CTOs Role - Building a Technology-Supported Learning Ecology

Note: Welcome to the CTO's Role Blog Series! This blog entry continues my series on what CTOs need to know and do, trying to get at the fundamental question of, What is the Chief Technology Officer responsible for?
Source: MATC Madison

One evening in on a temperate February evening I sat down with a highly esteemed colleague, and asked him to add to some of the questions I'd begun compiling. The questions had begun as a fun exercise in trying to get a handle on all the possible jobs that Chief Technology Officers (CTOs) end up having to do or manage in small, medium and large school districts.

The jobs vary from district to district based on size, but there's certainly no shortage of work! Below is my ever growing list--which began with a conversation with a friend, and has grown from countless others over time--of questions. The questions are intended for school districts by incoming CTOs, and may also serve as a interrogatory checklist of what could be but isn't, yet.What questions would YOU add?

Source: http://goo.gl/DIiCM

Also included below are a copy of my vendor implementation questions, which should be required reading by Curriculum folks for whom a new instructional system has caught their eye. Considering these questions can help school districts move forward at vendor's expense, rather than taxpayer expense...and can mean all the difference for student and educator success in the classroom.

Building a Technology-Supported Learning Ecology

Note: This document includes questions for key issues for CTOs, as well as Vendor Implementation Questions for new projects/initiatives. An updated version appears here. Finally, some of the questions are Texas-specific but I hope the rest are helpful. Please be sure to share your essential questions in the comments.

Part 1 - Key School District Questions
Compiled by Miguel Guhlin; shared under CC-Sharealike-NC-Attribution

  1. What is the District's free and reduced rate, or eRate?
  2. Will the District consider using free, open source solutions (e.g. netbooks running Linux) in lieu of more expensive solutions?
  3. Would the District consider purchasing refurbished computers to save money?
  4. How much technology money is to be found or available in other department budgets?
  5. How did you deal with the budget shortfall? What programs were cut and did the District implement an incentive program?
  6. What is the District's Purchasing Policy and/or process?
  7. Does the District use Cooperatives?
  8. At what level do you have to do a request for proposals (RFP)?
  9. Does the District use BuyBoard, TCPN, and/or DIR?

Campus Support
  1. Are there campus level representatives/liasons and, if yes, are they volunteer or do they receive a stipend?
  2. Are there ongoing meetings for campus support?

  1. How is technology used to support curriculum? (e.g. Read180, System44, Study Island, Education City)
  2. What credit recovery software is used (e.g. A+, NovaNet, Odysseyware)?
  3. What is used to accelerate learning at the high school (e.g. Early College, TxVSN)?
  4. Do District solutions involve single-sign-on (SSO) or is there a different password for each system?
  5. What plans are there to remediate kids who get failing results in June but passed in May?
  6. How is C&I having conversations about student performance data and addressing the issues?
  7. Is any benchmarking going on and what is technology department's role in that?
  8. How are you blending Eduphoria Aware/Forethought and how are they being used to support C-SCOPE implementation?

  1. What is the superintendent-school board relationship?
  2. When are superintendent and leadership team due to retire?
  3. Any big emotional impact issues, such as STAAR, EOC, that have impacted the District?
  4. What major professional development have all administrators gone through recently (e.g. Crucial Conversations, Capturing Kids Hearts, Schlechty’s Strategy for District Transformation, other?)?

Remote/HelpDesk Support
  1. How many HelpDesk staff are there to answer phones/emails?
  2. How many technicians are available?
  3. Are technician/helpdesk staff member salaries competitive?
  4. Is the response time for issues 48 hours or less?
  5. What are top priority or hot item issues that are given top priority?
  6. What kind of Helpdesk system do you have in place? If a call ticket system, how are trouble-tickets assigned to technicians?
  7. How do you verify technicians are actually on campuses rather than off-task (e.g. staying at home, going out to eat)?
  8. Is there remote control of technology available on all devices (e.g. Dameware) so that HelpDesk staff can work on user computers?
  9. How is technician job performance assessed?

