CTOs Role - Repairing Bridges, not Tech

“It is not what we learn in conversation that enriches us. It is the elation that comes of swift contact with tingling currents of thought.” -Agnes Repplier
http://tinyurl.com/tcea13mg
In a few days, I'll have the opportunity to dip my toes into tingling currents of thought next to a distinguished panel of technology directors. The panel, organized by Dr. Richard Smith and for which I've started to place resources online at http://bit.ly/cctcea2013, has set itself a simple task:
This panel of distinguished district-wide computer coordinators will discuss how the role of the computer coordinator is changing and has changed from the time the position was first established around 1982.   
The panel will use their on-the-job experience to project into the future and describe what they believe will be the role of the computer coordinator in first decades of the 21st Century.   
The members of panel will present their ideas on the type of training that 21st Century computer coordinators will need, political pitfalls to avoid, selecting and sustaining instructional technology, dealing with vendor and administrator pressure, dealing with depleted budgets, and building technology constituencies within school districts.
The Computer Coordinator, or Tech Director
“Ol' Lonely’s predicament is testimony to the durability and reliability of cloud-based services. Now if only he had something to do with his days.”
When I reflect upon the questions inherent in that session description, I manage to tease the following out:

  1. What do you believe will be your role over the next 20 years? 
  2. What type of training do you think you will need to be effective in your position?
  3. What political pitfalls will you need to avoid? 
  4. How do you go about selecting and sustaining instructional technology? 
  5. How do you best handle vendor/administrator pressures?
  6. How do you deal with depleted budgets? 
  7. How do you build technology constituencies or coalitions of staff so they can enhance instruction with technology? 


These aren't necessarily difficult questions to respond to in a CTO Role, right? As a newbie in my role as Director of Tech, I see the role as less one of being Moses passing down the commandments of how to best use technology, and more like an engineer helping people bridge the gaps in communication and understanding, even as I struggle to find ways to enhance my own approach. After all, I've found the expert isn't the person who knows it all, but the one who has had to struggle with the very things s/he is responsible for. 
"I don't need a room full of desktops if a kid can do research with the device in his pocket." -Mike Gras
Some, like my fellow panelist Michael Gras, spout pithy wisdom that appears to suggest that "Director of Technology" should be relegated to the past. Perhaps, the suggestion is that technology is everyone's business and there's no need for this god-like role in an organization. I'm not quite ready to buy into the idea that the CTO role is on par with a custodian no matter how necessary the role or how little the praise garnered, or that of the Maytag repairman who never gets customers because the products his parent company (in our case, the cloud) sells are so effective.

The online academic world is richer than any number of "worlds" districts can build.  The services a district needs are out there. 
I don't need to control more and I don't need to trust less.   
Hard times are easier to bare [sic] if the teachers are excited about what they can do with what they have at their disposal.  We have an agreement among many at White Oak that less is more when it comes to control. - Mike Gras

My chief role involves balancing instructional needs with technology lust for shiny new things, providing disinterested leadership (that is, leadership that is passionately interested in achieving the goals of the organization without allowing one's own passions and interest force one into "We've gotta do this because it's the right thing to do" rather than the best thing to do for the organization). I suppose that's obvious but I have found disinterest leadership approach--maybe it has a different name in the literature--to be a great approach for taking what I want out the equation and focusing on what the org needs.

Earlier today, I found myself chatting with a principal who asked, "Is there a systematic plan to technology acquisition in the District?" The answer is, "Certainly, we just haven't written it yet." The question raised again the specter of over-spending during hard times in the face of individualized learning technologies that are now available. 

Do we continue to provide computer labs, laptop computers, tablets, etc. for teachers and students, or provide a limited array of devices and let the individuals choose what works best to enhance instruction. Also, with so many different devices, how do you build a device-agnostic network, as well as device neutral assignments?






Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure


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