Should we get rid of technology directors?

[This is a guest post from Doug Green. If you’re interested in being a guest blogger, drop me a note. Happy reading!]

Update: see also Don Watkins’ response to this post.

With the coming of computers to schools, district leaders felt the need to hire district level administrators to oversee instructional and administrative computer systems. After about 30 years, some districts are finding that they can do without their own technology gurus. Has the school district technology director gone from life on the cutting edge of technology in education to obsolescence? The purpose of this article is to explore reasons why this may be the case.

Things Have Changed

At one point is was possible for at least a few educators to have a good grasp of what computer technology could do and understand what it took to maintain stand alone systems. With the advent of school and district-wide networks, however, there was a need to add network specialists to maintain the district infrastructure. As the number of workstations in classrooms and offices expanded, there was also a need for staff that were trained and dedicated to maintain them. This meant that the technology director was leading a growing staff of non educators at the same time computers and other technologies were expanding into every niche of the instructional program.

To some districts it makes no sense to have an administrator who was most likely a former teacher responsible for computer networks. Such networks now resemble other utilities such as electricity, natural gas, and telephone service. They can be purchased from a private vendor or from a local school district service bureau such as the Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) system in New York State. As for administrative computer services, the software and support are purchased from somewhere. Rather than going through the technology director, the people responsible for the services like the director of attendance for student information, the principals for scheduling and mark reporting, and the business office for functions like payroll can just deal directly with the agency selling and supporting the service.

On the instructional side, the mere existence of a technology director can allow other leaders to think that they are not responsible for the integration of instructional technology. They see it as something separate rather than a part of the big instructional picture. When principals and teachers see instructional technology as someone else’s job, they are less likely to adopt in an effective manner anything that the “technology person” pushes into the classrooms.

The Great Enabler?

As the job of the technology director has been taken over by organizations like BOCES and other district administrators I have seen people in these position look for ways to be useful which can often enable bad habits among their fellow administrators. In one district I found the person helping the assistant superintendent for instruction count the number of days school had been in session to make sure that the end of year plan would comply with state regulations. His massive spreadsheet made the task seem complicated when all one needed to do what take a calendar and count up to 180.

Studies summarized by Rogers (2003) show that top down decisions are less likely to enjoy successful adoption in education than in other organizations. This is due to the fact that teachers with masters degrees think they know what they are doing and enjoy a sense of freedom that gives them a good deal of control over how they deliver the curriculum. In order to get teachers to implement a new technology effectively, it helps if they feel some ownership for the decision to adopt. The technology director may also be seen as a person who can do things with technology that are beyond most teachers. Teachers are more likely to follow a peer who they feel has technical expertise similar to their own.

In effective schools, decisions about instructional technology initiatives are more likely to come from district or building shared decision-making teams. This gives the decisions a bottom up aspect that increases the likelihood that they will work.

The Data Piece

Another function that can land in the technology director’s portfolio is that of chief information officer (CIO). This is a title that the New York State Education Department has asked districts to use so that they have an entry point for dealing with instructional data including scores on state tests. A look around the central New York region shows that this title can land just about anywhere. While some districts give it to an assistant superintendent, others bestow it on the technology director, and still others give it to a programmer, a teacher, or even a secretary.

In essence, this job has two main functions. One is to lead the district and the individual schools as they analyze test results and other instructional data in order to make informed instructional decisions. As Burdet, City, and Murname (2005) show, this is a job that should clearly run through the superintendent’s office and the offices of the principals and should involve committees of teachers. Giving it to some technology person may produce fancy charts and graphs, but it is not likely to make the kind of instructional impact that in intended.

The other part of the job is caring for the data itself and making sure it is correctly reported to the state in a timely manner. I did this for my former district during the year after I retired so I know what it involves and I have seen how many other districts deal with it. Whoever does it will need rudimentary data processing skills and a modest understanding of relational databases. It certainly should not fall to a high paid administrator. It could even be given to a capable clerk or sent to a regional support service.

