Tuesday, March 29, 2011

What is a SCHOOL CIO (Chief Information Officer)

One year ago I was hired as the Chief Information Officer (CIO) and was not entirely sure what that would mean. Sure, I had a job description and there were goals set forth. My school was great about giving me all of the support necessary to make a smooth transition to a place that was rich in technology resources. The idea of a CIO in education has changed greatly since the title was brought over from the corporate world; therefore, that was the part about which I was unsure.

According to wikipedia: “Information technology and its systems have become so important that the CIO has come to be viewed in many organizations as the key contributor in formulating strategic goals for an organization. The CIO manages the implementation of the useful technology to increase information accessibility and integrated systems management. As a comparison, where the CIO adapts systems through the use of existing technologies, chief technology officer develops new technologies to expand corporate technological capabilities. When both positions are present in an organization, the CIO is generally responsible for processes and practices supporting the flow of information, whereas the CTO is generally responsible for technology infrastructure.” Wikipedia CIO Article.

What I am finding in schools is some variation of this. While in the corporate world, many CIOs have backgrounds in business or technology, perhaps my greatest asset was that I had a background as a classroom teacher. Mind you, many of the skills are the same; personnel management, project management, and copious amounts of multitasking among others. However, my personal success is dependent on my understanding of the nuances associated with education. When I look at the areas that fall under the umbrella of a school CIO, there is much more than technology involved. The major areas that are seen over by a school CIO should include Administration, Technology Services, Library Services and Educational Involvement. Each of these areas are not silos, nor are they interconnected islands that stand apart from other areas of the school. Rather, these are areas that intertwine with the very fabric of what makes the school what it is. A CIO needs to manage projects and people and understand technology, but one also must understand information, educational philosophy and pedagogy, must be involved with the school leadership and be seen as a school leader. A school CIO must have a a trusting relationship with the students, the faculty and the administration of their school. One must have vision and the ability to articulate that vision. An important skill is the ability to know and sympathize with the fact that your audience is not always in the same emotional or professional place while maintaining momentum towards progression and growth within the school and in particular the areas that fall under the purview of the CIO. To quote a great movie, “In the simplest words and most convenient definition” a CIO is a leader, a counselor, an educator, a visionary, a librarian, a technologist, and a human being!

In my next few blog posts, I will try to examine each of the areas mentioned: Administration, Technology Services, Library Services and Educational Involvement separately, with careful attention to where they overlap and interconnect with other areas of the school and other positions in particular.

Graphic from Emporia Public Library: http://www.skyways.org/library/emporia/services/services.htm

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