I am often asked by schools to help in the appointment of someone to lead their technology strategy and often the most difficult part is drawing up a job description that is both ambitious and, well, fill-able.
The first challenge is what to call it. Director/ Head/ Leader of…
- Digital Strategy?
I prefer the latter – it’s all-encompassing, simple and not easily misunderstood.
The next thing to understand is that the role has nothing to do with the curriculum subject of ICT/ CS and should not be conflated with it or manage it. We do not, after all, expect the catering service to run the Food Technology curriculum or conversely the PE department to cut the grass.
I asked a colleague to describe a similar role he carries out for his Academy:
The principles of this post seem fairly uncontroversial:
- It should focus relentlessly on learning – technology as a utility, not a goal;
- It should encompass the use of technology across every aspect of school-life – ‘canteen to classroom';
- It should be part of the School Leadership Team, as it’s a whole-school responsibility and needs to be tied into multiple other things*;
- The focus should be on supporting staff development, not on the narrow concept of ‘training';
- It should line-manage the school’s technical staff (controversial, but vital if change is to be successful).
and specific responsibilities should include
- Listening – understanding and integrating the needs of students & their learning into the school’s approach to technology use;
- Visioning – understanding what emerging technologies make possible, and working out if they could contribute to the school’s educational aims;
- Strategising – planning how the vision is to be delivered, the when what where who and how of making it come to life;
- Coaching – supporting classroom staff in the confident and effective use of technology for learning;
- Training – designing a programme of CPD aligned to the strategy, commissioning & delivering training sessions to groups of staff;
- Mentoring – developing additional capacity within the school, encouraging subject champions become engines of change within their departments;
- Liaising – feeding in the expertise and expectations of the school’s governance and wider community of parents, employers and other education professionals.
- Reflecting – learning from others around the world performing similar roles.
The combination of personality traits and experience needed is quite rare;
- A great teacher with a passion their chosen career and strong experience of applying technology to enhance teaching and learning;
- A broad, functional understanding of the technologies used by schools, from the cafeteria to the classroom;
- Commercial nous, able to manage complex combinations of suppliers, projects and contracts;
- Emotionally mature and empathetic, with a foot in both camps and able to translate & mediate between teachers and technical staff;
- A skilled trainer, with great communication skills and educational credibility, able to demystify technology and reveal its relevance;
- A persistent and optimistic outlook, demonstrating determination in the face of set-backs;
- The inquisitiveness & inventiveness needed to stay abreast of developments and spot opportunities to innovate and, equally, practical solutions to teaching or technical problems;
- The ability to monitor and assess both formally and informally the needs of colleagues and pupils, and to respond to them;
- And finally a strong grounding in what we know about effective learning and teaching, with the skepticism required to apply technology only where it accelerates, deepens, adds value or makes the previously impossible possible.
This role definitely represents a significant investment by a school in the development of technology, but without it, money spent on technology itself is likely to result in limited impact.
What do you think is missing from the description above?
* Caveat to the SLT point; where a head teacher has an exceptionally strong vision for technology and champions it across the senior team, this role can be effectively carried out by a middle leader.