All Administrators Should be Tech Savvy

As part of the work I do teaching leadership for teachers seeking administrative certification, I read the job postings each week in the New York Times. I look for common themes and trends so I can let my students know what districts are looking for in the way of knowledge, experience, and expertise in their new hires. Many ads contain a bulleted list of items that include communication skills, collaborative leadership styles, and a vision of how all students can succeed. For the last several years, however, they also usually include something like the following found in a recent posting:

Has expertise in the use of instructional technology and the utilization of achievement data to advance student learning

When microcomputers first entered the classroom in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, many of the members of the administrative class had attended college in a era where they could submit hand written work or pay someone else to do the typing. Even today I still know of administrators who don’t do email simply because they can’t use a keyboard. One even told me that he only wanted “one button to push.” You can imagine how happy he was when I set him up with a computer that had a one-button mouse.

Now the classes I teach feature some students who are almost digital natives as they don’t remember a time when their schools didn’t have computers. As more future leaders show up with computer skills, districts are in a position to expect that their new leaders can manage instructional technology without having to ask a district technology person what to do.

And a Child Shall Lead Them

In 1976 when my district got its first computer, I was the science department chair. I had no time to figure out how it worked so I let some of my students who had an interest “play” with it. I soon became the “adult” expert even though I knew less than the students and within two years became the district computer director. Two years later I was hired by a larger district as their first Director of Computer Services with a big raise and an office next to the superintendent.

As part of my doctoral research I noticed that teachers who learned from their students were often the ones who did the most with instructional technology. With the coming of the Internet, the students had easy access to the world of information which made finding facts like shooting sitting ducks (McKenzie, 1998). As one superintendent told me, “we don’t own the information any more” (Green, 2001).

I recently worked with a doctoral student who was reviewing her work from the early 1990s. This prompted me to make a list of the technological innovations that have arrived since 1991 that I felt were likely to have some impact on instruction.

New Technologies with Possible Impact on Education Since 1991

  • 1991 QuickTime Introduced
  • 1991 First Smartboard becomes commercially available
  • 1994 Netscape 1.0 browser available for Internet surfing
  • 1995 The first Internet Wiki
  • 1996 Cell phones become common in United States
  • 1996 First Mobile cell phone with built-in PDA
  • 1996 Hotmail – Free web-based email for anyone
  • 1996 Java and Javascript programming languages add applications to the Web
  • 1998 The First web log also known as a blog
  • 1999 QuickTime 4.0 supports streaming video
  • 1999 Macromedia Flash 4.0 handles inputs and MP3 audio files
  • 1999 iMovie is free with iMac purchase
  • 2000 Google – The world’s search engine
  • 2000 Instant Messaging starts to take off
  • 2000 PayPal makes it easy and safe to pay for Internet purchases
  • 2001 Douglas Green uses speech recognition to transcribe dissertation interviews
  • 2001 iPods and iTunes become available
  • 2001 Text messaging starts to take off
  • 2002 USB flash drive memory cards become available
  • 2002 The term is Blogoshpere adopted to represent the world of blogs on the Internet
  • 2004 Facebook & Myspace make social networking more available
  • 2004 Podcasting allows new form for media distribution
  • 2004 Duke University gives an iPod to each freshman
  • 2004 GarageBand allows for easier music editing
  • 2005 Eye tracking systems become available for disabled
  • 2005 RSS (real simple syndication) adds a new type of spam
  • 2005 Guitar Hero joins the gaming culture
  • 2005 YouTube allows anyone to publish and access videos
  • 2006 PornoTube adds to the worries of parents and teachers
  • 2006 Student Response Systems (clickers) become affordable for educational use
  • 2006 Flickr available to customers in United States for storing and organizing media
  • 2006 Skype becomes available for free calls and video conferencing
  • 2006 Sherburne/Earlville, NY Schools place a SmartBoard in every classroom
  • 2006 Wii adds a physical aspect to gaming
  • 2006 Twitter adds yet another type of spam for Internet and cell phone users
  • 2007 Wikipedia becomes the largest encyclopedia ever with more than 2 million articles
  • 2007 iPhones are introduced bringing countless capabilities to cell phone users
  • 2009 A USB flash drive costs about $20 for one gigabyte 

A look at this list should lead one to think that many students are more comfortable with some of this technology than their teachers. I have had many of my administrative students tell me that they would be lost were it not for the computer help they get from their own teenage children.

