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Tech Leadership | News

Report: Technology and Educators Need to Start Working Together Better

When was the last time you spent a day in a classroom to understand what teachers and students most need or attended a conference or site visit as part of a team that included teachers? Schools can no longer keep technology specialists and educators separated. In fact, teachers can be the "best advocates" for moving technology initiatives forward in a district — once they understand how and why it will support teaching and learning. Those are some of the points made by participants during two panel discussions that took place during March and June leadership forums held by the Consortium for School Networking.

CoSN just released two reports, one for each event, to summarize the thinking that surfaced at the forums. "The 'Undiscussables' of Technology Leadership: Engaging in Challenging Conversations" examined subjects that many school IT leaders consider too risky to bring out in the open even as they stop them from becoming "audacious leaders." The second report, "Technology Department Landscape: That was Then, This is Now!" summarized the ideas for building a "tech department dream team."

Participants at both forums came up with plenty of challenges that hold them back:

  • Creating a common vision and the right pacing for implementing technology;
  • Keeping up with ever-expanding bandwidth requirements;
  • Dealing with equity issues in a BYOD environment;
  • Focusing technology budgets toward instructional use;
  • Building community support;
  • Keeping ahead of funding restraints;
  • Grappling with data integration issues for cloud-based services;
  • Changing teacher mindsets to adopt new forms of professional development;
  • Changing mindsets to assess initiatives through the eyes of teachers and students;
  • Helping IT staff to stay up with professional development; and
  • Replacing "command and control" practices with more open access while still complying with legal requirements.

At the same time, forum attendees provided suggestions for what has worked for them:

  • Making technology planning and support a team effort that includes administrators, teachers, curriculum leaders, and technology specialists (both instructional and operational);
  • Sustaining and embedding professional development in multiple forms, with personal learning networks and peer coaching playing a central role;
  • Exploiting cloud services to gain technology support outside "district walls" and positioning district IT people to act as intermediaries between the provider and the user to provide a "discriminating" eye for what products and services need to be "home-grown";
  • Supporting teachers in making the transition necessary to place students as "directors of their own learning and leaders in the classroom"; and
  • Performing ongoing program evaluations and policy review to make sure programs have long-lasting effects in meeting district needs.

"The undiscussables are rapidly becoming less mysterious, more commonplace, and more discussable through the power of collaboration and a unified vision," stated the reports' authors.

"Both reports echo common sentiments expressed by CTOs nationwide: District technology leaders face incredible challenges, from insufficient bandwidth and underfunding to weak internal communications to lack of stakeholder recognition and support," said Keith Krueger, CEO of CoSN. "As a result, CTOs and all district-level leaders need to collaborate and develop a shared understanding and an agenda on how to best harness technology resources to maximize their positive impact."

The reports are only available to CoSN members from CoSN's online store at cosn.org/knowledge-center.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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