DA Technology Leadership Academy boosts CIO role

Why CIOs are becoming storytellers, evangelists, communicators of possibilities and visionaries
By: | October 9, 2020
While CIOs have long considered themselves a part of teaching and learning, a growing number of other administrators are now sharing that view. (GettyImages/Klaus Vedfelt)While CIOs have long considered themselves a part of teaching and learning, a growing number of other administrators are now sharing that view. (GettyImages/Klaus Vedfelt)

School CIOs and other tech leaders have played a far greater role in instructional decision-making since COVID forced districts to move classes online.

While CIOs have long considered themselves a part of teaching and learning, a growing number of other administrators are now sharing that view, said participants in this month’s District Administration Technology Leadership Institute.

“We may not be in the classroom or in Zoom with everyone else, but what we do is integral to improving the learning experience of the kids in our organizations,” said Lorrie Owens, chief technology officer of the San Mateo County Office of Education in California.

Successfully making this shift toward deeper involvement was a key focus of discussion at this month’s District Administration Technology Leadership Institute.


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Other topics covered during the remote, multi-day institute included transformational leadership, building strategic relationships and conflict resolution.

A goal of the institute was to for CIOs is grow from managers who provide tech support into transformational leaders who help shape instruction, District Administration CIO Lenny Schad said

“We are not just the solution—we are part of classroom experience,” Schad said. “Changing is making something different but transformation is permanent.”

CIO’s evolving roles

The COVID-era transformation of education requires CIOs to adopt several new roles: storyteller, evangelist, communicator of possibilities, and visionary, Schad said.

Technology Leadership Academy: Upcoming sessions

  • April 7-9
  • June 16-18

During challenging times, CIOs also must guide other administrators in what their districts are capable of, rather than what might be ideal, he said.

That requires CIO to balance what students need right away with long-term goals for ed-tech and online learning, Schad said.

“You have to understand what you have the ability to do right now, and what you have the ability to do in six months,” he said. “We are helping our organizations understand barriers as remote learning becomes part of the fabric of the school system.”

Many of the CIOs who participated shared their experiences of how COVID disruptions have allowed them to move beyond providing and managing tech infrastructure.


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Several CIOs shared how they had been working more closely with parents, and helping families solve tech problems, than they had in the past.

Others talked about quickly ramping up professional development provided for teachers this summer and fall.

And more than a few participants agreed that their fellow educators don’t consider IT the “department of no” anymore as CIO have become deeply involved in designing curriculum, lesson planning and ensuring security for online learning.

“Before COVID, our department was looked at as being reactive,” said Bobby LaFleur, director of application support at Spring ISD near Houston. “After COVID, we are building trust, being proactive and becoming seen as a dependable partner.”


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