THE Journal: Technological Horizons in Education – Enjoy articles that focus on IT and classroom technologies. Appreciate the focus on K12.
CIO – Chief Information Office website provides me valuable insight in the IT industry and trends that potentially affect the K12 environment.
Campus Technology – Focus is on Higher Education campus enterprise networking and infrastructure.
EDTECH – The first #edtech print publication that I started reading, now I just follow the K12 website edition.
Converge – Chronicles trends in technology in education and appreciate their willingness to reach out to the people, including myself.
MindShift – This one is new to me, but I have enjoyed the posts recently around educational technology thought leadership.
Tech & Learning – The best practices and SchoolCIO sections of the website are of interest to me.
EdSurge – Probably the lesser known of the group, but they are highlighting some great innovations in education.
Network World – The longest tenured “geeky” magazine that I consistently follow. Network world focuses on all the next generation infrastructure developments.
MacWorld – As an Apple “fanboy,” keeping with Apple news is essential. Especially with movement towards tablets and iOS apps.
There was a time when technology departments were just seen as technical support, district compliance (also known as “control”) and managers of information. It was the office filled with “geeks” who knew very little about teaching and preferred to speak in bits and bytes. It was often treated as a separate entity responsible for making sure equipment was working properly and protecting the data in the network. While the work of support, installation and maintenance are still a vital component of tech department services, it can no longer live alone in our 21st century learning environment.
“Tech support must combine with professional development, technology vision and strategic technology planning for successful integration.”
I believe there are three core services the technology department has to provide in order for successful technology integration in K12 schools/districts. And all three are equally important and can no longer be left without the other two. The three core services are Support Services, Professional Development, and Strategic Planning, Research, & Documentation.
The objective of support services is to maintain and install infrastructure equipment in the classrooms. Tech support is a thankless job often, and it requires a certain fortitude to be successful with mounting odds. I have seen some outrageous numbers of computer to technician ratios. Nevertheless, support services is a critical component to building trust in technology. No matter how talented a teacher is with technology integration, without working equipment, it could prove difficult. Timely and efficient support services goes a long way with school buy-in of technology. It is important as well to develop a tech support culture of empowerment and not control.
“Successful technology departments are not troubleshooting day-to-day tech support tickets, but rather empowering users and providing structured professional development.”
Putting technology in the classroom without proper professional development = money squandered. You can invest in tons of equipment, but without proper training and structured professional development, much of the equipment can sit there acquiring dust. Professional development is the key driver in any technology integration as it creates the culture needed for technology adoption. As a side note, the more technology proficient our K12 users are, the less tech support tickets are submitted.
“Implementing changes in technology requires thorough planning and strategy when dealing with such a diverse user base.”
Strategic Planning, Research and Documentation
With the rapid changes that occur in technology, the tech department has to be actively planning and researching what is available for K12 schools. There needs to be a continued focus in emerging technologies and a culture of life-long learning. In just the past few years, developments in technology have “changed” the game in how technology can be infused in the classroom. Without strategic planning with academic departments, the tech department can be left with programs to support that don’t align with technology vision. It is more and more critical that the tech department collaborate with other departments and develop plans that are aligned across all stakeholders.
The District Administration website released an article today titled SPECIAL TECHNOLOGY REPORT: The Changing Role of the CTO with a subheading of “District technology leaders are taking on greater responsibilities and contributing to the strategic vision of school systems.” It is with great affirmation that others are spreading the word about the changing role of technology in schools from an administrative level. As I have always said, the role of technology is rapidly changing and that there needs to be a new term given to the department. Below are the several posts I have written in the past related to the article above. Lets keep spreading the word!
There was a time when technology departments were just seen as technical support, district compliance (also known as “control”) and managers of information. It was the office filled with “geeks” who knew very little about teaching and preferred to speak in bits and bytes. It was often treated as a separate entity responsible for making sure equipment was working properly and protecting the data in the network. The thought of the technology department making decisions on any academic curriculum was as far fetch as teachers making decisions on technology infrastructure. How times have changed…
In recent years, those ideas above have quickly merged into what I call Education Information Technology, the concept of blending technology with education to build next generation schools and classrooms. The thought of separate entities are rapidly becoming the old model, where nowadays, decisions have to be jointly made between academics and technologists. In my humble opinion, the technology decision makers have one of the most critical roles in evolving the educational model for our schools and districts. With the proliferation of educational software and integration of technologies in the classroom, technology decision makers are dealing with far more implications than switches and routers. Not only are network considerations critical to support the classrooms, but the tools that teachers are using are sliding towards the technology pendulum at exponential rates.
