The Changed Roles of the School/District Tech Director/Manager

Ten years ago, the guy in charge of IT had a relatively non-collaborative and straightforward job. Broadly we were responsible for the traditional management functions of planning, organizing, leading and controlling. Specifically we oversaw the procurement, installation and repair of hardware and software, the network and servers. We seldom interfaced with faculty and staff other than to take direction, respond to service requests or request funding. Given the hundreds of tasks involved in successfully performing those functions, we were busy and, if we were lucky enough to have them, our staffs were busy.

The truth has changed. What we do less of and what we do more of, more or less cancels each other out. We still are very, very busy. In most institutions, we are well beyond integrating technology into our classrooms (provisioning with operable computers and interactive whiteboards). A major change, the main goal of the modern IT director/manager, is to facilitate (read “manage”) the successful integration of technology into the curriculum, instructional units, lesson plans and learning activities. The ideal approach is through coaching/mentoring, professional development and learning communities. A great discussion about these approaches is at the Center for Public Education website. I couldn’t say it better but I will emphasize that we’re not talking about traditional workshop-based professional development, which as been shown by numerous studies to be ineffective. Please read the article.

Other affective truths are the changes (I hesitate to use “advancements”–I’ll wait for validated results) in educational technology, the students, and pedagogies including:  the shift toward mobile technologies; cloud computing (SaaS -software as a service; PaaS-platform as a service; and IaaS-infrastructure as a service); all students are now “digital natives”, many being technologically sophisticated; open source software; the need to ensure that students remain familiar with technologies that they might be using after school; learning management systems (LMS) (e.g. Moodle); online courses (MOOC); staying ahead of the available apps and software to support each content area; one-on-one computing in the classroom; bring your own device (BYOD); the flipped classroom; blended learning; learning partnerships; game enhanced learning; project-based learning; peer teaching; brain-based learning; differentiated instruction; just-in-time teaching; deep learning (whatever that is); etc.

Educational technology changes are accompanied by fear and operational and resource problems: privacy, security, safety, available band width, available funding, qualified technicians, committed administrators and board members, and push back to name a few. The technology manager/director must become an expert in change management and an integral part of the change planning and execution team. As technology becomes more infused into administrative and management functions, the curriculum, instructional units, lesson plans and learning activities, the more involved the educational technologist should be.