Professional Learning Expectations
  1. How is the District leveraging online learning—that is at least as effective as face to face per research—to facilitate required professional development? (e.g. Bloodborne Pathogens, Sexual Harassment)
  2. What learning management system (as opposed to a course management system) is the District using to facilitate management and delivery of professional learning? (e.g. Alchemy Systems’ Avatar, Eduphoria Workshop, ESCWorks)
  3. What specific requirements do teachers/administrators have to meet before they are issued technology?
  4. What certifications do in-house professional learning facilitators enjoy and is their work aligned to state/international standards?
  5. For technicians, are any of the following expectations in place?
    1. Certification/continuing education?
    2. Cross-training between employees (e.g. network management or server support)
    3. Documentation (e.g. knowledge management) of critical systems
    4. Signed copy of an ethics document
    5. Confidentiality training (and FERPA) for online testing

Technology Director
  1. Does this position report to the Superintendent?
  2. Would you consider changing the title to Chief Technology Officer?
  3. What are the specific areas of responsibility?
  4. Who is responsible for the Student Information System?
  5. Who handles account management and data imports/export for external systems (e.g. Eduphoria, PBWorks)? Is there a basic expectation that solutions should be automated when possible?
  6. What happens in the case of an emergency? Is social media (e.g. Twitter/Facebook/G+) setup to facilitate prompt dissemination of information, as well as engage community in reciprocal dialogue?

Technical Questions
  1. Bandwidth and connectivity
    1. Does the District have separate wireless networks for mobile devices (e.g. iPads) and/or BYOD? What requirements for connecting to the network are in place?
    2. What bandwidth throttling/packet shaping solution is the District using?
    3. 1 gig between campuses, fiber connection?
    4. Who is the Internet Service Provider (ISP)?
    5. What is your Internet bandwidth? (e.g. Abilene has 150 megabits, Amarillo 300 mbits, San Antonio ISD 300mbits)
    6. What are your solutions for antivirus, content filtering, email, user/account management, app management/mobile device management?
    7. Are you a Cisco-based district? Meraki? Meru?
    8. What kind of network hardware are you using?
    9. What kind of backbone?
    10. What kind of network operating system?
    11. What management software/image deployment software are you using? (e.g. Altiris, Zenworks, FOG)
    12. Do you have gig to the desktop?
  2. Campus/Classroom Setup
    1. Are there sufficient wireless access points (WAP) in each classroom?
    2. How many wired drops per classroom?
    3. Is there sufficient electrical power?
    4. Has an assessment been done of building and network?
  3. Device Management
    1. Does the District support Bring Your Own Device/Technology (BYOD/BYOT)?
    2. What is the replacement cycle for campus equipment?
    3. Has the District standardized on technologies deployed at campuses (e.g. IWB model, digital projectors, document cameras) and when are these due for replacement?
    4. Does the District use a Mobile Device Management Solution for iOS/Android devices?
    5. Is the District a “Dell” or “HP” shop?
    6. Are you virtualizing servers and, if so, which solution?
  4. Digital Signage Solutions (read more)
  5. Disaster Recovery
    1. What disaster recovery plan is in place?
    2. How is off-site recovery planned?
    3. Is data encrypted?
    4. Data back-up system include off-site and out of area and is it available from any location?
    5. Are there redundant power supplies?
    6. Does the District have detailed inventory records of hardware deployed?
    7. Who knows how to re-establish software programs?
    8. Are there satellite phones for key personnel?
    9. If VOIP system is in place, is there a call manager system in two locations?
  6. Food Services
  7. Maintenance
  8. Password Protected Copiers
  9. Printing Services
    1. How many PCs, network printers, inkjet printers do you have?
  10. Transportation Software
  11. Video Cameras for Security/Monitoring
    1. What solutions are currently in place for video surveillance at campus and district offices?
    2. Has District policy been amended for video cameras placed in classrooms/computer labs/common areas?
  12. Visitor Management Systems? (read more)
  13. Voice Over IP
    1. Is the District using voice over IP?
    2. What solution?

Part 2 - Vendor Implementation QuestionsPrepared by Miguel Guhlin

Prior to embarking on a new technology tool, it’s important to reflect on these areas.