The architecture now has multiple layers to evaluate and requires a more comprehensive systems perspective from our technologists. Technologists are now asked to understand how instructional technologies such as interactive whiteboards, online content, social media, and video cameras are integrating with information data systems and network infrastructure. Technologists are now asked to balance a fair acceptable use policy to answer security and safety concerns while providing teachers access to web 2.0 tools and other social networks. Technologists are now asked to understand student data points to build integrated systems to provide teachers dashboards of information. Technologists are now asked to evaluate tools and online curriculum to make decisions on blended learning models. Technologists are now asked to understand student and teacher needs for end-user devices to support 21st century learning. Technologists are now asked to facilitate professional development and developed a culture around 21st century learning. It almost begs the question…
Do our technology decision makers need an education background to support the next generation school? From my point of view, I have seen some amazing teachers handle all services in the technology department, and I have also seen amazing IT folks with compassion and understanding of educator needs. At the end of the day the head of technology needs a new set of skills to tackle the rapidly evolving 21st century schools.
I have written many posts in the past about what skills technologists need to be successful in the next generation K12 school environment, but recently I have came upon a framework that encapsulated many of my thoughts on Education Information Technology. CoSN has established a new framework called Essential Skills of the K12 CTO, which provides a comprehensive list of skills the next generation technologists need to be a “viable” decision maker for schools. I was very happy to see a framework parallel what I have been thinking these past few years and excited to learn more about the program. The framework breaks down into four categories of Leadership and Vision, Understanding Educational Environment, Managing Technology & Support Resources, and Core Values & Skills. Within each category, there are subcategories that CTO and technology decision makers will need to be a successful and critical member of the district/school. While I am envious that I didn’t come up with this framework, I am excited that my ideas matched with a major organization’s idea of a successful technologists.
PostScript: This entry is inspiring to write a post about why we should no longer call it The Technology Department?
5/4/11 – Here is the post Should we even call it the Technology Department anymore?
One of the rising concerns in IT departments is how to effectively deploy and manage mobile devices on their network. With tablets, iPods, and other mobile devices becoming prevalent in K12 schools, IT departments are scrambling in how to manage the devices effectively while providing flexibility for instructional leaders to update content. While there are many procedural implementations that need to be structured, there also needs to be quality tools for technology administrators to manage the devices. With the proper MDM solution, administrators would be able to push out new apps, set policies, and even lock down mobile devices when a student takes it home for homework. The following companies support iOS and Android platforms: Zenprise, Tangoe, Air Watch, Mobile Iron, Boxtone and Sybase. These MDM solutions supports only iOS: Absolute Software and JAMF Software. It is just one more system to integrate into your next generation K12 infrastructure.
After reading the article Google Pushes Education Software Through App Store, I began thinking about the next step for Google Apps for Education. Now that many classes, schools, and districts are using GA4E with their students, I find the next logical step for Google is to start partnering with educational software tools to provide a wider breadth of applications. It is a brilliant move! Google hooked us educators with a great web platform; and now they can leverage the user base to get these 3rd party companies to sell us products. I have always said, the education sector is the next big industry and technology is driving that business. Since GA4E is a simple and robust administrative platform, it will make it easy for technology administrators to bring in new education applications into their infrastructure without much overhead. If evolved strategically, GA4E can become the web platform for the next generation edtech initiatives. Can you imagine in the future, GA4E integrating with Learning Management Systems, SIS, virtual worlds, and online interactive education content? You would have to think Google had this in mind prior to launching a free Google Apps for Education…muahahah!
The common argument here is that EdTech specialists are not technical enough, while IT specialists have no clue what teachers need. My hopes is to eliminate this issue by creating a new hybrid degree in EdTech/IT, hence the name EduIT. This program would enhance the already strong EdTech community by giving EdTech specialists an opportunity to study engineering and IT fundamentals. It will prove beneficial if this new specialist will have understanding of security, programming, and network design systems. Armed with this knowledge, who wouldn’t want this new EduIT specialist to lead our next generation school technology infrastructures.
Schools require a new breed of Information Technology than the traditional enterprise network. The corporate enterprise network model doesn’t seem to fit the nature of a K12 school. Obviously, we need to protect student information systems that house confidential data about our populations, but overall I feel instructional institutions need to embrace an open & collaborative environment focused on integrating technology into the classroom.
The traditional enterprise IT Director role may not fit the role for school technology infrastructures. Quite boldly: “Whoever is in charge of educational technology should be in charge of the direction of information technology at the school.” I still believe there needs to be an IT specialist who takes care of day to day technology support, but the Director of Technology should be an Educational Technologist who has classroom experience to bring to the table. We are at a point in education where technology is a paradigm shifting tool in our classrooms, and we need experts in both education and technology to lead the way.
