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Effective Computer Coordinators Enjoy Working with Students

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Effective computer coordinators are people who enjoy working with students and who are comfortable dealing with crisis situations. Computer coordinators typically develop excellent listening and communication skills, and they often develop the patience to deal with people who cannot express what they mean. One characteristic of all computer coordinators seems to be great organizational skill. In general, computer coordinators are able to juggle long-term and short-term projects successfully.

Opportunities for computer coordinators will continue to increase as schools expand their equipment and course offerings The general aging of the teaching population and the increase in teacher retirements will also create career opportunities.


Paul McDonough is the media services director for Rolling Meadows High School in Rolling Meadows, Illinois.

How would you describe a typical day in your job? What kinds of activities tend to dominate your workday?

I am not sure that I have a typical workday. I am never sure when someone will have an emergency, or when something will break down. My top priority is to make sure that teachers have the materials they need, and I help them when the equipment or software doesn't work. I enjoy spending part of my time showing teachers new materials that I think they will be able to use in the classroom to enhance their teaching.

How did you become interested in media services?

At the beginning of my teaching career, I noticed that students responded well to audiovisual materials. I have been promoting the use of audiovisual materials since 1970.

If you were going to give some advice to someone who is interested in a career in media services, what would you say?

In order to qualify for this job, a candidate must become a certified teacher, teach for several years, and then get a master's degree in audiovisual media. The teaching background is absolutely essential. People who try to jump into media services right out of graduate school do not understand student or teacher needs. I would say that the experience of graduate school makes a lot more sense for someone who has the concrete teaching experience to apply to the ideas that are being presented there. Successful media services people also have a strong background in computers and some knowledge of television production.

What kind of academic preparation or work experience was most helpful to you in your career?

The experience of teaching in a high school classroom was incredibly helpful to me. It gave me the background to understand the kinds of materials that are appropriate for high school students, and it gave me good insights into teacher needs.

What would you describe as the most challenging part of your job?

I would say that there are two main issues for me. The first issue is the difficulty of staying abreast of all the new developments in technology, all of the hardware kinds of products, and the need to stay abreast of all the new software that is developed each year. In order to make intelligent decisions about which software to buy, I need to spend a lot of time looking at new products. The second issue is the difficulty of dealing with teachers who are afraid of new technology and who don't realize the possible benefits that technology can bring to their students. New technology can be very intimidating, and no one likes to feel dumb, but the time and energy invested in learning CD-ROM, laser disk, and computer technology can make a tremendous difference in the kind of success students have in the classroom.

What would you describe as the most rewarding part of the job?

I really enjoy watching students and teachers work with products that make learning come alive. You can actually see the excitement in the faces of teachers and students when they create a project using technology that they never thought they would be able to do, or when they develop a project that turns out exactly the way they planned it.

If you could choose a different career path, would you choose media services again?

Definitely. This is a very exciting field to be in at this time.

Twenty years ago, a media services or A.V. director was the person who ordered films and filmstrips for the school and made sure the materials were delivered to the right classroom. Today, media services directors must understand copyright laws, be familiar with CD-ROM and laser disk technology, keep up with new materials that are released on CD-ROM and laser disk formats, maintain a library of videotapes, understand radio and television production, and be able to repair and maintain video and computer equipment. The explosion of information and information technology has transformed the media services director's job. Media services people now are seen as building experts in the field of instructional technology, and that change makes the job more interesting, but much more demanding.

Media services directors usually do not have teaching assignments, so they can spend most of their workday helping teachers with equipment and software. Much of their time is spent training teachers how to use new materials. In addition, media services directors also process requests for A.V. materials and equipment, which means that they must make deliveries, pick up materials, and safeguard against theft. In many high schools, student volunteers deliver materials to classrooms, and the media services director must supervise this group of students, too.

Media services directors are called upon to develop long-term plans for improving technology in their schools. Media services directors must also take responsibility for developing and administering the media budget.

Any job that requires public contact is challenging, and media services is no exception. Media services directors must deal with multiple-and sometimes conflicting-priorities within the building. Limited budgets make it impossible to keep everyone in a school happy, and media services directors must sometimes make unpopular decisions. The need to consider long-term trends in media equipment and technology, as well as dealing with short-term issues, can also be difficult.
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