When a technology innovation comes to the classroom by way of the technology director it is likely to focus on the technology. When it arrives as the result of initiatives owned by the teachers, it is more likely to focus on the content. An example from the art department that I have seen in many schools makes this point. If computers in the art rooms have a technology focus the likely result will be courses that teach how to use software such as Photoshop and Illustrator. If the computers are introduced by the art teachers they are more likely to use these tools to focus on artistic concepts and to promote artistic craft.

This month, for example, the magazine Edutopia (Bernard, 2009) has a cover story about an article where students offer lesson plan ideas that feature items from my list. My point here is that any school district looking for ideas about instructional technology is unlikely to get all they need from a single source technology director.

Goodbye Wizard of Oz.

Once a district decides to eliminate the technology director position the next questions is what happens to the person in that position. If the person is seen as bright, hard working, and knowledgeable they can be moved to other positions of leadership. Depending on their talents they might make successful principals or assistant superintendents, which are much better positions from which to promote the use of instructional technology. They might also return to the classroom where they can become a model for innovation technology use. They may be able to retire as I have seen in several local districts or they might be able to secure employment with one of the district’s technology vendors or the local school-support agency.

In 1993 when I held this position I was able to un-invent myself by convincing the superintendent that the administrative and network supervision aspects of my job could be sent to our local BOCES and that the responsibility for the instructional piece should be placed in the hands of the building principals who could look to a district level staff developer for support when they needed to help their staff learn how to use new technology. At the time, the district saved $35,000 as a result of this move.

I should also point out that a reason for making my job disappear was so that I could become a principal in a building were the decision making team had a strong interest in moving ahead with instructional technology initiatives. My goal in writing this article, therefore, is not to put my fellow directors out of work by making them look like modern versions of the Wizard of Oz. My goal is to help schools make more effective use of their technology dollars as they empower all administrators, teachers, and even students in finding ways to allow instructional technology to facilitate and motive all learners. A job that has become impossible for one person can become possible once it is viewed as everyone’s job.

  • Bernard, S. (2009). Kids Talk Tech. Edutopia. June/July 2009, 22-27.
  • Boudett, K. P., City, E. A., & Murname, R. J. Eds. (2004). Data Wise: A Step by Step Guild to Using Assessment Results to Improve Teaching and Learning. Harvard Education Press: Cambridge, MA.
  • Green, D. W. (2001). The Impact of Internet Access of Elementary Classroom Teaching: A Constructivist Perspective. (Doctoral Dissertation, Binghamton University, Dissertation Abstracts International, 63 no. 01A(2001): p 151.
  • McKenzie, J. (1998). Grazing the Net: Raising a Generation of Free-Range Students, Phi Delta Kappan, 80(1), 26-31.
  • Rogers, E. M. (2003). Diffusion of Innovations, 5th ed. Free Press: New York, NY.

Douglas W. Green, Ed.D., was an administrator for 30 years and has 300+ publications in technology, education, and leadership. He retired to care for his wife who had Lou Gehrig’s disease and started blogging after her recent death. His blog at features book summaries and news items that makes it easy for busy educators to keep up to date.

29 Responses to “Should we get rid of technology directors?”

  1. I certainly see your point. Districts don’t expect their finance department to tell their staff how to spend money in an educational way or their maintainence departments the best educational use of a building. But, I don’t think it would be wise to outsource those functions. Instead hire an IT expert, possibly one who has never worked in education, and let the district know that teaching is not in their scope of responsibility.

    • I would have to disagree with your point that it would be better to hire on a non-teaching IT person. This tact results in a much higher cost to the district when the same functions could be performed by another organization, whether private or public. The key in determining who provides the best value of services/products is to look at not only the cost, but also the quality of product and the reliability of the provider.

      Nonetheless, keeping a tech director, or someone with a similar title/role, would likely benefit the district because s/he would be the liason between the school and the service provider… they’d be in the best position to know the technology needs of the district.

  2. I generally agree with you. I wonder if there is still a strong need for directors or consultants in the advocacy role. Principals and lead teachers dispersed in schools have many concerns beyond technological integration in the classroom. I think they find it difficult to be a focussed listener and articulate voice for technology integration. A consultant can draw the organization together.

