Getting Outside Support Tech Directors Can Rely On

At the beginning of the school year, our inclination as tech directors is to hunker down, and make sure that everything is right with technology in our school buildings. This is as it should be. But do not let a whole year pass again without getting outside of your district for some meaningful interaction with your colleagues in other districts.

I, like you, am in the midst of the start of school. I and my staff have been replacing and expanding one-quarter of my district’s computer fleet. We have been upgrading the infrastructure for the next wave of wireless demand. We have been updating or replacing major software. We have been planning new grants with the Instructional Technology Coordinator. We have been putting out fires and dealing with tech issues in the schools. At the same time, we have been trying to find time to experiment with exciting new hardware and software. So what was I doing spending a whole afternoon last week meeting with some local tech directors to form a new statewide education technology support organization?

I asked myself the same question several times during the meeting, but as we struggled to work out the details of this new organization, I felt that what I was doing was right. It was not only right for me personally, but it was right for all tech leaders.

This new organization is trying to elevate our work in education technology, by providing support to the tech leaders throughout our state. At the core of the mission is to provide a way for tech leaders to share ideas, opinions and information between districts.

The statewide organization, which is a branch of CoSN, has been envisioned by a fellow tech director, Tony Inglese of Batavia (Illinois) Public Schools. Tony is serving as first president of this new organization. He provided the spark of idea and leadership so that other tech directors could work to form the new organization.

Prior to the current effort to form this statewide organization, I have had the privilege to attend a monthly meeting of tech directors from my county. This monthly meeting has been invaluable. Sponsored by the Kane County (Illinois) Regional Office of Education tech director, Phil Morris, this meeting brought together the nine tech directors from the county. Although we were of different sizes and had some different issues, we were still able to share a great deal of common information between districts. This collaboration has led to some great exchanges of information. Phil has even put together some joint purchase agreements for the districts to take advantage of. I thank Phil for having the foresight to host this meeting every month and to provide me and my colleagues with the chance to get together.

Both of these organizations have encouraged me to get outside my district and see what is going on in other districts throughout my area. I have always felt like I have received much more than I have given. Whenever I go and return, I have new ideas or new perspectives about education technology. I may have a new application, an alternative to the software I am endeavoring to maintain, or a new way to look at hardware support. I have also returned with the sense of confirmation that some of the ideas we have come up with inside the district are working in other districts. This has emboldened me to press ahead with new initiatives.

So as you work to maintain your department’s equilibrium in these first months of school, I encourage you to get involved outside your district. You may feel called to be a leader and visionary, like Tony, or a facilitator and host, like Phil. Or you may be a willing participant, like me. However you get involved, I think you will find, like I have, that you gain much more than you give.

Craig Williams is the director of information services for Illinois School District U-46 in Elgin, Illinois. He and his team are overhauling the district’s infrastructure and seeding technology into classrooms, to ensure the all of the district’s culturally-diverse students have the opportunity to expand their learning and achievement. His previous work with schools, first as a building architect, then as a technology design consultant, provides him with a broad perspective on planning for improved student learning. Williams currently serves on the Board with the Illinois CoSN chapter - Education Technology Council of Illinois.

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