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IT Research Synopsis Description As part of Mississippi’s Redesign Initiative, I conducted research to be applied to the design of high-quality curricula and assessments that were implemented in secondary and post-secondary business and information technology classrooms statewide. This research synopsis was developed for the 2009 Secondary Information Technology (IT) program with the goal of creating a curriculum and assessment that could be used to prepare Mississippi students for careers in the local job market. It included occupational outlook data collected from the U. S. Department of Labor, wage estimates from the Mississippi Department of Employment Security, a summary of the industry certification relevant to the IT career field, and survey data collected from Mississippi employers in the IT industry. From the research, I developed course competencies and objectives, and then worked with a team of instructors to develop teaching strategies for each competency. At the end of each unit, relevant standards and curriculum resources were referenced. After the curriculum was completed, I developed assessment blueprints for the Mississippi Career Planning Assessment 2 System (MS-CPAS2). Prior to curriculum implementation, I administered and facilitated numerous training sessions. In these sessions, instructors developed unit plans using the Understanding by Design model. They also created a bank of assessment questions for the MS-CPAS2. Additionally, they used a variety of instructional media such as Jing, AuthorPoint Lite, TipCam, Wink, VoiceThread, and CourseLab to develop instructional resources that were distributed through the BlackBoard Learning Management System for use in Mississippi classrooms.


Research Synopsis: Secondary Information Technology Introduction In the field of information technology (IT), rapidly changing technology requires increasing skill levels and education for workers. Employees with a broad background and range of skills are in high demand. For success in the field, employees must have technical knowledge as well as written and verbal communication, analytical, and interpersonal skills. Most IT employers highly value formal college education, although some entry-level jobs require only a 2-year degree or a high school diploma. Relevant work experience and certifications in the field may also provide a competitive edge in the job market (U. S. Department of Labor, http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos042.htm). The rapidly increasing use of computers has created a high demand for specialists who can provide support and service to users as well as for the administration, maintenance, and support of networks and computer systems. Computer support specialists provide technical assistance and support to internal and external clients. The U. S. Department of Labor (2007, http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos269.htm) also includes technical support specialists and help-desk technicians in this occupational group. Computer support personnel diagnose problems and provide technical support and solutions for hardware, software, and systems. They may work within the IT department of a company or work for a computer service business that provides services on a contractual basis.

Employment Outlook Employment of computer support specialists and systems administrators is expected to increase rapidly over the next decade. Demand for employees in this field is expected to increase by 18% from 2006 to 2016, adding 155,000 jobs. One factor contributing to the increase in jobs in this industry is the widespread use of the Internet for a variety of business applications. Increased use of networking technologies has increased the demand for computer support specialists and systems administrators (http://www.bls.gov/oco/oco2001.htm#projections_data). According to the Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates published by the Mississippi Department of Employment Security (2006 http://www.mdes.ms.gov/wps/portal), the hourly wage for Mississippi jobs in the field of information technology ranges from $17.27 to $25.87. The average annual salary in the field ranges from $35,920 to $53,810.

Projections Data Occupational Title Computer Support Specialists and Systems Administrators Computer Support Specialists Network and Computer Systems Administrators

Employment 2006

Projected Employment 2006

Change 2006–16 Number Percent

862,000

1,016,000

155,000

18

552,000

624,000

71,000

13

309,000

292,000

83,000

27

Source: U. S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2008). Occupational outlook handbook, 2008–2008 edition: Computer support specialists and systems administrators. Retrieved April 30, 2008, from http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos268.htm

IT Industry Certification: CompTIA A+ Certification CompTIA is an international association representing the information technology industry. Members include representatives from across the technology field including manufacturers, distributors, resellers, solution providers, ISPs, ASPs, software developers, and e-commerce and telecom companies in addition to academic, notfor-profit, and government agencies. CompTIA members have access to industry research, partnerships, best practices, and industry standards.


CompTIA is the largest developer of vendor-neutral IT certification exams in the world. The organization employs experts and leaders from across the IT industry in the public and private sectors, including training, academic, and government to develop broad-based foundational exams that are designed to validate an individual’s IT skills set. CompTIA A+ certification it is an international, vendor-neutral certification that is recognized across the IT industry. Attainment of the A+ certification credential validates a technician’s ability to perform computer support tasks including installation, configuration, diagnostics, preventive maintenance, and basic networking. In addition, the exams encompass security, safety and environmental issues as well as communication and professionalism. (http://www.comptia.org/about/default.aspx) CompTIA A+ certification requires a passing score on two exams. The first is the A+ Essentials exam, which confirms a technician’s knowledge in regard to the installation, upgrade and optimization, building, repair and troubleshooting, diagnostics, and preventive maintenance of personal computer hardware and operating systems. (http://certification.comptia.org/resources/objectives/Comptia%20A+%20Essentials.pdf) A second examination, CompTIA A+ 22-602, covers skills needed by individuals who work in a technical environment that entails a great deal of face-to-face interaction with clients. Jobs in this field might include IT administrator, field service technician, or PC technician. Candidates who take the CompTIA A+ 220-602 exam should have previously completed the CompTIA A+ Essentials certification. (http://certification.comptia.org/resources/objectives/CompTIA%20A+%20220-602.pdf)