  3. Although I believe you have looked deeply into the role of the tech director, I categorically disagree with your conclusion(s). I believe in this day and age what is needed is a true educator with a technology background to guide the school. Someone to make sure the outsourced network consultants are actually doing their job. One could argue that someone else could do that but I have found that consultants will try and double-talk you all day long. I don’t know how many times I save my school money by disagreeing with the outsourced network admin and implementing a different solution–WAY MORE than my salary. In addition, they tend to want to implement Fortune 500 solutions to cash-strapped schools. Finally, for every school administration that wants to integrate tech there are many more that do not have a clue. I am glad that you were able to become a principal, but I’m not sure it is wise to throw great tech directors under the bus. I can just see short-sighted admins using this blog post as a great reason to cut the position, especially in this economy.

  4. This is an interesting and timely piece for me. I’ve talked to several others about this very issue, some of them are either in this job or would like the job. I have wondered if we need such a position any more. Or perhaps better stated, what should the adoption rate or saturation point of the tech be before the position is eliminated?

    There is a possibility that a tech facilitator position at a local high school will become available this summer. I have been debating for the last couple of weeks what I should do about. I too would like to work myself out of such a job, but what then?

    Thanks for these thoughts. Our district is ready to get rid of such person, though maybe we might more accomplished without one. hmmm. . . .

  5. Dianne Pappafotopoulos Reply May 25, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    I am from a school that does not have a tech director. We have a network consultant, an instructional tech specialist, and faculty/staff members. As a result, most of the tech responsibilities and decisions fall on the shoulders of our principal. In turn, she delegates many different tasks to various people to perform. This model works, but it is sometimes difficult for all parties involved who may be taking on extra work in addition to their own. Naturally, our principal has an overwhelming amount of work to do with daily administrative tasks and with the addition of the technology duties, it may be overwhelming. I think that a tech director is essential to any school situation. We need people to manage all of the network, maintenance, tech integration and hardware/software happenings throughout the school. There is so much more involved. Having faculty that are computer literate who integrate technology into their curriculums is only a small part of the big picture. You still need someone to manage the entire process.

  6. I think that rather than doing away with the technology director, the position needs to evolve and be redefined. A school needs to have a clearly defined hierarchy in place when it comes to purchasing and implementing new technologies. The tech director should act in an advisory capacity but final purchasing power should lie with district and building level administrators. The primary purpose of a good technology director should be as a bridge between the administrators and the teachers, and the teachers and the students. This person MUST have an educational background and sound pedagogical skills. The tech director should attend meetings organized by the administration where teachers share what they are teaching, they should then think of innovative ways to utilize current technologies to push forward the goals of the school. This person should never set up servers and switches, never reset routers or access points. They should be thinking of curriculum first always.

    • When I read the article, I thought the same thing. That technology director’s role within the school should change. I only have personal experience in smaller schools. I see the coming of 1:1 programs and other new technology to districts, and think that the technology director should be used more for the integration of technology to the classroom, and not purely a tech person maintains the system and occasional teaches teachers how to use a new computer or the new grading software. A technology director in chorus with the other administrators, should be visible in the school to follow up on professional development related to technology and technology integration. I see this person as the go to person for what tools are out there for betterment of instruction and engagement of students. Teachers do not, and often don’t search out technology for their units and lessons, because they are ready have something that works. I think that technology directors should be there to help infuse technology into the already established units, lessons, and curriculum standards being taught. That they should have a more active role in the classroom.

  7. Dr. Green,
    Unfortunately we do not live in a world where our district administrators have a good sense of how technology works and many do not have a good vision of what it’s effective use might be in a classroom. Asking each department to contract with vendors/suppliers when they have no idea about spec/server or network requirements, firewalls, etc. would lead to some interesting implementations. Add to that BOCES level network support (which usually means you cannot have someone in the district full time) and what effect on reliability do we end up with? My experience (9 years in Ed Tech and more than I’d like to admit teaching) tells me that unreliable systems will not be used in classrooms.

    Now throw leadership into the mix. A HUGE part of the educational director of technology job is in communication and translation. IT people are not educators and visa versa. In order to balance the aspects of security, usability, reliability, effectiveness as a learning tool, and financial responsibility an informed leader whose concern is only the district and its students (not BOCES or the software companies) needs to lead the way.

