The Evolving Role of the Technology Department
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?