Let’s call it EduIT (Education Information Technology). The EduIT director fosters 21st century skills and invests in tools & professional development that pushes the IT department to empower teachers to use technology in the classroom. Why keep two departments separate? EdTech should be driving the decisions on infrastructure, such as moving to a Google Apps environment for communication and collaboration. When we moved to this environment at our site, we saved money and time working on tech support issues while also creating an environment that supported effective real time communication.
The EduIT director will spend more time working with teachers and administrators to create the ideal integrated technology classroom environment. This will lend itself to focusing on tools such as student response systems, gesture-based computing, and technology data-driven assessments for classroom integration. It will also focus on collaborative web environments focused on wikis, micro-blogging, and other social media apps. The cloud computing sector has evolved to a point where traditional IT processes & job duties are no longer needed, and less time is needed to support our users. Moreover, the web 2.0 environment has evolved to make it easier for non-tech savvy users to integrate technology with little tech support. The role of EduIT director would focus on professional development training with understanding of technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPACK).
As our schools evolve and embrace educational technologies, it only makes sense that Educational Technology should merge with Information Technology.
This will require some changes on how we train our EdTech specialists who will be filling the role of the technology director. This is where I believe the EdTech specialist needs to evolve into a broader profession to include Information Technology studies.
I have a bachelors in electrical engineering, and have spent seven years working in the information technology industry. I have been in teaching (Masters in Education) for six years and have been the director of technology for four. My experiences in both education and technology has brought me to the conclusion that we need a new hybrid degree for the next generation EdTech specialist.
As schools become more integrated with tablets, interactive whiteboards, and smartphones, building a school infrastructure that supports this environment will be key to success. Furthermore, as schools become more dependent on web applications and cloud computing, network demands will be pushing for more security, collaboration and accessibility.
The new EdTech specialist will not only need to have their basic understanding of technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPACK), but will also need to have a fundamental understanding of information technologies. And within information technology studies, their needs to be a fundamental understanding of the engineering design process. According to wikipedia, the engineering design process is: “the process of servicing a system, component or process to meet desired deeds. It is a decision-making process (often iterative), in which the basic sciences,mathematics, and engineering sciences are applied to convert resources optimally to meet a stated objective. Among the fundamental elements of the design process are the establishment of objectives and criteria, synthesis, analysis, construction, testing, and evaluation.”
By studying the engineering design process, our next generation EdTech specialist will have fundamental understanding of system design. If the end goal is transform schools by having a fully integrated educational technology solution, how can an EdTech specialist not be included in the design process of technology infrastructures. I often find that IT departments do not include EdTech in decisions regarding infrastructure because of the perceived lack of technical expertise. But if the end goal is to service teachers and students, it is absolutely critical that the EdTech specialist be part of the design process.
Below is the technology mission statement I developed for our charter schools. It has been a productive summer developing the new department to serve our seven schools for the 2010-2011 school year.
We deliver 21st century technology learning opportunities that foster academic excellence leading to global collaboration, digital citizenship, and a love for learning.
- All students and staff can learn and should have access to current and relevant technology and support resources.
- Provide technology learning resources and tools to empower staff and students to participate in global collaborative environments.
- Provide quality support and maintenance of technology services.
- Research current technology best practices and provide on-going professional development.
- Encourage and promote 21st century skills and digital citizenship.
- All students can achieve technology proficiency using computers on a regular scheduled basis.
- There will be a staff technology core level proficiency framework. It is expected that all staff fill out the EdTech Profile provided by the State of California. The technology department will facilitate professional development on core level competencies.
- All students and staff will adhere to high standards of digital citizenship.
- Only technology initiatives/implementations collaborated with the technology department will be supported and maintained.
- Only school issued technology equipment can be formerly supported by the technology department.
Our technology department just launched our new tech support request system and we built it all with Google free tools. We provided our users with two options to submit a tech support request. The first option is to leverage our Google Apps Edu infrastructure using Google Forms. We created a simple Google Form that asked for information and detailed messages about the tech support issue. It automatically retrieves their account information and populates a Google Spreadsheet shared with my technology team.
If the tech support issue is not being able to access the Internet, we provided our users with a Google Voice number to submit a request. We established a Google Voice local number that users can call to drop a message. Google Voice is feature rich and it allowed us to move away from a virtual PBX solution. Users call the number, leave a voicemail and Google Voice transcribes the message and sends an email to my technology team. It also keeps a voice record of all our submitted tech support requests.
Just another way to reduce the costs of information technology in K12. Drop a comment if you want more specifics. @franze98 has also another great alternative that integrates with Google Apps Edu called eStreamDesk.