Industry Data A survey of employers in the information technology industry across Mississippi revealed data to support the development of the secondary Information Technology curriculum. Survey respondents included representatives employed in a variety of IT environments, including corporate, education, government, health care, libraries, and independent business owners. Respondents represented internal IT departments in government, hospitals, libraries, and banks as well as full-service IT solutions companies. Most internal IT departments provide services such as hardware and software installation, computer servicing and repair, installation and maintenance of mail servers, equipment upgrades, and help-desk services via e-mail and telephone. They may also be required to maintain an equipment inventory. Full-service, independent IT solutions companies provide many of the same services in addition to making service calls, developing custom software, designing and hosting Web pages, e-mail hosting, building custom PCs, installing and maintaining networks, and making equipment and software recommendations. Computer support specialists employed in either environment require a vast repertoire of skills. Technical skills in networking, security, computer servicing, and Web programming are important, but a successful computer support specialist must develop a variety of other skills as well. Interpersonal skills are important in this position, and specialists who possess these skills are highly valued. Written and oral communication skills, attention to detail, and the ability to find solutions to problems are also desirable skills in the IT field. Other essential traits include self-motivation and the ability to work independently and as a contributing team member.

Technical Skills Employment in this field requires a range of skills. Computer support specialists are responsible for hardware and software installation, computer servicing and repair, hardware replacement, web page design and maintenance, maintaining network security, and troubleshooting computer systems. Crossover training is important so that employees have a foundation of IT skills in several areas. Employers desire workers who have practical experience in the field, and training programs should include hands-on, true-to-life experiences.


Interpersonal Communication Industry surveys revealed the importance of training computer support specialists to deliver clear, respectful verbal communication and to work with people of diverse backgrounds. Employees must practice excellent interpersonal skills, especially when interacting with customers. IT specialists must be polite, professional, and able to communicate with respect when providing support to clients. Several respondents who worked in internal IT departments in large organizations noted that their clients (librarians, nurses, government workers) are professionals who are educated but may not be computer savvy. Communication from a computer support specialist can either support or hinder the effectiveness of these professionals in performing their jobs. It is imperative that computer support specialists develop patience in working with clients who may have limited technical skills. The ability to use correct grammar and the avoidance of slang terminology are also of utmost importance. Additionally, specialists must be able to give precise written and verbal instructions when providing help-desk services via e-mail or telephone while implementing appropriate e-mail and telephone etiquette techniques.

Written Communication Computer support specialists must be able to use word processing software and e-mail applications for report preparation and communication. Computer support specialists are often required to use technical writing skills to develop manuals, prepare reports, and keep maintenance logs. They must be able to respond coherently to both internal and external e-mail communications and must be able to communicate with others on a professional level, using correct format, appropriate grammar, and spelling. They should also be prepared to research and present information using electronic slide presentation software.

Additional Skills Computer support specialists must have a variety of additional skills to enable them to perform effectively in the IT field. Punctuality, high-quality performance, and teamwork skills are essential for IT employees. Attention to detail is important, as they must keep detailed notes and records of work performed. They must be able to conduct research and make comparisons of product lines in order to make product recommendations to clients. Criticalthinking, troubleshooting, and diagnostic skills are critical, as they must be able to work quickly under pressure to determine how to approach problems and implement solutions.

Summary and Conclusions In Mississippi, the employment outlook in the information technology career field is promising. Demand for employees in the field is expected to increase by 18% by 2016, adding 155,000 jobs. Wages are above average for the state with hourly wages ranging from $17.27 to $25.87 and annual salaries ranging from $35,920 to $53,810. The research indicates that IT professionals need a variety of skills including technical knowledge, written and verbal communications, analytical skills, and interpersonal skills. Technical skills required in the IT field include networking, security, computer servicing, and Web programming. The curriculum should emphasize these technical skills as well as interpersonal skills that include a respect for diversity and the need for professionalism in communicating with others. Written and verbal communication skills, the use of word processing, e-mail, and electronic presentation applications as well as the use of the Internet for research should also be included. Students should understand the importance of punctuality, high-quality performance, and teamwork. They should be given opportunities to exercise critical-thinking, troubleshooting, and diagnostic skills in high-pressure situations. The CompTIA A+ Certification provides a framework for the curriculum to ensure that students meet the standards required by employers in the IT field.

IT Research Synopsis  

IT Research Synopsis

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