Mal Lee and Roger Broadie
Every digital school needs a senior staff member responsible for daily providing the school community the digital ecosystem that will enable it to realise its shaping educational and digital vision.
It is not a job for a committee.
It is a task for a high level professional educator.
It doesn’t matter what title the position carries – be it deputy head, e-learning coordinator, director of information services, digital technology or CDO – what is important is to have a person with operational responsibility for all facets of the school’s digital operations.
What is critical is that the school has an astute, visionary senior educator with good people skills and a high degree of digital expertise responsible for shaping, operating and growing the school’s digital ecosystem.
Business and many large public sector organisations are appointing high-level, very well paid chief digital officers (CDOs) to shape and coordinate all the digital operations of the organisation and to ensure all are directed to assisting realise the desired vision (Lee, 2016).
Tellingly all the successful pathfinder schools unwittingly have had such a person, albeit under different titles, with all having long abandoned the reliance on the part time ICT committee.
The provision of an apposite, ever evolving, increasingly powerful and productive school digital ecosystem that meets the particular needs of the school is a highly challenging task. It requires a leader and a team willing to actively support the distributed control of teaching, learning and resourcing that can provide the desired digital expertise, direction setting, infrastructure, services and support.
What is critical is having an educator who shares the principal’s digital vision and macro understanding of the workings of the school, with a strong awareness of the digital, able to work collaboratively with an empowered staff in providing the apposite tightly integrated digital platform.
The position requires an appreciation of the school’s shaping educational vision, the kind of digitally based ecosystem and school culture that will best realise that vision and the facility to provide the total digitally empowered school community the apposite, ever evolving, seamlessly integrated digital ecosystem.
It most assuredly does not require an ‘ICT expert’ who unilaterally decides what technology all in the school will use.
Critically it needs a visionary educator able to collaborate with a digitally empowered staff, students and parents, ensuring all are provided with the opportunity to fly with the digital, who can simultaneously govern the school’s use of the digital and ensure multiple systems and offerings are appropriately integrated and refreshed.
It should go without saying schools won’t evolve digitally and be able to govern the astute whole of school community use of the digital with a part time, invariably ‘bolt-on’ ICT committee. It is a job for the professionals with the time needed to fulfil this critical role.
If you still have an ICT committee get rid of it ‘tomorrow’, appoint the requisite professionals and integrate all matters digital into the everyday workings and growth of the school.
The role of ‘CDO’ is – as elaborated upon in The Chief Digital Officer and the Governance of the School Digital Ecosystem (Lee, 2016) – and the now many business management publications – is a demanding job, requiring a special talent and a skill set rarely if ever taught at the postgraduate level in education faculties.
Most in the role have like the digital leaders learnt on the job, invariably supported by astute heads.
It is highly likely at this point in time that you too will need to grow such a person. Look to mentors who can assist that growth.
We’ve gone out on a limb and stressed the school CDO needs first and foremost to be an educator, with a strong understanding of the total workings of the school, very good people skills and a high level understanding of the digital. One can readily grow the digital understanding but not the high level educational.
Our message for all school leaders embarking on the digital evolutionary journey is to find very early in the piece a ‘chief digital officer’ who can translate the vision into reality.
- Lee, M (2016) ‘The Chief Digital Officer and the Governance of the School’s Digital Ecosystem’ Educational Technology Solutions August 2016 – http://www.educationtechnologysolutions.com.au/2016/08/chief-digital-officer-governance-school-digital-ecosystem/