The Changing Role of the Technology Director
Most of all,
you need an
charge of the
who is willing
is director of media and
technology at Mankato
Area Public Schools,
He is the author of The
2012). He blogs at the
Blue Skunk Blog
Like many educators in my current position—school technology directors, chief technology officers, or others who
have responsibility for all things that plug in,
use batteries, beep, or depend on a digital
network—I never imagined this as a job when
I was growing up. My high school guidance
counselor in 1970 did not suggest this as a
career choice because such a job did not exist
then. Even when I was hired by my current
school district in 1991, my title was “
audio-visual director,” and I
replaced a fellow whose
primary tasks were silk-screening school logos on
record players, developing
stocking overhead projector
lamps, and supervising the
guy who fixed 16mm film
Although my previous
experience in education
was as an English teacher
and librarian, my same-age
peers have come to technology leadership positions through a number
of pathways, with math and science teaching
being the most common. As networks and large
data systems became mission-critical in the
late 1990s, schools began to hire technology
directors with computer degrees, often with
business rather than education experience.
The entire leadership team needs to thoughtfully consider the selection, placement in the
organizational structure, job description, and
performance expectations of this relatively new
job in education. The efficacy of the technology
department and its head affects every student,
staff member, and parent in the district.
The job description of the chief technology
officer is certainly a moving target. In the last
20 years, technology leaders have never really
had the same set of challenges, frustrations, and
successes two years in a row. And these shifts
will continue, according to Robert Moore of the
Consortium for School Networking. His advice
to K– 12 information technology (IT) leaders:
n Forget about IT as you know it today.
n Get ready to outsource IT.
n Let go of the desire to control.
n Embrace diversity in the IT environment.
n Blow the lid off storage limits.
n Quit saying things like,
“A wired network infrastructure will always be
necessary because wireless
will never be fast enough for
Outsourcing, loss of
control, diversity? Anathema
to many formally trained IT
folks. But as school leaders
who are facing budget
crunches come to realize
that real cost savings can be
had by moving to the cloud
and contracting for mainte-
nance, these uncomfortable realities will be the
new normal in schools.
As a result of these changes, the core compe-
tencies required of school and school district
chief technology officers are rapidly evolving.
Tech leadership skills are moving
n From configuring networks and local
servers to mediating contracts for cloud-based
and contracted services.
n From supervising technicians to evaluating
outsourced work and setting up effective
n From writing technology plans to working
interdepartmentally with curriculum, staff-development, public relations, assessment, and