Hiring skilled and knowledgeable edtech leaders and team members is essential as the role of digital tools in K-12 education evolves. Candidates must work well with existing staff to achieve the district’s vision for technology and to understand how digital tools can transform education.
“A strong tech department can minimize issues so that staff and students can focus on learning,” says Adela Dickey, director of technology for Northwest Allen County Schools in Indiana.
When building a technology and innovation team, the technical skills to look for in candidates may vary, so Dickey focuses on soft skills, particularly strong customer service-oriented abilities, including effective communication and collaboration skills, excellent attention to detail, and resourcefulness.
The practices for hiring edtech team members depend on whether a candidate is coming from the private sector, another school district or rising up the ranks in an existing school system, Dickey says.
If they are transitioning from the private sector, candidates must understand that customer needs are unique in the K-12 space because deployment is time-sensitive and involves understanding teaching and learning. They should also be familiar with policy development, strategic planning and technology management.
Meanwhile, candidates from other districts must be willing to adapt to a new edtech team’s culture and be ready to share the workload. Dickey also reviews their expectations for turnaround time, their comfort level working with staff and students, and their confidence with technology and ability to resolve issues quickly.
As for internal prospects, Dickey pays close attention to how quickly they learn new things, their interest in a leadership role, and their troubleshooting and training skills.
Building a strong culture
All edtech leaders and team members should possess an outward focus and willingness to work with administrators and teachers to understand their challenges and goals, Dickey says. “If they don’t have the recent experience of teaching or being in a classroom, they must get an appreciation for everything the teachers are dealing with and why having delays in getting a program launched or getting a device up and running is unacceptable.”
Various positions within the edtech department attract different candidates. Entry-level tech support positions may pay above minimum wage, but often attract transitional job seekers, such as recent college graduates who are looking to gain experience, she says.
For the upper-level positions, Dickey seeks candidates who are interested in edtech and want to stay for a while, rather than move on to greener pastures. These employees require more training to gain access to high-level security systems, so it is necessary to gauge their commitment level before extending an offer, Dickey says.
Building a positive culture within the edtech department can be as simple as having periodic team lunches to forge personal connections, says Dickey.
“When things get hairy, I want us to pull together instead of apart, and I need someone who’s going to work well with our team,” Dickey says. “Having the right people in the department who are able to work with our customers is so important because there’s not much that can frustrate like technology can.”