A Letter to Instructional Technology Specialists

Here’s a note that every “Technology Instructor” should receive from their administrator:

Dear Instructional Technology Specialists:

Your job is to help the teachers…not implement the latest tech trend.

Thank you for your attention to this matter

Principal

The problem is that most schools don’t have an Instructional Technology Specialist.  They have a Technology Instructor who teaches technology utilization to students, and/or a Director of Technology.

Back in the dark ages of Ed-Tech (about 17 years ago, after the Y2K threat passed without incident), the trend was for the newly-minted Instructional Technology Specialist to be a resource to teachers, helping them implement their lesson plans with technology resources.  One of my first projects was to provide the Instructional Design for 12-part adult education course which was taught in lecture form, and create an online version of it, incorporating videos of the presentations, a section where notes could be taken by the participant, a space where they could be filed, and a secure forum where participants could have online discussions regarding the material delivered.  The problem was that was back in 2003.  Video was expensive, not to mention the size of video files at the time.  And designing for the Web meant building sites with html code.  It was expensive and time-consuming.  It cost thousands of dollars to create a Web presence.

Today in 2017, those barriers are gone.  Web design and creation is still time-consuming, but with templates, platforms like WordPress and Joomla, and the ability to embed video shot on an iPad then uploaded and housed on YouTube, Instructional Technology Specialists have fallen victim to the “Other duties as assigned” clause in their job descriptions.  As a Director, they look for tools that integrate technologically first, then consider their effectiveness, and because of their comfort level with technology, rely on information obtained from the Web to make their decisions.

The problem?  Has anyone heard of the “Fake News” epidemic?  The Internet is rife with omissions, non-checked assertions and plain old sarcasm.  Yet, for someone entrenched in technology, most of their work is engaged with people who know technology, and can filter out problems with it.  That’s context.  The difficulty lies in the content, and teachers are the content experts when it comes to technology in the classroom.

What’s happened?  The Instructional Technology Specialist position in many schools has now been combined with the Librarian.  The problem with that?  Librarians have been historically engaged in getting students interested in reading.  But with the propensity of technology, it’s become clear that people really no longer read today.  For example, an online technology I’m familiar with posts a warning to the user if an application deadline has passed.  However, the second paragraph of the warning says the user may continue, since the organization they’re applying to may have different deadlines for different programs.

No one read that second paragraph.  They encountered the warning, and immediately called to complain.

The positions have been combined because the Library has become the center of technology for research, with the Internet and its resources replacing the encyclopedia.  Unfortunately, the responsibilities of each of those position were divergent, since the Librarian is about content, and the Instructional Technology Specialist is about context.

As for the Director of Technology, their role is to be supportive to the teaching staff.  But they’re Directors, right?  So where do they exercise their “directing” capacity?  To administrative functions.  Many principals today began their teaching career as a teacher, and therefore, aren’t enamored with the administrative tasks they need to endure, like budget oversight, personnel concerns regarding contracts, staffing, and admonishments, and facility maintenance and enhancement.  They’re concerned with the overall quality of the educational experience.  But when teachers need to deal with one or two students that constantly cause disruption of the class, the educational experience is diminished.  Put a couple of those students into each classroom, and it’s no wonder that educational scores are not the best in the world as the proverbial everyone thinks they should be.

In the private and faith-based schools, these administrators rely on advice from their staff – business managers and technology directors, for instance, to make their lives easier.  In the public sector, however, educational administrators usually need to comply with directives from business managers and technology directors.  And the problems are exacerbated when those used to the public school environment cross over to the private school environment, and vice-versa.

The key to success is the ability to realize what a team is, and how a team should function.  The difficulty is that in most situations, teams are dysfunctional.  Consultant and best-selling author Patrick Lencioni has written “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team,” which is a great primer on how teams can be more effective in leading their organization.  There’s a great video of a presentation on this topic which you can access at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=inftqUOLFaM.  It’s humorous…and compelling.

Posted in edu-cat-ion.