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Saturday
Feb112017

BFTP: 12 signs your tech leadership is obsolescent

Soft skills are hard and hard skills can be outsourced.

Nathan Mielke

The adjective obsolescent refers to the process of passing out of use or usefulness -- becoming obsolete. The adjective obsolete means no longer in use--outmoded in design, style, or construction. (about.com)

If a person became a technology director before about 1995, he/she probably came up through the teaching ranks. As a classroom teacher or librarian, if these folks showed an aptitude for, or even an interest in, educational technology, there was a path to administering it. After about 1995 computers, district-wide educational management applications and networks became sufficiently complex and important to the day-to-day operation of schools that technology directors were hired from business or computer science programs with little or no experience as teachers.

Being able to manage the Novell server took precedence over being able to help teachers use an Apple IIe with students.

I sense another change in the technology director hiring practices is overdue. (See: The Changing Role of the CTO. November 2010.) The new technology director seems a blend of technical expert, educator, and administrator (with perhaps a soupcon of visionary leadership). And I have no idea where these folks will come from. Educational technology degree programs?

Anyway, here are few ways to know if your school's technology leadership may be past its expiration date.

12 signs your technology leadership is obsolescent*:

  1. Your district still uses school-based Exchange or Groupwise servers for e-mail. If your district isn't actively moving the cloud, you are behind the curve. Outsourcing, SaaS, and ubiquitous resource access is the name of the game.
  2. Your school still blocks all social networking sites and Web 2.0 tools. Fear, control, and convenience-driven blocking is not in the best interest of kids. CIPA is not an excuse for mining the powerful educational uses of these tools.
  3. Your school does not have a wireless network connection to the Internet for students to use and bans the use of personally-owned devices. BYOD will be the only means of having the computing resources for everyday applications for many districts. If you aren't doing this, you had at least better be discussing it.
  4. Your district does not use an advisory committee to form technology policies and priorities. Top-down technology use policies that are created without input from teachers, administrators, parents and students are usually so stringent that technology cannot not be used to its fullest. Control freaks are so last century.
  5. Your district's tech budget does not include funds for staff development. I don't know of a district that follows the old 1/3 hardware, 1/3 software/infrastructure, 1/3 training formula that has long been recommended. But there better be funds for training if any of the gadgets will be used well.
  6. Your tech director doesn't attend technology conferences and only reads technology journals. Things move too fast in both education and technology to ignore what the rest of the world is doing. Keeping one's head in the sand is not a viable survival technique. Your technology director better be reading not just PC World, but Educational Leadership and Leading and Learning.
  7. Your tech director does not have a means of coordinating his/her department's efforts with those of the office of curriculum and instruction, district and building administration, staff development, assessment, public relations, and special education. This one is tough, time-consuming and never fully realized, but its increasingly critical. The success of the technology department is determined 100% by how well it makes other departments successful. Formal communication channels are now mandatory.
  8. Your tech director can't define 21st century skills, inquiry/project-based learning, or differentiated instruction. We've gotten the "business side" of technology down in schools pretty well - SIS, payroll, transportation, HR, etc. But unless the department takes the pedagogical uses just as seriously, it's not evolving.
  9. Your school is not taking full advantage of its library media programs or librarians in technology implementations. Technology directors need all the help they can get in training and support, and empowered librarians are critical components in providing these things at a building level. If the library and technology departments are not blended, both will suffer.
  10. Your district does not have a K-12 articulated information/technology literacy skills curriculum. A district is not taking student technology skills seriously without such formal documents and guides. This needs to be a joint effort between curriculum specialists and the technology department - neither can do it alone.
  11. Your technology program brags about the 5% of the teachers who use technology well instead of the 100% who use it well. Teachers who are early adopters and technology enthusiasts can be found in every district - even those with no technology leadership at all. It's what's happening in the other 95% of the district's classrooms that defines technology leadership. What's the vision of standard practice when it comes technology use in the classroom?
  12. Your tech director doesn't have his or her own PLN. I was going to say "Your tech director doesn't read the Blue Skunk blog" but that sounds pretty self-important. However relevant technology directors do use social media - including blogs and Twitter to stay informed and involved in discussions surrounding educational technology. 

To a degree we are all obsolescent. But I would say showing six or more signs of obsolescence qualifies one as being obsolete. (I better get to work!)

Other signs your technology director should be put out to pasture?

See also: COSN's Framework of Essential Skills for the K-12 CTO  

*This post was inspired by J. Robinson's 21st Century Principal post: 5 Indications Your Leadership is Obsolete for 21st Century Schools.

Original post Dec 19, 2011

Friday
Feb102017

Weeding - my personal windmill

My first professional publication was Weeding the Neglected Collection. It appeared in the November 1990 issue of School Library Journal. Probably well before some of you were born, let alone working in schools. The short article was about how I tossed 65% of an old HS library's print collection. It's actually pretty funny. And did I mention short? Anyway in it I concluded:

 ...the following good things were a result of the extensive weeding:

  • The material which is left has some credibility.  My students have a better chance of finding accurate information.
  • I can see the areas we need to develop.  There are almost no geography or science books left.  As I work with teachers to develop resource-based units, I know in what areas to buy.
  • The place looks better.  The books which remain are generally more attractive.  It’s easier to find (and reshelve) books.
  • The shelves look bare.  When a school board member or administrator visits, he/she will not automatically assume we are adequately funded.
  • I saved $2600 in retrospective conversion costs.
  • I have a base line figure on which to build my budget.  (Here is where we are.  Here is where we should be.  Here is how long I want to take to get there.  Here is how much money is required).  I have a budget based on collection development and program need, not last year’s budget.
  • The administration and faculty saw the action as constructive, purposeful, and carried out with professional confidence.

So, 26 years later, guess what issue I've been dealing with in my current school district?

Yup, weeding.

This is the first year that the oversight and budgeting for the library program has been in the district's technology department. This is the first year that there has been a district-administered library materials budget. And this is the first year there is a glimmer of hope that all the kids in our district, regardless of building they attend, will have equitable access to the resources a library program provides.

A big push this year is cleaning up our collections. Our elementary schools have been primarily run by paraprofessionals, some who have been reluctant to toss old books (for all the same reasons that professionals are reluctant to toss old books). Thankfully, I have great elementary library supervisor who is helping give kids access to good materials by selecting new materials and develping guidelines for our paras in dumping the crap. Our drive for cultural proficiency in the district, removing materials that do not respect diversity and contain racial and ethnic stereotypes, is as or more important than removing materials that are factually dated. 

Why, has weeding remained such a challenge for so many library workers? Am I simply tilting at windmills hoping our profession will understand the value of discarding? That offering out-dated informational resources is no more ethical that offering out-dated foods or medicines.

Maybe if I work at it for another 25 years. Hell, I could celebrate success on my 90th birthday.

See also:

Weed! Head for the Edge, Library Media Connection, Sept/Oct 2003

Budgeting for Mean, Lean Times MultiMedia Schools, Nov/Dec 1995

Monday
Feb062017

BS Bingo, education edition - 2017

Yes, it's time to update that ever-popular game Bullshit Bingo! Keep this score card in front of you at meetings and inservices. Be the first to complete a row, column, or diagonal and holler "BULLSHIT!" *

Oh, please submit your catchphrases to add to the next edition in the comment section below.

2007 Edition

* To clarify, many of these terms are well-meaning and important. But too often they are over-used, ill-defined and simply a buzz-word rather than sound educational thinking - hence bullshit.