    You say that all administrators should be tech savvy and I would agree. Yet I would also argue that the level of savvy is not the same as the level of understanding required to lead the direction of a district’s technology plan. Personally I want someone in the district who understands all of the aspects of the technology and its use. Most IT people have no clue of the perspective of the end user. The end user has no clue of the technological complexities of what is possible and what is not. Fragmenting the leadership role of an educator with EXPERTISE not just savvy is problematic at best.

  8. Interestingly, if you replace the words “technology director” with “superintendent” or with “principal”, the logic kind of looks the same. (IE, teachers would be a whole lot better off if the higher ups didn’t get in the way).

    The logic looks the same, but the conclusions are just as awkward. Which outstanding school district has no leadership at the school and also at the central office?

    There is a reason why much of the literature around school improvement indicates the need for significant instructional leadership – isn’t that what technology directors ought to be focused on (and if not, doesn’t it seem really silly to say the position is irrelevant when really the issue might be the way it is being carried out?)

  9. As I stand at a career cross-roads its good to read this. I’ve been trying to get my certification as a tech director here in Wisconsin for a few years and haven’t had much luck with the universities that offer it in my part of the state. Perhaps, I should take the hint and just focus on my main admin certification. I agree that when building principals lead the way, more gets accomplished in terms of instructional technology integration. Thanks for the post.

  10. How is director defined in this discussion? Is this a person who sits in an office and manages paperwork and budgets, or is this a person who supports and works directly with students, teachers and other administrators? If it’s the latter then this person is indespensible as they are involved with the well being of the primary constituent, the student. If this director is woven into the means with which technology is distributed throughout curriculum and making sure the means are current and available, then once again this person is indespensible. It really comes down to how one defines themself as “technology director”. I agree with the point that teachers need empowerment, but don’t agree that this will happen if you plop a computer in front of them and their students. For years I’ve seen the ‘cart placed before the horse’ and years more spent on misuse and abuse. There needs to be someone who can provide paths and resources to teachers who are asked to integrate. There needs to be someone who inspires and collaborates with faculty to help them craft curriculum that effectively engages students in a balance of communicative and constructive information technology development. Moving to a truly integrative educational system requires a complete shift in paradigm. This does not come without a large degree of direction and measurement. Teachers of the last century and those beginning this, continue to take didactic roles without a push in the other learner-centered direction. Directors are needed to encourage this model which, in essence, promotes the effective use of technology. This article, along with its author, are clearly trying to inflame and contend. If any of Dr. Greens points were valid then they could be just as easily twisted to abolish Superintendents, Principals, and an assortment of other valuable leaders. No I would give this propagandist no more attention, for it only strenghtens his resolve.

  11. Interesting. As a tech director, I can only imagine the food fight left behind if my position went away…
    This view is far different from what I am realizing in my district and seeing in others. Here is what COSN suggests the 21st century tech director should be able to do. I disagree that the need for the position is going away. It is becoming more neccessary for districts to keep up with the changes that are happening!

  12. Hi Scott,

    I love it and hope my superintendent reads it and finds a way to “repurpose” me.

    My tongue in cheek response is here:

    Keep up the provocative posts!


  13. What this article really points out is the wide range of expectations for the role of a technology director. In some districts it is a strictly IT or network administration position that does not involve teaching. In other schools it might be a technology integrationist charged with helping teachers find ways to integrate technology with curriculum to improve student engagement. In other schools, it might be a combination of both. Then there are also technology integrationists and school librarians who teach information and technology literacy skills as part of their expected job duties.

    While I agree with some of Doug’s points, what is critical is for the school to plan for technology that helps meet their educational goals. Then they can decide what type of technology support is needed for their infrastructure and instructional support.

  14. Dr. Green’s post is timely. For a number of years I have held that my job as a technology director was to work myself out of a job. I appear to have done so.

    In my case, I am director of tech at a 400+ all-girls college prep school in Palo Alto, CA. I have a very competent staff comprised of a technology manager, help desk technician, and academic technology coordinator. We are more and more cloud-based, and next year we move into a 1-1 program with students bringing whatever laptop they want to use to campus. In the 8 years I have been here, we have all worked hard to make our infrastructure – both physical and human – as up-to-date and effective as possible.

    When I was asked to assume a new role in the school we stepped back and thought long and hard about if I should be replaced. The consensus was not that I was irreplaceable, but that the skills needed in the role could effectively be assumed by my staff, but that we would hire an additional, entry-level staff person to support the 1-1 program.

