Sunday, November 29, 2015

School Technology Leaders as School Strategy Leaders

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I was reading an opinion piece in CIO Magazine speaking about the role of the Chief Information Officer (CIO) evolving into strategic thinkers and company leaders.  Read opinion here This thinking was in the paradigm of business strategy, and as I read I began to see that this should also be very relevant to educational technology leaders.

No longer should educational tech leaders be relegated to basement offices thought of only as "tech guys".  In reality, many of us wear many hats; technology manager, educational tech integrator, innovator, information specialist, security team member and many others.  While it is sometimes inferred, other times assumed, that technology leaders will be consulted when others deem it necessary, more and more decisions require input from technology leaders from the start of the conversation.

In his piece, Adam Hartung states that CIO's in the corporate environment,
address enterprise issues that affect long-term strategy as well as short-term implementations. They balance the risk of business results with the risk of implementation, and they talk in business terms about what is best for the organization. Like other C-suite residents, they are business leaders first, and functional pros second. The ability to successfully implement a project is just the most basic job requirement. Adding business value is why they are at the C-suite's table.
Lets look at this same thought through an educational lens;

Do school technology leaders address issues that affect long-term strategy?
     Now, more than ever, technology in schools impacts long-term strategies both on the operational and the educational sides of the house.

Do school technology leaders address issues that affect short term implementations?
     Any school technology leader that has changed email services, looked at a new LMS or SMS, even brought in a new program or app to their school has felt the stress and multi-faceted interactions that impact the short-term.

Do school technology leaders balance the risk of business results with the risk of implementation? 
     Of course we do!  Whether you are in the private or public school arena, you have to look at the risk vs. the reward.  You have to ask if this will help your faculty or create a stumbling block, you have to think about the impact on students and look at issues of equity, efficacy as a learning tool, and you always need to look at how long this may take to fully implement.  Will it be an "all in" type implementation or a "phased" approach?  Lastly, one needs to look at the impact on the overall budget in both the short and long term.

Do school technology leaders talk in business terms about what is best for the organization?
     Change business terms to pedagogical terms we have a match!  For years, I have been saying that much of my job is being an interpreter and the language is always changing.  Not only do I need to understand the vernacular of education, but I need to know how to translate technological terms to the educational vernacular and back again.  School is not business (not entirely) and therefore the educational speak is the majority language and I need to be the translator.  By the way, I believe this is how it should be.  Tech should not drive pedagogy, but rather tech should be a tool to enhance what a school is doing.  (That is a separate blog post)

Like other C-suite residents, they are business leaders first, and functional pros second. The ability to successfully implement a project is just the most basic job requirement. Adding business value is why they are at the C-suite's table.
     While the other questions should be fairly easy to answer and agree with, this last part seems to be the sticking point for many educational hierarchies.  Having been at the administrative level for almost 10 years has taken me mostly out of the classroom.  I am a school leader first, and need to look holistically at the institution first, before I look at making a decision for an individual student/teacher/classroom. Getting tech to work, to fit the big picture, make it accessible is a basic job requirement, the job of a tech-guy.  What we must ask ourselves as technology leaders is, what is the value add that we bring to our schools?

Whether you are a CIO, a Technology Director, a CTO or some other title, you are charged with helping guide your school forward, and are strategic leaders in your respective schools.  We are all tasked with bringing the best education possible to our students.  We need to be able to recommend the tools and explain why they are the right ones.  We need to be able to keep our communities safe in their electronic interactions.  We need to be able to recommend new courses and paths of study to our schools, enabling students to learn at the level of their peers around the globe.  There are many schools that have seen the C-level positions in technology and information services at their schools as strategy leaders, yet there are so many more that still see technology as a "bell or whistle", an add-on.  It is incumbent on us, the technology leaders, to continue to strategically guide our schools forward, in-line with our school's visions and missions. I agree with Hurting, CIO's (and other titles) are strategic leaders in their respective institutions, and like our counterparts in the business world, we are high-level essential personnel in all aspects of modern education.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Meaningful Making at Do, Design, Discover!

At Do, Design, Discover (D3) makers from all over the world got together at Marymount School in New York City and not only learned about making, but challenged themselves and others about what making is and how it is used in education.  After brainstorming topics and self selecting groups we got to work.  I would like to tell about my groups project.  While our project (in my humble opinion) was AWESOME!, the real product was a blank planning template that could be used to design projects that are both interdisciplinary and sustainable.  We believe that making is a bridge between all content areas, a skill set that can enhance "real-life" learning and growing and something that should be able to be replicated and scaled for whatever the students'/teachers'/schools' needs are.

Our group's premise was to devise a project template that would incorporate multiple disciplines and focus on using sustainable materials with as few "consumables" as possible.  With this in mind, we started by creating a blank template that could be used for any lesson/unit design.  This link can be shared with anyone who wishes to use it.  .

The project we built out, was a unit around water conservation.  In each content area (we chose Math, Social Studies, Science and English) lessons were taught with the subject of water being a theme.  Math looked at volume, English looked at poetry, Social Studies at the economics of water control, and Science at actual conservation.  As each subject did their lessons and students showed mastery, the students were asked to build "a button" using a metal bottle cap (water bottle) and other sustainable or recyclable materials.  The button had to show the subject area they learned about (ie. Math has a 3D printed "V" for volume).

As we worked on the buttons, we realized a challenge was to make sure that conductivity would not be obstructed by materials and we had to problem solve as a group to make sure that the connection for the Makey-Makey would be strong.

Once the group had made 4 buttons, their task in the maker space would be to create a video game around the theme of water conservation in scratch and use a makey-makey to create a controller for that video game using the bottle caps.  We chose additional maker stuff by using lego's as the control holder, and to laser etch the directions into a piece of acrylic.  The video game and controller can be created in small groups and could groups could choose to create the game around any topic they learned about in any of the core curricular areas.

At the end, our pieces and controller used little to no materials that could not be re-purposed, reused or recycled at the end of the activity.  Our goal was to create something that could continue to add meaning to making and help teachers to create lessons that would incorporate responsible making in their classrooms, teams and schools.