New Expectations for Tech Directors and How CETL Can Help

While most of my job is forward-looking, sometimes one can find enlightenment in looking back.  We can see that the nature of the technology director’s job in K-12 has shifted dramatically over the past 20 years. Originally, it was a loose amalgamation of several roles, including at least some of the following; fix-It, business systems, and perhaps learning tools.  Over time, as services converged like telephony, the mantra became “efficiency and effectiveness”, especially as budgets were slashed.  Technology was conceived as a utility and the technology director’s role was to simply keep it running.  At this time, some directors were forward-thinking and following existing business models that called for “alignment” between technology and the district’s plan. The CTO and the Superintendent needed to be on the same page.

Innovation as Driving Force

Some thought this was the pinnacle achievement. However, a curious thing is happening now.  School districts, like some businesses, are understanding that the key to success is innovation, not efficiency.  You can take a quick look at Blockbuster and Netflix and get a good sense of how those two approaches play out.  Netflix is constantly adapting and Blockbuster is, well, not doing much anymore.  The same is true for schools.

The Expanding Role of Tech Director

At the recent TASA/TASB conference in Dallas, I was pleased to present with 3 of my colleagues on the New Expectations for Technology Directors and how the Certified Education Technology Leader (CETL) framework can help.  There are many hats that a CTO must wear today, and it’s not all about keeping the 1’s and 0’s flowing.  At minimum, they include; Leadership & Vision, Strategic Planning, Ethics & Policies, Professional Development, Team Building & Staffing, Stakeholder Focus, Information Technology, Communication Systems, Business Management, and Data Management.

My colleagues, (Dr. Alice Owen, Frankie Jackson, and Victor Valdez) offered superintendents and school board members this framework and shared the value with them of seeking CETL certification for their technology directors or in prospective candidates.  The national certification is rigorous and offers an assurance to the superintendent that their CTO has the tools and experience to tackle this diverse and ever-changing role.  We recommend it as quality professional learning for CTOs, as well.

Tech Directors As Change Agents

I can attest that the certification process helped me, even as I prepared for the exams.  I feel better able to build and work in cross-functional teams and better able to articulate the stakeholder focus.  I’m proud of the certification, but more importantly, I see it as a powerful tool to help bring about a much needed shift in schools.  When a team of school leaders, including the CTO, can foster a new district culture that can improve student learning, that is the pinnacle to me.

For more information on the CETL certification visit:  http://www.cosn.org/certification  Right now, there are 22 who have passed the CETL exams in Texas. 

What do you think about the importance of certification and training for developing and supporting the role of technology director? How is your state doing in this regard?


Kevin Schwartz serves as the Chief Technology Officer for Clear Creek ISD, home of 41,000 students, NASA, and the Latitude 2 Learn 1:1 tablet computer initiative and he brings 20 years of experience in K-12. He is also Chair of the Texas K-12 CTO Council and actively serves on the CoSN SEND and SmartIT committees. Kevin is a frequent presenter on a broad range of education technology topics and is a consultant to school districts that seek transformational changes in learning through technology.

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