2009leadershipday02For Leadership Day 2009, here are some key questions that I’d ask about the technology leadership function in any school district:

  1. Who is primary responsible for technology leadership in the district?
  2. If the answer to Question 1 is not the superintendent, who is the primary technology leader’s direct supervisor?
  3. If the answer to Question 1 is not the superintendent, does that person sit on the superintendent’s cabinet?
  4. If the answer to Question 1 is not the superintendent, how often does that person meet individually with the superintendent?
  5. How many other job titles (or what other job responsibilities) does the primary technology leader have?
  6. Is the primary technology leader in charge of both networking / hardware / software support AND technology integration or just one?
  7. Is technology leadership a shared function within the district or does it primarily reside in one person?
  8. How big is the differential between the primary technology leader’s salary and what she could make in a similar corporate environment?
  9. What kind of (and how much) professional development does the primary technology leader receive each year?
  10. How big is the differential between the technology staff:computer ratio and what occurs in a similar corporate environment?
  11. What percentage of technology-related expenditures go toward educator professional development?
  12. What percentage of the technologies purchased by the district were primarily student-centric (as opposed to teacher-centric)?
  13. When was the district’s last technology referendum? Did it pass? How close was the vote?
  14. When was the last time (if ever) that students were asked about their experiences using (or not using) technology in their classes? What did they say?
  15. And, what might be the most important question of all, how many minutes per week, on average, do students use digital technologies as part of their classroom learning experiences (and how do they spend those minutes)?

I’m sure that I could think of other questions too, but these are a good start. Here’s why the answers to these questions matter:

  1. If it’s not the superintendent, it’s the wrong answer. No one else has the power to set and facilitate the district-wide vision for effective technology usage.
  2. If it’s not the superintendent, it’s the wrong answer. The further down the org chart the primary technology leader sits, the harder it is for that individual to facilitate necessary change.
  3. If no, that’s the wrong answer. Not including the primary technology leader on the superintendent’s cabinet sends a message to the entire organization (and the outside world) that technology is nonessential.
  4. Ideally the primary technology leader would meet individually with the superintendent at least as often as the curriculum director, associate superintendent, business manager, and/or other top-level district staff. Desired frequency will vary by district, but I would say every few weeks at a minimum.
  5. Many primary technology leaders wear other hats (principal, superintendent, director of facilities, business manager, etc.). Effective technology leadership is a full-time job. I understand that many districts – particularly smaller ones – need to job share, but the more this person’s work is diluted across multiple titles and/or responsibilities, the less successful the district’s technology efforts will be. Guaranteed.
  6. If just one, that’s the wrong answer. Separating these functions is a potential recipe for disaster because it often leads to turf and/or resource conflicts, facilitates confusion by classroom teachers, results in the integration function being marginalized or nonexistent, and so on.
  7. Ideally the technology function is shared across the district. Effective change is much more likely to happen when many pull together.
  8. The lower this differential the better, unless you want to lose your technology leader.
  9. Pay close attention to the number of days the primary technology leaders gets for her own professional learning. Also pay attention to whether those days are just focused on networking/hardware/software support versus technology integration, how to facilitate effective change within complex organizations, large societal/workforce shifts that will impact schools, building effective teams, and other non-technical, leadership-related topics.
  10. The lower this differential the better, unless you want to lose your technology leader. Corporate computer:support staff ratios tend to range between 75:1 and 150:1. In K-12 education, ratios tend to be 300:1 or higher (and it is not uncommon to see 800:1 or worse).
  11. Ideally this number would be between 25% and 50%. A corollary question might be How much of the computer equipment that you’ve purchased doesn’t get used very often?
  12. The higher this percentage the better. It’s important for teachers to use computers. But it’s more important for students to use computers since they’re the ones that we’re supposedly preparing for their future lives.
  13. A lot of districts have trouble passing technology referenda. Sometimes they’re close, sometimes they’re not. Taking a look at how a district pitches its technology referenda to its local community can tell you a lot about the district, the community, or both.
  14. For most districts, the answer to this will be rarely or never. That’s the wrong answer. The correct answer is at least every year.
  15. For most districts, the answer to this rarely will be more than a couple of hours (and often will be less than one hour). That’s the wrong answer in a digital, global era.

I’m looking forward to the rest of the posts for this year!