Light Offerings

Why schools need a Director of Digital

Posted by jturner56 on August 11, 2013

First week back for a new school year has provided food for thought about how schools can move to the next level in their integration of digital technologies. While this post specifically focuses on a particular position, it does so within a commitment to an overall Commitment the other three Cs: Connection, Coordination, and Community.

In business Chief Information Officers (CIO) have taken on increasing importance as organisations evolve to meet Digital Age challenges and opportunities. Schools need comparable positions that are relevant to educational needs. At this point in time White’s (bit.ly/15myhZe) insights into the shortcomings of digital education research and the OECD/CERI insights into cognitive and brain science (http://bit.ly/1cUSz3q) are timely reminders that we still have a long way to go to effective join cognition, environment and digital for valued educational outcomes.

What I mean by Director of Digital (DoD) is someone who is setting and overseeing the digital direction of a school in support of

  • it’s core business value, which in education is quality learning
  • driving meaningful change
  • bringing together the diverse elements that make up the school community
  • evaluating new technologies for their learning value

For going on thirty years I have been working on translating digital change into educational opportunity within school communities, and this has taught me much about disjunctions and segmentation that emanate from the industrial antecedents that unpin much of formal schooling. Too often schools, through practices and politics, still consider digital as an add on. IT departments working from 1980s constructs, and demarcations between IT as a business priority against curriculum as a separated consideration, create drag.

DoD as a position doesn’t in itself address such shortcomings. Most schools have some sort of digital direction responsibility. Some impressive, many not so much. What a good DoD can achieve is embedded value through progressive, connected approaches that goes to the core of the school’s progress. To be effective a DoD needs to

  • channel whole school focus
  • be a connector
  • possess strong curriculum skills
  • understand school culture
  • be able to look and translate beyond the school envelop as outside forces increasingly influence school
  • possess technical and data understanding

At the centre of getting the most from this is considering digital as integral to school, not an optional / add-on. A DoD position therefore must be part of the core decision making and leadership processes. This might be a specified position, or part of another leadership position.

Within this is a need for IT professional expertise. Historically this has been a specialisation focused on digital as technology over user considerations. Times have changed. Schools are increasingly finding it difficult to find the finance for high-level expertise, collaborative expertise has become increasingly more valued, and the increase in personal, mobile ownership means shared expertise is a power to draw on. Behind closed doors approaches have become increasingly deficient.

Yes, network management expertise is essential for reliability, security and administration, but with BYO and telecommunication developments, network management will need to continue to evolve. So too support and connected learning structures.

In summary then, schools need a Director of Digital to bring together digital elements to best support how the school as a community wishes to address the three key educational business questions

  1. what learning is value?
  2. How will it be valued?
  3. To what ends will such learning be supported?

Interested? I look forward to hearing from you.

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