6 things keeping your CTO up at night

4. Tight budgets. Orbaugh says technology funding is another sore spot right now for CTOs – particularly those that are based in Texas and no longer receiving instructional computing funding. Recently rolled up under the “instructional materials” umbrella, this funding source once provided about $30 per student for technology spending. “It wasn’t a lot of money,” Orbaugh admits, “but at least I knew that I could count on it.”

With Texas undertaking a large textbook adoption initiative, most of the instructional material funding is being eaten up by non-technology expenses, says Orbaugh. “In an era where we’re trying to modernize technology for our students and instructors, we can’t even plan ahead based on a targeted budget at this point,” says Orbaugh, who is at least optimistic about the new E-Rate funding rules that go into effect this year.

5. Wi-Fi worries. Sheryl Abshire, Ph.D., CTO at Calcasieu Parish Public Schools in Lake Charles, La., sees the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend as being particularly onerous for today’s CTOs. Of particular concern is having the right amount of bandwidth to support students and teachers who tote multiple devices on campus and that require Wi-Fi to support those devices. To minimize the problem, Abshire says her district conducted several internal surveys about its existing wireless setup, and then – like Orbaugh – turned to E-Rate’s Category 2 funding to help fund the addition of a robust, reliable network.

6. Too much device diversity. Of course, with more BYOD taking place on campus, the need for technical support increases exponentially. “A teacher whose classroom is populated with 30 or 40 different devices doesn’t have the time to figure them all out – particularly when a student has a problem,” says Abshire, who advocates the use of standardization (for devices, operating systems, etc.) as a way to overcome this hurdle. “Standardization has worked well for us. When a help desk ticket comes in, we know the device in question and can address the problem as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

To K-12 CTOs who are dealing with these and other challenges, Young says it’s important to note that no one has all of the answers to these pressing questions. He advises technology directors to lean on their peers for help, and encourages them to get involved with local and national organizations like CoSN, the Consortium of School Networking, which are focused on information sharing, problem solving, and the use of best practices. “These groups can serve as great resources for both new and veteran CTOs that are operating in a constantly-changing landscape.”

Bridget McCrea is a contributing writer for eSchool News.

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