Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Role of IT

Amazing Group
I am very fortunate to be on the AZ CIO/CTO Conference planning committee, which works closely with Converge (@convergemag) to make the conference possible. The conference is a product of the AZ CIO/CTO group that is made up of CIO, CTO's, Directors, and other AZ educational IT staff. What is so refreshing about the planning committee and the group in general, is the desire to influence change in the classroom using technology as the catalyst. When planning the most recent conference, the discussion was focused on pedagogy, leadership, and how we could share thoughts on innovation with our audience. Yes the techie piece was still a part of the conversation, but a small part in the big picture. You may be thinking what is so great about that, but I would ask you to stop and think about your district's IT department and what their role is in the organization. Do they just manage devices or do they influence change?

Influence Change
The keynote speaker at the conference was Dan Thurmon (@DanThurmon), and his philosophy is based around, "Success in life is not determined by your circumstances, but by your actions." One of the statements that he made was, "you can't always control the situation, but you can influence it." I very much agree with that statement and believe that as technology directors and IT staff, we can and should operate as 360 degree leaders. John Maxwell talks about leading down, up and across in organizations and how you can expand your influence and become a more valuable team member in his book, The 360 Degree Leader. You may not always be able to control a situation, but you can spend time talking with your superintendent, working with principals, spending time in classrooms and leading your tech staff to be 360 degree leaders also. 

Why So Motivated

I may be generalizing a bit here, or maybe AZ just has the best group of educational IT staff around, but CIO/CTO's and techies in general are not afraid of change. Maybe it is because we are used to the rate that technology changes everyday, or the infinite number of possibilities that can cause a piece of software not to run properly. Whatever the reason is, district tech staff can be innovators and can influence change across a school district, they reach classrooms on a daily basis. What is the role of your district's IT staff, do they just fix devices and manage the network, or do they influence change and innovate?

Innovation Center
There were a number of great sessions at the CIO/CTO conference I mentioned earlier, but one that motivated me to write about the day and IT department was John Miller's session, Innovation Centers. Here is the session description.

Twenty-first century innovation is a symphony of the arts and sciences to design beautiful products and services in new ways. Innovation centers prepare a generation of creators with self-directed teams of students learning through active creation. They are a mash-up of science experiment, art project, music class, multimedia lab and innovation playground. With the help of a trained facilitator, students select, lead and manage their own projects, developing empathy, teamwork, independence and creativity. Evolve beyond the computer lab or Media Center to student Innovation Centers. Transform the digital native to the innovation native.

John truly believes that IT staff can help bring innovation into the classroom and he is working closely with one of his district's elementary schools to create an innovation center that focuses on keeping the creativity in learning. I wanted to end with a picture that John recently shared of the door to his IT department, nice to see department names and titles starting to change to reflect the 21st century.

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