Is Coffee All We Have in Common with Curriculum

This past April, I attended a pair of technology conferences that I had expected going in, would have some degree of overlap. Aside from offering free coffee, the topics, attendees and themes varied widely and didn’t mesh at all.

On Thursday, April 10th, I attended a conference offered by the Massachusetts Educational Technology Administrators Association (METAA), which was designed for district technology leaders.

The clinic kicked off with an excellent keynote from Martha Heller, author of “The CIO Paradox” and an executive recruiter of technology leaders across the country. One of the big take-aways from her speech was the point that technology leaders should be involved in every meeting for input, guidance and problem-solving and that technology can make or break a district.

Throughout the METAA conference, there were hardware, software and support vendors to meet with and workshops centered on a macro-level view of running various technology systems. Topics like administering Google Apps for Education (GAFE) and WIFI management were the norm. It was my second time attending this clinic and well worth it.

On the very next day, for the first time, I attended the second day of the Massachusetts Reading Association (MRA) conference. A focus of this conference was making connections in literacy and the Common Core, through technology. Two fantastic keynotes were presented from Donald J. Leu, Ph.D., the John and Maria Neag Endowed Chair in Literacy and Technology at the University of Connecticut and Nell Duke, Ed.D., professor at the School of Education at the University of Michigan. Keynote topics dove into infusing technology into instruction and literacy development and were truly eye-opening.

There were stated purposes to each conference, so that isn’t the concern. The real issue is why there weren’t any technology directors (or leaders) in attendance at the MRA Conference on Friday, April 11th. I am still rather shocked by it, maybe it’s my naivety? Isn’t the whole point of what technology leaders do wrapped up in an education infused conference, integrating technology in the classroom?

Shouldn’t the types of attendees at these two conferences have some degree of overlap? If not, why not?

If it seems a little unfair, it is and that’s the way it should be. There isn’t an expectation for teachers, principals and curriculum leaders to attend a “nuts and bolts” techie conference. However, technology leaders should attend a technology and curriculum conference like MRA, which is of the highest caliber in the region. Said another way, knowing hardware systems won’t make for a better teacher, but understanding current curriculum initiatives will make for a better technology director.

Expanding from my small anecdotes, the technology director belongs at the central office, wearing a suit, tinkering with servers, WIFI units and Google Apps and has no business working with curriculum, teachers and ideas for integrating technology into the classroom? The two groups should remain separate. Of course, I don’t buy this for a minute, but that seems to be the case.

To be blunt, many technology and systems available require very little hand-holding and I wonder when a district paying a large salary to a technology leader will ask more of that person other than this macro-level view of everything. As budgets are cut and technology resources are expected to become more efficient, I can’t help but wonder why a school district would implement a difficult system and not ask that processes be streamlined to allow for more impact time affecting changes in the classroom.

How much longer can a tech director get away with not being involved with the curriculum to some reasonable degree with their head in the server closet? We might be a little ahead of the curve on this one, but the role of technology leader is changing for the better with this approach.

If I am a district superintendent, looking for a technology leader with knowledge of the curriculum and also capable of understanding the network, is what I am looking for. A hands on capable individual operating in both the curriculum and on the technology realms is key, making district technology purchases come to life in the classroom.

Professionally, I believe I am making the correct shift into understanding the curriculum at a deeper level, which will help our teachers in the classroom. Making this connection is the most important decision a technology director can make going forward.

 

About the Author:

Luke Callahan is the Director of Technology at the Benjamin Franklin Classical Charter Public School (bfccps.org). He has worked over a decade fostering a rich and rewarding technology experience for students and staff. Luke currently lives in Ashland with his wife, Jamee, and daughter, Shealagh Muriel and is currently working towards a Master’s of Education in Curriculum and Instructional Technology at Framingham State University.

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