Thursday, July 5, 2012

Identity Crisis at ISTE 2012

Question mark

Exhibition of Jean-Michel Folon.
Forte Belvedere, Firenze.
 Last week I was at ISTE 2012 in San Diego and had an identity crisis.  I registered on Friday, received my name badge and wore it the whole time, so I knew who I was.  In fact, I did not know that I was having an identity issue until midway through the conference.  By the end of the day Monday I was truly in a quandary. 

In a previous blog post, I wrote about the many facets of my job.  I spoke about the technology vision, the knowledge of integration, the understanding of networking, library systems, laptop use (in my case) and other areas as well.  As CIO I also had to have the ability to manage a team and to articulate a vision of how all of these elements work together to promote the mission of our school.  Just reading that, one would think I have a fairly clear sense of my identity as CIO, and in fact before ISTE 2012, I did.

When I began to look at the amazing people that I was networking with at ISTE 2012, I realized that there are very few who share my same title; in fact, there are more titles than I could have imagined.  When you begin to look at the varying personnel who attend ISTE – Integrators, Librarians, Facilitators, Teachers, Principals, early adopters, and other education and non-education people – it’s no wonder I was having an identity crisis.  When you mix the variety of titles, roles and expectations and try to set strands and tracks and neat packages of workshops to fit every niche, inherently there is chaos.  I know it would be easy for me to use the Breakfast Club model (one of my favorite flicks) and say I am a bit of everything, but in reality we all have jobs to do and continual growth is the name of the game. 

Herein lies the dilemma:  where were the sessions for the CIO's?  I found sessions for Teachers, Facilitators, Leaders (Principals and District folks), but not too many for CIO's.  I don't want you to think I am complaining, as there were some incredible sessions that I went to that helped me to grow in many of the facets of my job.  In fact, the sessions I attended gave me access to many of the people that I admire and want to hear from. They also allowed me to meet new colleagues who I am grateful I know now.  However, all along I felt that there was nothing directed towards me, towards the CIO, that spoke to the orchestration we do, and that was where I began to question my identity.  

As I met the dynamic movers and shakers that were at ISTE 2012 I realized that there were many people representing a variety of roles. I saw a plethora of those that were categorized as CIO, CTO, District Leader or some other designation that put them in a role of technology leadership.  This representation was fantastic, but what was missing were the concurrent sessions, Special Interest Groups (SIG) or other ways for our demographic to meet and network.  In fact, my identity crisis intensified when I realized how very different each job description truly was.  Some of us are Administrators, some of us are technology leaders.  Some of us are those who made decisions about purchases and others of us make recommendations to others.  One of the most distinct differences is how many people each one of us works with – some of us are one-man crews filling every role in our schools and others are leading full teams of specialists in our schools and/or districts.

I cannot imagine that I am the only one who feels this disparity in our individual roles or the only one who feels a bit of confusion at the larger ed-tech conferences.  I am lucky enough to have a group for technology administrators in my state, METAA, that is affiliated with CoSN . However, even within this group we are faced with a variety of titles, job descriptions and team sizes.

I think we are in need of a more unified voice.  School CIO's, CTO's, Tech Leaders or whatever role you may identify with need to come together as a unified voice for schools in a digital world.  What I learned from ISTE 2012 was that I was indeed questioning something – I was questioning what the evolving role of the School CIO is, and why we are often merged into other groups.  There are resources available for School CIO's, but the reality is that this identity crisis will continue as long as we have problems identifying ourselves as a single demographic and more importantly having a vocal presence internationally at conferences and workshops.

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