Technology Leadership

CoSN Issues Revised Framework for Essential Skills

In offering its vision for 21st-century education, the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), a leading professional association for school district technology leaders in the United States, has set forth a guideline for the nation's education community: In order to bring a school district successfully into the 21st century, a district leader must have a vision for what will constitute an appropriate environment for his or her district, must possess or acquire the skills necessary to build that environment, and then must lead the district in its creation and implementation.

While the responsibilities of most administrative executives in this capacity may be fluid and somewhat abstract, the organization has asserted that, for technology leaders, the requirements must be well defined and detailed with regard to leadership and vision, program management, communication and "people" skills, and technology operation and use.

To this end, CoSN today has issued its long-awaited revised framework for the skills and knowledge essential to all K-12 technology leaders--chief technology officers (CTO), chief information officers (CIO), and technology directors, as well as all other executives primarily in charge of technology for a district or independent school.

"While other education leadership positions have long been defined and established," CoSN explained in its introduction to the framework, "the executive role for technology leadership is relatively new and still only sporadically realized." The organization developed the framework to address the changing responsibilities of the technology leader and to define the professional development needs for those who play such a critical role. It also lays the groundwork for a certification program that can gain national acceptance, which "will help ensure that these executive-level technology leaders possess the skills and competencies necessary to provide school district technology leadership in the 21st century."

Originally created in 2001 by CoSN's CTO Council, the framework is an extensive set of categorized skills, some operational and some strategic, that every district technology leader should either possess or pursue via one of a number of professional development options in order to learn and build. In the eight years since its original implementation, technology in U.S. schools has undergone a myriad of changes, and with the revised framework CoSN seeks to address many of these changes while giving all hands-on district leaders, in technology and other areas, a thorough guide, not only for their own development, but for the educational environments over which they preside.

"It's unlikely that the professional development requirements for these positions were as up-to-date as they needed to be, from a leadership standpoint, and from a technology standpoint," said Keith Krueger, CEO of CoSN. "This gives district technology leaders a roadmap of what they need to be focused on in order to move from technology being a silo to technology enabling the entire enterprise of the district."

The framework document itself is simply a chart defining essential skills that fall under four primary groupings and under two to five subgroupings for each:

  • Leadership & Vision: Strategic Planning; Ethics & Policies.
  • Understanding Educational Environment: Instructional Focus; Professional Development; Team Building & Staffing; Stakeholder Focus.
  • Managing Technology & Support Resources: Information Technology; Communication Systems; Business; Data.
  • Core Values & Skills: Communicator; Exhibits Courage; Flexible & Adaptable; Results-oriented; Innovative.

Detailed explanations of the groupings and subgroupings, the individuals and organizations involved in the framework's development, and additional information about the framework's history, methodology, implications, and goals, as well as the proposed program for certification, can be found at the Initiatives page of the CoSN Web site. The complete document, "CoSN 2009 Framework of Essential Skills for District Technology Leaders," in chart form, can be found here.

About the Author

Scott Aronowitz is a freelance writer based in Las Vegas. He has covered the technology, advertising, and entertainment sectors for seven years. He can be reached here.