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Leadership in Education Technology: The Big Picture, Goals, and Strategies

So you want to prepare your school district for the next three years to meet its technology needs, do 'ya? Developing a master plan for the use of technologies in public education is a complex task. But in this series of posts, I'll try to break it down as simply as I can.

First of all, don't work in isolation from other district/school-level planning. That is, the days of creating technology plans as stand-alone documents are long gone. Your plans should be deeply integrated into plans like the CARS (Consolidated Application & Reporting System), the SPSAs (Single Plan for Student Achievement), and the LCAP (Local Control Funding Plan). I understand that only the SPSAs are required in states other than California and that the CARS and LCAP are really a Golden State thing but every state has some variant of district-level planning guides. The point is that a technology plan should be a part of these larger district-level documents.

As leaders, we need to think about five elements when it comes to education technology. These include:

1. The Big Picture

2. Goals and Strategies

3. Professional Development

4. IT Assessment

5. Evaluation Process

Before I delve into these elements, remember that you should think of these as components to be included in other district-wide plans. Therefore, it is very important that Directors of Technology or CIOs have an intimate understanding of the structures and purposes of the district-level plans so you can advise your leadership team on where your technology plans should be inserted.


The Big Picture

Many technology leaders that I speak with tell me that the term of a technology plan should never go beyond three years. This field changes too quickly. In fact, some even say that two years may be too many. I happen to think that three-year plans work pretty well. But like all plans, they may change mid-stream.

Having an understanding of the district's demographics, location, and socio-dynamics is a critical component to being a leader in education technology. But the communities that districts serve are far too complex for any one person to comprehend. Therefore, it's important that your plan be drawn up in consultation with multiple stakeholders. Work with your staff and personnel from the district office but don't forget to include students, site administrators, teachers, parents, and other community members.

Moreover, your plan should be primarily evidence-driven. That is, what gets included should be based on relevant research that support your plan's outcomes. So take some time to describe the connection between the research you conduct and your plan's goals (i.e. information gathered from site visits, best practices from industry standards, etc.).

Goals and Strategies

As a leader, you have to establish clear goals and realistic strategies for using telecommunication and information technologies to improve education services. That is, every aspect of your thinking and planning should have one question at its center--how will this service/product strengthen learning and teaching outcomes? So start out by describing the access that teachers and administrators have to instructional technologies and more specifically, how they use these technologies.

Next, think about the same aspect above, but from the students' side. What technology is currently available to all students? How are they using the technologies? Is the technology extending the school day so students may access resources after school hours? Does the access differ by sub-populations?

With an understanding of what technologies are available and how they are being used, you may now get into setting goals for using technologies to improve teaching and learning processes. But what is critical (and an often missed step by many CIOs that I've worked with) is that you consult with the curriculum and instruction leadership of the district to ensure that the goals you foresee are aligned with the curricular goals as stated in other plans. Moreover, you'll want to work with other district leaders to determine how the LCAP budget plan supports your goals and whether future funding or partnerships are required for successful implementation.

College and career readiness is what we in California are preparing our students for. As such, you'll also need to consider what your district's curriculum goals and plans are for assisting students to meet digital and information literacy skills. Is digital literacy instruction incorporated into subject-matter lessons? Are there specific courses offered to develop students' information technology skills? As leaders, we have to clearly communicate the importance and need for students to acquire these skills--skills that are entirely necessary for their college experience and future careers.

I'll address professional development, IT assessment, and the need for evaluation in my next post. But for now, what do you think? Send me an email and let me know what I'm missing so far.

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