the same time, and are not unduly stressed by emergency projects that crop up suddenly.
Growth in this field will continue to be slow, despite a burgeoning school population, because of the specialized nature of the job. Most opportunities in media services will be the result of retirees.
Sherri Wilson is a computer lab supervisor at Rolling Meadows High School in Rolling Meadows, Illinois.
How did you become interested in technology?
I began my teaching career by teaching business education. I progressed from the typewriter to the computer.
Why did you decide to work in a high school?
I like the age group, and I had a secondary teaching certificate in my major. I have also taught preschool, fifth grade, and adult education.
How would you describe a typical workday? What kinds of activities tend to dominate your workday?
Most of my time is spent in helping students and teachers. I install new programs, resolve problems with computers, and help students retrieve lost files. I also take time to learn new software and help with new equipment, such as unpacking power books. I also supervise the lab, making sure that no damage is done to the equipment, and I am responsible for checking out equipment that is loaned to students.
If someone asked you for your advice on how to run a computer lab effectively, what skills and qualities would you suggest that they try to develop?
I would suggest that they try to learn as many new software pro-grams as possible. There is a tremendous amount of material on the market, and it seems to change daily. I would also suggest that computer room supervisors work on communication and interpersonal skills. It's so important to be patient with students. Teachers can also be extremely demanding. Computers and computer soft-ware are so complicated that some problems may not have an explanation that laypeople can understand, but teachers and students just look at you with an expression that seems to say, "You could fix this for me, if you really wanted to."
What is the most challenging part of your job?
The hardest days are the days when programs conflict and won't work, or when the computers bomb.
What class or experience was most helpful to you in supervising a high school computer lab?
My background in high school teaching was very helpful.
If you could change one part of your job, what would it be?
I am pretty much self-sufficient. I can do anything that I need to when it comes to dealing with computers. I miss working with kids in computer classes, getting to know them and getting a sense of what problems a student might have with hardware or software.
When you started this job was there one suggestion or piece of advice that you wish someone would have told you?
Wear good running shoes.
As schools continue to expand their use of computers for instruction and keyboarding skills, they are faced with the choice of placing one computer in each classroom or creating computer labs where groups of students can use the computers for word processing, writing, keyboarding, or researching information from CD-ROMs or the Internet. In many cases, classroom teachers are not familiar enough with computers or computer software to help students who are faced with a computer that doesn't work properly or with software that malfunctions. Computer room supervisors help individual students use computer software and perform routine maintenance on the machines. Because of their efforts, teachers can focus on the academic needs of their students.
Although this work can be taxing, computer room supervisors enjoy a number of school holidays and an extended summer vacation.Working with students for one class period after another can be exhausting work, but people who are drawn to this field usually enjoy working with young people and are comfortable with technology.
People who are interested in a career in this field will need a minimum of sixty hours of college, and they will need a background in computer technology, either as part of their education background or as part of their work experience. Many computer room supervisors hold college degrees in technology and have earned their teaching certificates. Successful computer room super-visors have developed strong interpersonal skills and can relate well to students while maintaining a secure, productive work environment in their lab. Effective supervisors work efficiently and are able to manage many different activities at once, anticipating student needs, maintaining order in the lab, and keeping students on task.
There are more than 111,000 public and private schools in the United States and Canada, and many of them are adding computer labs to take advantage of new technology. Although the rate of pay for educational support personnel is usually much lower than that for classroom teachers, computer room supervisors usually earn $10.00 an hour or more.