Area #1 – Hardware Requirements (District Only)
  • District Department needs to complete a Request for Technical Support for affected campuses to ensure that computers at those campuses meet minimum requirements

Area #2 – Network
  1. Will the vendor's web-based program work with/without a persistent wireless Internet connection?
  2. Will the vendor's product work (or not) with a caching system?
  3. What bandwidth requirements exist for successful product use (for example, VENDORNAME single user requires at least XX kbps of bandwidth)?

Area #3 – Account Management
  1. Does the vendor support automated account management and maintenance including 24-hour secure FTP uploads? (If NO, then this product should not be considered)
  2. The Student Information Archiving needs to be notified of requirements
  3. How do authentication of student and teacher logins occur in the vendor's system?
  4. Can the student ID# (or Active Directory login for students) be used as the student's login in the system?
  5. Are data transfers encrypted or open?
  6. Has the vendor--since it's storing confidential student performance data--signed the agreement form to keep data confidential and to return that data to San Antonio ISD if/when VENDORNAME's services are no longer needed?
  7. Does the vendor's product use use Single Login--the District Email account--for teacher accounts? (If NO, then this product should not be considered).
  8. Do you support multiple levels of administrators by campus, "Area" (composed of multiple campuses) and/or ad-hoc grouping/reporting and trouble-shooting?
  9. Who is your HelpDesk Support? What rules are there for responding?

Area #4 – Software Requirements
  1. Software must go through the Electronic Resources Selection Process
  2. What the minimum browser specifications for use of the vendor's web-based system?
  3. What critical browser plug-ins/add-ons are needed (e.g. Adobe Flash version #)?
  4. What are the minimum operating system requirements for Windows (e.g. Windows XP has been identified) and for Mac OS X (e.g., Mac OS X.4 Tiger has been identified)?
  5. Client related questions:
    1. Identify client software that needs to be installed on the computer
    2. Please explain in detail how your client is loaded and maintained on all user stations. Is there any time this may be a manual process or is it all automated from the server?
    3. Do you have an MSI for the client, if one is required?
    4. Are there any web based considerations we should be aware of?

Area #5 - Active Directory and Database Backend
  1. Please explain user setup and administration. Do you integrate with Active Directory or are users input and maintained manually?
  2. If Active Directory, how will name changes within Active Directory affect your application?
  3. If Active Directory, do we select the AD data to be synchronized or does it grab everything? If so is it based on OU or group?
  4. For authentication, can we point software to a domain controller of our choice, or does it have to be a Global Catalog?
  5. Does the software utilize a relational Database? What?
  6. Is the software an enterprise-wide, 100% web-based product? Based on what architecture?
  7. Has the software been independently certified for its use of the selected architecture? List certifying agency.
  8. Please describe in detail software/solutions network architecture.
  9. Please describe in detail security features of solution.
  10. What ports are required to be open on district firewall?
  11. Are there any issues with user stations running virus protection?
  12. What are your recommended specs for user stations?

Area #6 - Data Exchange requirements
  1. Data File Specification - How does the vendor want the data formatted? The District already has a format but can adjust as needed.
  2. Student Data - What student data needs to be included? Note that the District only provides full replacement files to vendors; it is the vendor's responsibility to handle changes.
  3. Data Refresh Schedule - How often does the data need to be refreshed (e.g. daily, weekly, monthly, etc.)?
  4. Export Method - The District can create an FTP site for the vendor to pick up the data file or it can be exported to them via FTP. In either case, the
  5. District requires it to be via a secure connection, e.g. FTP/SSH. Also, automated data exports are preferred over manual uploads via the vendor web site.
  6. Vendor Data Process Schedule - Once the data is provided to the vendor, when do they process it and when are those changes evident to end-users?
  7. Vendor Point of Contact - The District requires a point of contact to work with during setup to test and validate the data export process.

Area #7 - Post-Implementation
  1. Have staff been provided professional learning opportunities for assessing the data generated by this tool?
  2. What formative assessments measuring the success of this initiative will be implemented?
  3. What evaluative assessment will be completed at the end of the project to ascertain success?
  4. How will staff be held accountable so that implementation may be judged to impact desired objectives?

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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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