The role of the typical school district technology director has become obsolete. Speak with your average teacher in many school districts in the U.S., and you’ll find the technology department is better known for getting in the way than for serving the educational needs of both staff and students. Many technology departments, led by obsolete tech directors, are inadvertently inhibiting learning. The mantra of “lock it and block it” no longer works in a 21st century digital learning environment.
Do how can technology directors avoid becoming obsolete?
1. Understand the need for anytime, anywhere learning for students and access for staff. Digital learning breaks the barrier of traditional seat time and set school days by making “anytime, anywhere learning” feasible. Find ways to support it. It’s what our students and staff need to remain competitive globally.
2. Stop being the digital police department. Instead, lead a digital learning customer service organization. Your role is to enable and promote, not to limit and deny. Build bridges, not roadblocks.
3. Encourage social media; don’t prohibit it. Social media allows for professional development, communication and networking worldwide. If your district only makes connections on the inside, it will become stale in a short time period. Be humble and realize that no district has all the answers. Therefore, connect globally.
4. Spend time in classrooms. The sad reality is that many technology directors don’t understand instructional pedagogy and needs at the classroom level. To understand instructional needs, you need to spend time in the classroom. Get in. Observe. Understand the learning environment before making decisions that affect it.
5. Talk to your teachers. Seek out their needs. What do the best teachers think? Find ways to support teachers with technology resources, not hinder their innovation.
6. Push your school administration to think digitally. Most administrators received their training prior to the realm of social media, digital learning, etc. Help administrators understand the wired generation and the unlimited opportunities that accompany digital learning. Encourage and model it to challenge their thinking.
7. Lead differentiated professional development. Understand that your staff needs support with implementation. Meet their needs by differentiating, not by utilizing an ineffective, one-sized-fits-all approach. Schools use this type of differentiated methodology for students. Your teachers need this same level of support.
8. Understand that your district has BYOD in place. All schools do. It’s whether you choose to embrace the learning tool that makes the difference. Encourage the device. Don’t outlaw the learning tool for students or staff.
9. Connect with educators on Twitter. Seek out the success and stumbling blocks of other districts. Engage in educational, worldwide conversations such as #edchat, #satchat, #cpchat or #BYOTchat so that others may challenge your thinking. Seek solutions to your struggles. Share in your success. Stay connected so that you stay relevant.
10. Be innovative. Promote out-of-the-box thinking and risk taking. Encourage others to problem solve and develop solutions. Instead of saying “we can’t,” ask “how can we?” Find a way. Be different.
Students and staff need technology directors that have not made themselves obsolete. For school districts to reach the pinnacle of success, the role of the technology director must morph into one that understands instructional practices, balances needed security, promotes access, differentiates professional development, encourages innovation, stays connected and uses a student-centered lens to make all decisions.
Tom Murray serves as the director of technology and cybereducation for the Quakertown Community School District in Bucks County, Pa. He was the recipient of the Blended Schools Network Leadership Award in 2012 and was featured in Tech & Learning Magazine’s Leader Profile this month. Murray’s QCSD program has been highlighted by Forbes.com, THE Journal, Project Red, the Innosight Institute and iNACOL, among others. Connect with him on Twitter @thomascmurray.