Change in emphasis

My to-do list six months ago:
– Build admission inquiry web site
– Build bookstore checkout system
– Prep computers for start of year
– Introduce Drupal schoolwide
– Roll out wireless security system

My to-do list this month
– Plan technology staff retreat
– Hire second support technician
– Tie up loose ends in admission and bookstore web scripts
– Write curricular technology integration report
– Publish newsletters responding to aspects of schoolwide tech survey
– Present web 2.0 philosophy to middle school parents
– Redesign school-provided cellphone policies
– Evaluate viability of wireless security system

Over the last six months, I have recognized the need to shift my emphasis from development and configuration (building new technology capacity) to team-building, communication and training. On the one hand, this is natural for this point in the year — the summer is prime time for rolling out new technologies, supporting new technologies and new uses of old technologies dominates the fall, and then we begin to plan for future initiatives once winter arrives. However, a larger change is also afoot. I have discovered (the hard way, sometimes), that this school technology program requires more management than I had previously thought. It just doesn’t run itself the way it did at my previous, smaller school. The larger school is much more complicated, with more varied uses of technology and a greater need to coordinate practices from different parts of the school. In some ways, it’s like running a very small school district, as our four age-level divisions operate to some degree as four separate schools. Cultural differences also exist, especially in amount of direct support that teachers and staff expect for their technology activities.

My role shifts from developer/initiator to facilitator/manager. I gain an exciting new set of professional objectives. How do I coordinate the technology team to best serve the school? How can I best influence the schoolwide dialogue about technology integration and its relationship to new societal norms? At the same time, I lose long stretches of uninterrupted time to develop, install, and configure new technologies myself. I would like to continue to build new tools to support school curricular and operational programs, but I have my hands more than full with existing initiatives. Hopefully, the need for rapid introduction of new technologies has now passed at this school — we now have most of the tools that we should for a leading school in 2008. Perhaps other members of the tech team will grow into the burgeoning field of community web site development.

Other school leaders experience the same issues. Chris Lehmann has written about the same experience since becoming principal of Science Leadership Academy. Another school leader spoke to “view from the balcony” at Leadertalk the other day. Of course, they are principals, and I run a tech department, but I feel similar pressures on a smaller scale. I guess that everyone makes their own decision at some point about how much daily practice to give up in order to serve the schoolwide needs of the institution. Certainly, forums and resources for leadership studies are of great value to help individuals make these transitions.

2 comments

  1. Alex Ragone says:

    Hi Richard,

    Great post — thanks for helping me reflect on 2007 and look towards 2008.

    Yep, management is interesting. Not sure exactly how to get it all perfectly balanced, but having clear goals and communicating them with your department and school is the first step.

    Having great administrators to work for and observe is another important part of my development. Plus a few good books (Now Here are your Strengths, 12: The Elements of Great Managing) have helped focus me.

    Good luck with that new hire!

    – Alex

  2. Terry L. Sumerlin says:

    Good thoughts and worthy objectives. Good luck.

    Terry L. Sumerlin
    The Barber-osopher
    Author/Motivational Speaker