The Changing Role of the CTO (Chief Technology Officer) in School Districts
In every school district, the role of the CTO is changing.
The modern Chief Technology Officer’s role has metamorphosed from that of part-time teacher/part-time repair person to one of a visionary leader. The change positions the district and its shareholders to understand how to use technology effectively as a tool rather than learn it as a standalone subject.
Today’s CTOs are:
More collaborative than ever
The CTO advocates for the integration of technology. In doing so, this school officer must understand the needs and concerns of students, teachers, administrators, the school board, and the community. Any hardware and software selected for use must align with the district’s mission and vision. Often, CTOs will find themselves communicating with their district teams, other CTOs, state agencies, and federal program directors to build the kind of comprehensive technology infrastructure needed for daily business and learning.
No longer facilitators
The role of the CTO has changed as much as that of teachers in the last two decades. CTOs are now the “guides on the side” rather than the “sage on the stage.” They are expected to build partnerships through trust, and much of the Chief Technology Officer’s work consists of coaching users in fast-paced digital environments.
Technology has permeated every part of education in school districts, from GPS and WiFi on school buses to the hardware and software used in classrooms. With this technology has come security and privacy concerns, thanks to outside phishing schemes and data hackers seeking access to personal information.
FERPA and HIPAA requirements are exacting; therefore, CTOs must position themselves and their technology teams as gatekeepers who protect the personal data of not only students but also the adults who work with them.
The CTO ensures that the environment in which everyone learns and works is secure.
Dynamic leaders in fluid environments
The Chief Technology Officer who still believes that every school must be hard-wired wired “just in case” is probably living in the past as much as the person who hopes that 8-track tapes will make a comeback. Technology is never static; it continuously evolves, and the CTO must change with new trends and demands. The CTO must also be a visionary who can set short- and long-term goals. He or she doesn’t need to know how to repair equipment or install classroom whiteboards, but this person must be able to lead a team of experts who can.
The changing role of the CTO is a beneficial one. By identifying, guiding, and nurturing the integration of technology, the Chief Technology Officer will have the greatest role in the future of school districts.