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School Technology: The Driver for Reimagining Learning

02/04/2013 02:46 pm ET | Updated Apr 06, 2013

Technology plays an integral part in all aspects of school life: From its use to engage students, to a vehicle to connect teachers from across the district, to streamline administrative tasks such as payroll, to conduct assessment testing, and as an efficient way to communicate with parents and the community.

Education technology leaders are unique among IT professionals. Not only must they know all the current and emerging technologies, they must have a deep understanding of how this technology can be used to transform education.

Less than 10 years ago, a school district's technology infrastructure was created and managed by IT specialists. These specialists were not required to possess knowledge of the education process or environment; rather they were expected to make sure that computers worked and to troubleshoot issues when they arose. This scenario is no longer the K-12 education technology professional's primary focus given the critical role that technology plays in all aspects of the educational environment including how students learn and are assessed, how teachers teach and are evaluated, how parents are kept informed, and how individual schools are integrated into the entire district and state enterprise.

Education‐based technology has become more complex to meet these needs. Now school districts must rely on their Chief Technology Officers (CTO) and staff to engage deeply in the total academic program to ensure that technology is considered in every aspect of the district's school system. These leaders are expected to:

  • Understand the complexity of the teaching/learning process and the importance of the educational environment.
  • Work closely with the financial team to understand total cost of ownership and wise purchasing practices for the changing technological landscape.
  • Know how technology enhances the student's educational experience.
  • Play an active role in the school district's long‐term strategic and operational goals.

Technology strategy needs to be considered at the school district cabinet level if we want to leverage its potential to personalize learning. This is similar to the evolution of school finance. Just a few decades ago, every school district had bookkeepers and accountants, but few had chief financial officers. Eventually superintendents and school boards realized that finance is a strategic initiative and they needed personnel with those financial leadership skills. We are now at a similar point with education technology.

The Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) has launched a national certification program designed to identify K-12 professionals who have the human capacity to leverage technology to transform learning, and to help develop those who do not. The Certified Education Technology Leader (CETL) certification program is based on teaching and testing education technology leaders on the skills they need to cultivate high quality 21st century learning environments in our nation's K‐12 schools. The program measures and validates the knowledge of the education technology staff. Those passing the rigorous CETL exam demonstrate their mastery of the essential skills needed to transform the learning environments in our state's school districts.

This effort is part of a larger societal conversation we need to have about how all educators need to retool their skills and rethink what learning looks like today to prepare students for college, career and life. From the teacher to the principal, from the superintendent to the curriculum officer, everyone needs to be part of "reimagining learning."

GETideas.org is an online professional learning community specifically designed for education system leaders to generate and exchange ideas so they can be inspired to make Global Education Transformation happen.

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