Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Answering McLeod's 15 Leadership Questions

In July of 2009, Scott Mcleod asked the following 15 questions about technology leadership in K12 school districts. It was an interesting exercise of reflection on my part as a district administrator, but here are my brutally honest answers (in italicized print). Let me know what you think!
  1. Who is primary responsible for technology leadership in the district? Candidly, its me, the superintendent, and the technology director. A steady flow of feedback from principals, teachers, parents, and students also contribute to needs analysis and new technologies, but the primary responsibility is with me. 
  2. If the answer to Question 1 is not the superintendent, who is the primary technology leader’s direct supervisor? I guess I don't have to answer this one! The technology director's immediate supervisor is me, the superintendent. 
  3. If the answer to Question 1 is not the superintendent, does that person sit on the superintendent’s cabinet? I don't have a cabinet, but yes the tech director discusses and carefully considers purpose and vision for technology in our school district. 
  4. If the answer to Question 1 is not the superintendent, how often does that person meet individually with the superintendent? We see each other every day. 
  5. How many other job titles (or what other job responsibilities) does the primary technology leader have? We are a small, rural school district, so I am also the business manager for the school district. 
  6. Is the primary technology leader in charge of both networking / hardware / software support AND technology integration or just one? I make final decisions on networking methodology, hardware and software preference in addition to considerations of backup solutions, filtering options, fiber optic updates, bandwidth requests etc. with strong and carefully considered recommendations from the technology director.
  7. Is technology leadership a shared function within the district or does it primarily reside in one person? It's a shared function. 
  8. How big is the differential between the primary technology leader’s salary and what she could make in a similar corporate environment? We are competitive, especially when looked at as a total costing, which includes benefits. 
  9. What kind of (and how much) professional development does the primary technology leader receive each year? Professional development is exceedingly important. Today, development and improvement can arise out of attendance at conferences but also a leader's PLN and PLC, which at times can be more powerful than any other resource. 
  10. How big is the differential between the technology staff:computer ratio and what occurs in a similar corporate environment? Again, we are a small, rural school district. Yes, we are probably on the high side of tech staff to computer ratio (compared to an in-house bank tech director); however, compared to an outside tech consultant that visits as needed, he or she may be responsible for thousands of computers without consistent access or empowerment to care for the network or filter. Tech directors in schools indeed have a tough job, but the job is also very demanding in banks, hospitals, large businesses, etc. 
  11. What percentage of technology-related expenditures go toward educator professional development? It's hard to answer this question. We (in part) believe in the philosophy that the closer the development is to the classroom, the more likely it will be integrated into everyday instruction (National conference vs. literacy coaches). So instead of sending people away, we've invested in bringing people here. Instead of bringing in high-profile speakers, we've invested in teacher coaches. That's not to say that we don't steadily send people to state and local development opportunities when the opportunities align with our school and district goals, but we always think about creating an environment where development happens close to the classroom. 
  12. What percentage of the technologies purchased by the district were primarily student-centric (as opposed to teacher-centric)? We frankly have a mixture of both. To guess, 60% is student-centric and 40% is teacher-centric. The student-centric technologies include laptop carts, Itouch carts (those are cool), student desktop computers, smartpens, Ipads, smart tables, not to mention student-centric software of web 2.0 apps. The teacher-centric technologies are (obviously) the smart boards and projectors. We've made a deliberate attempt to help teachers use the teacher-centric technologies as a springboard to highly engaging student-centric activities. 
  13. When was the district’s last technology referendum? Did it pass? How close was the vote? In 1997. It passed (I believe...I wasn't here at the time) 70% to 30%.
  14. When was the last time (if ever) that students were asked about their experiences using (or not using) technology in their classes? What did they say? As a part of our technology plan, we did student surveys two years ago. We found that we were weak on peripheral probes that measure data, and we also found that students want email capabilities (which we are still working on). 
  15. And, what might be the most important question of all, how many minutes per week, on average, do students use digital technologies as part of their classroom learning experiences (and how do they spend those minutes)? This number varies per classroom with the readiness level of the teacher. Right now, out of the 1140 student hours per year (68,400 minutes), I would guess that 15% of that time is spent actively and meaningfully engaged in digital learning tools. That number gives somewhat of a false impression seeing that five years ago, most of us were basically at 0% (excluding word processing). While 15% seems low, it also represents a huge increase in the use of digital-age tools to facilitate instruction, and if we continue on the same trajectory, we will be quickly making tremendous progress. 
In Dr. McLeod's post, he also reflects on why these questions matter. Part 2 of this posting will involve me "correcting" and reflecting on my responses and how my answers relate to Dr. McLeod's thoughts.

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