    For the past few weeks I have been delegating more and more to my staff, transferring files from my computer Google Apps for their reference and access, and mentoring them on everything from hiring to budgeting to communications and long-range planning. I’m excited and (I hope) they are too.

    The variability in what tech directors do is huge. Some are IT pros, some curriculum integrators, some focus on the business side of the school. In my case I has a foot in each of these areas. In our case, the organization was ready for the next step, which is a more dispersed model in which such expertise is housed not in an individual, but within those closest to the actual jobs– which is at it should be.

    Each school must find its own path; our path may turn out to be incorrect. But we’re taking it for now and I’m optimistic it will allow all of us to grow more as professionals and as individuals.

  15. “2005 RSS (real simple syndication) adds a new type of spam”

    Really? Isn’t it Rich Site Summary?

  16. You have made many good points but missed a key one and that is having a point person who really understands technology and what can be accomplished who can be the school systems technology lawyer as it were to cut through marketing gurus who have got most of you convinced of the efficacy of white boards. No classic school administrator has such ability, nor training and while they are hardworking folks who might be willing such a move would be as foolhardy as putting me in the left seat of a Boeing 747.

    Using this same somewhat flawed logic would allow you to replace the school nurse with custodian who knew first aid. I’ve been living a repurposed life since last year and my workload is much less. A full time tech coordinator/director is a largely thankless task that few have the skill nor the stomach for. Our positions are 24×7. Next time you need your printer fixed or can’t figure out how to negotiate the filter or have twenty-five laptops that can’t hit the wi-fi network call your assistant superintendent or building principal. LOL!

  17. Leadership matters. We’ve seen the fads of principal-less schools which used the same arguments. The fact is, IT has a wide reach and very specialized skills. Due to the reach, you need vision and strategy. Due to the technical nature, you need knowledge and skills. This is a challenging combination which is why the title of CIO has often been referred to as “Career is over.”

    I would suggest that turning your IT loose to out-sourced contractors whose allegiance is to profit, not your Board and adding to the already undue burden on principals is a recipe for disaster in most cases.

  18. It’s no surprise that some of the comments are of a defensive nature from people who are in the type of position I describe. Once you get past superintendent and principal positions, every district has its own idiosyncratic assortment of other administrators that somehow make sense to that district. I don’t doubt that there are technology directors in some districts who are vital to the district’s mission. There are certainly some who should not be replaced given their specific role in their district. The skill sets of these people vary all over the place. I have seen everything from a former kindergarten teacher to a programmer who was laid off by a local company. Whoever you get next will no doubt have a different skill set, which reinforces the notion that the existence of this position should at least be questioned? The specifics of a given district will determine what the best answer should be. While I am sure many technology directors feel indispensable, keep in mind that as Charles de Gaulle once said, “graveyards are filled with indispensable men.”
    There are also concerns about the quality of service from the vendor to whom you outsource your technology infrastructure. I guess we are spoiled in my region as the local BOCES has an outstanding and innovative service that is superior and less expensive than anything a district can do on its own. Since there is no doubt variability in the quality of such vendors, districts do need to be careful when the choose this type of service.
    As for the leadership piece, if technology leadership is not coming via the superintendent and the principals, you may have a level of disfunction. I have seen this where the superintendent just wants someone else to deal with technology as he or she doesn’t have much of a clue. As a new generation of leadership takes over, this is changing. Current directors who are designated as leaders in terms of vision regarding technology use, probably don’t have to worry about their superintendents reading my article. As one of the comments stated, “when building principals lead the way, more gets accomplished in terms of instructional technology integration.”
    In regard to comments focused on teacher support, I believe I addressed that and it is essential. I like the model where the most tech savvy teachers in each building and department are given a stipend to do just that. They bring with them expertise in their fields which no tech director can have and they are likely to have stronger relationships and credibility with their customers. They can also follow the principal’s leadership and support their personal technology needs. As a group, they can support each other.
    One final comment related to the so-called “technology plan” that is often the responsibility of the technology director. This never made sense to me. What is needed is an effective instructional plan that includes the role of technology, which is ever changing. I was honestly happy to see the amount of interest my article generated and I would like to thank everyone for their thoughtful comments.

