Education has seen major changes in the last few years, chief among which included a crash course introduction to the world of technology. Almost every school district has developed a technology infrastructure that provides its school sites with Internet and e-mail resources. To keep up with demand for technology implementation, school districts must hire and/or train experts to maintain and implement the technologies. Accordingly, a variety of new technology staffing positions has evolved.
Instructional staff members have found it necessary to work closely with technologists on numerous instructional technology projects. The rapid infusion of technology over the past few years has forged new relationships between instructional and technology staff members. Previously, instructional staff members were only slightly aware of technology department efforts. However, all of this has changed with the growing importance of technology, and instructional staff members have developed a new appreciation for the important role that technologists play.
Similarly, there is a growing understanding for the challenges faced by technology support staff. Although in years past teachers may have considered the technologist simply as “the Computer Guy”, teachers now recognize that the job of a technologist entails a variety of interrelated desktop, network, and help desk support activities that can dramatically improve the delivery of curriculum content.
The increasing importance placed upon technology has increasing thrust the “technology expert” into positions of leadership. This is sometimes a difficult transition for technology employees to make as they move from technical roles into leadership roles that call more for team building, leadership, and communications skills over technical or engineering skills.
And so the critical question becomes, “How does one effectively transition from support function roles into leadership roles?” I’ve put together five points that I believe may be helpful for those who find themselves in the position that I’ve described above. Before we address the five points, let me point out two prerequisites:
Prerequisite 1: Accept the fact that you will find yourself in situations where leadership attributes will be expected of you. If you find that these situations are stressful, then “join the club”, get over it, accept the responsibility, and tackle the challenge.
Prerequisite 2: Understand that leaders are made not born. In other words, you can sharpen your leadership skills.
Now let’s get on to the five points.
1. Rule out the “fear factor.” CGs (acronym for Computer Guys) have not had to deal with people like they do with educators, students and at times even parents. Do not be reluctant to improve your communication skills in new areas including dealing with all types of people on a daily basis. Dr. John C. Maxwell, an authority on leadership, calls it “stretching to success.” When we shrink from challenges, we fail, but when we meet them head on, we and others are better for it.
2. Create a personal mission and vision for yourself and for your job. What do you see yourself doing in five years? How do you see your school or district working with technology in five years? Do you have a plan that will help your technology expertise and knowledge to make your school or district the best place to educate young people? Developing the right vision gives you the courage to sell it and implement it, even when things look like they may not be working out!
3. Develop an attitude of respect for everyone that you come into contact with. Even though you may not respect the person, you can respect the position, be it teacher, administrator, janitor, etc. This helps avoid unnecessary conflict and elevates your credibility and positive influence at your work place.
4. Be a good listener and learner. You may know more about technology than the people around you, but that does not mean you can’t learn from them. People respect you more when you are willing to acknowledge you do not have all the answers!
5. Surround yourself with and accept advice from people who know more than you do and who are better than you in your particular area of expertise. Doing so will further improve your skill base as you strive to the meet the high standards set by your network of colleagues. This can be done via the CEDPA Ed-Tech e-mail listserv or through video conferencing, regional meetings, or a variety of other avenues. The opportunity to network with your colleagues is probably one of the most valuable benefits of the Annual CEDPA Conference and other conferences and workshops. The connections we make are invaluable.
Rich Merlo, Principal
Selma High School
Selma Unified School District