The following is the executive summary from our recent publication The Challenges and Professional Development Needs of the District Technology Leader. The full report is available here.
The district technology leader could be an administrator, manager, or teacher who has responsibility for technology operations across a school district. The
Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) calls such individuals the “Chief
Technology Officer” (CTO).
This report outlines a survey of CTOs in Illinois public and private school
districts. The survey asked participants to identify their three top challenges and
four top professional development needs.
For their top challenges, CTOs were precluded from using “time, money, and
(lack of) people” as their primary challenges. These components were identified
as universal challenges for all organizations. Through a focus group, nine
challenges were identified. Later CTOs were presented the list and asked to
identify and rank their top three challenges. Responding CTOs ranked
Professional Development for other employees issue as their top challenge.
Increased Expectations ranks second, followed by Instruction and Staff, both tied
for third. Professional Development includes formal training programs and adhoc,
spur of the moment training session for individual employees.
For professional development, CTOs were asked to rank their top four
professional development needs based on CoSN’s “Framework of Essential Skills
for the K-12 CTO,” which has ten categories. Responding CTOs ranked Planning
as their highest professional development need, followed by Instruction, Policy,
and Leadership, respectively.
For professional development, school district leaders should recognize that CTOs’
professional development needs are not technical. CTOs know how and where to
get assistance about the core components of their jobs. They need professional
development on CoSN’s broad categories of “Leadership and Vision” and the
“Educational Environment.” This development can occur in formal opportunities,
but likely best when CTOs are mentored and included in district planning and
policy development, curriculum initiatives, and school-level projects.
The most important insight from this study is that district leaders need
professional development for strategic elements, including planning, leadership,
policy, and instruction.