Technology Advice Every Superintendent Should Hear
With the impending retirement of his longtime district CIO, a superintendent approached me recently to help the district figure out what they need to be doing with technology and the technology team over the next 3-5 years.
While the report I’ll eventually deliver will be tailored to the specific school district and take into account all of the local politics, funding realities and idiosyncrasies that every district must live with, my basic advice will be the following:
- Consolidate Technology Under One Leader – Use whatever title you want, but technology is a strategic resource for all facets of district operations and the leadership should not be fractured by having two technology departments reporting to two different managers - usually assistant superintendents. It is inefficient and ineffective.
- Invest in Infrastructure – Digital learning environments require sufficient network bandwidth. Every segment of the network has to be scalable. There is a seemingly endless need for more bandwidth. I’m a fan of caching and bandwidth “shaping” and many of the other technical acrobatics we do in an attempt to save bandwidth, but you need BIG pipes.
- Find Operating Funds – Too many districts are dependent on capital funding sources such as bonds. That’s great for how technology was delivered years ago, but the future of delivery of devices, applications, content and even infrastructure is the subscription model. If your district is dependent on capital funding for technology you will no longer be able to adopt the most innovative technologies. Your students and teachers will be disadvantaged.
- Move to the Cloud – Cloud based services are no longer futuristic or fraught with unknown risks. Move as much to the cloud as you possibly can. And when I say cloud I am referring to service provider run cloud, not private district data center clouds. I fully understand the risks (and fears) regarding cloud storage, but I would rather have a service provider with highly paid, trained engineers run my mission critical systems than to use a district cloud center. There is one catch though; you’re going have to solve the issue I raised in point 3 first (Find operating funds).
- Devices Matter – We do love our “bright shiny objects,” but there are right and wrong choices for different types of learning and working. Most of the people reading this article are likely use at least 3 devices. I know schools are strapped for cash, but they need to give careful thought as to which is the best device to meet the entire range of learning activities.
- Technology as Enabler – Back in the “Dark Ages” of technology during my graduate school years, we studied how businesses were beginning to use technology to create competitive, or strategic, advantages. In other words, we considered how organizations could use technology to enable opportunities not possible without the technology. Today, we could all think of many examples. But in education, we’re stuck in the mode of thinking how technology can help us achieve a vision, rather than asking what new vision could technology make possible. Let’s start talking about what is made possible by technology rather than how technology only makes better what we’ve been doing for decades.
I know, it’s easy for me to say…
Bob Moore has enjoyed a career of 26 years in education technology. His work has included more than two decades as a CIO in K12 schools and several years as lead strategist for a multi-billion dollar global ed-tech business, as well many years of active leadership in organizations such as CoSN. In 2012 Bob founded RJM Strategies LLC and works with schools and ed-tech business clients as a strategist, advisor and subject matter expert. His life’s work is grounded in his tenacious commitment to vision, innovation, integrity and practicality. Follow Bob on Twitter @BobMEdTech. See Bob's Profile and Connect on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/bob-moore-675ba4