  19. I do wonder about having an IT person, computers break down. Having someone in a different town managing the system doesn’t fix my computer when the hard drive crashes etc. I agree that teachers and administrators need to be involved in integrating tech into classroom practice!

  20. Asking the question is like asking, “Should we get rid of Superintendents?”

    Technology can be a driving force of education or it can be a cost-cow that you may never escape.

    When technology is in driver’s seat, You need someone to meld instruction and technology together cohesively that fits your schools, time, and money. Do you really trust an outside agency to do that?

    If technology is a cost-cow, I feel sorry for you. Feel free to outside tech and all your other school functions (except for teachers and maybe a principal or 2).

    The ultimate problem in school’s, like most organizations, is leadership. Leadership about not documents, policies, and meetings. Leadership is about underlying principles and future vision for the organization. The former has lots of leadership, the latter has none.

    • Sam:
      My purpose in not having a tech director is not so much to save money than it is to put the technology leadership where it belongs, and that is with the superintendent, the principal, and the teachers who get it. It is unlikely that a staff administrator will have the skill set or the influence to get it done. Now that the good old boys are checking out, we need to make sure that the next generation of superintendents and principals can also factor technology into the big picture. Thanks for your comment.
      Doug Green

  21. Very interesting blog post and responses by readers. I ask the question: Does the role of the Principal need to change?

    • Erik: The skill set of the principal is gradually changing. It use to be that the good old boys club provided principals who came from the coaching ranks. As a person who teaches future principals, I have seen big changes over the years. Now we expect principals to have a good understanding of technology as opposed to the old group who couldn’t type and had the secretary do the email. Now we have a very different group coming in. They are much more likely to be women, special education teachers, and somewhat tech savvy. The role will change somewhat, but the principal will still be responsible for everything.

  22. You have a disruptive title for this blog … I will give you that. You have a couple of points I agree with: (1)Power shared is power multiplied. (2)Educational technology initiatives that have bottom-up consensus work better.

    My superintendent describes one attribute of my work as: “You must have the ability to connect to the people networks and departmental silos. The CTO has got to cultivate a continued “network” with key system leaders.” He also suggests “Like any other department, your team is important. Make sure the tech team understands how their work connects to the whole.”

    I would strongly encourage you to look at the work that has been done by CoSN on the Framework of Essential Skills for the District CTO:

    CoSN has worked for many years now to enable district technology leaders to increase their knowledge and skills within CoSN’s Framework of Essential Skills of the K-12 CTO.

    As the CTO of Forsyth County School’s, I am an advocate, a relationship architect, a venture capitalists, an information steward and a lobbyist and most importantly, a full-fledge member of the top management team chiming in on discussions that have nothing to do with IT most days.

    District technology leaders must be “empowered” with the range of skills and abilities needed to position them as educational leaders—not just technology leaders—providing the district with the necessary vision and leadership.

    Bailey Mitchell
    Chief Technology and Information Officer
    Forsyth County Schools

  23. Bailey:
    My main point is that instructional leadership and integration of instructional technology should be coming from the same place and not be separated. The fact that you are the CTO for a county district changes the calculus as well. If you manage all the stuff that CoSN covers, your job makes sense as long as the concern in my first sentence is addressed. I my case, I argue that our county organization should be taking care of network infrastructure and maintenance, not some district-based administrator. Keep in mind there are 700+ districts in New York State.Thanks so much for your response. Doug

  24. There are a lot of assumptions in your development of this post which illustrates the fundamental flaw at play in the education and technology discussion.

    The educational model in it’s current form cannot accomodate technology in any meaningful way.

    Wether or not you have tech directors or iPads or tech integrations specialists or education gurus with strategies, or whatever…technology is beyond educations ability to assimiliate it.

    -Education evolves at a glacial pace. Technology has changed in the time it took for me to write this comment.
    -Teachers don’t have enough time to learn it because they are still teaching to the test.
    -Employers don’t want grads that have degrees but rather have 21st century skills…which everyone in education says is what we should teach, but are too petrified to change the monolith in fear the kids dont get into college or university.

    Arguing about wether we need a local tech director or a district one or none at all is a moot point. At the end of the day, the sum total product is still unacceptable.

    Form is irrelevant, the foundation is not.

    Dangerously irrelevant? I fear it is now terminally irrelevant.


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