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6 ways to support a digital transformation

What is a CIO's role in a district's digital transformation, and how can goals be achieved?

Ensuring the success of any new edtech initiative has little to nothing to do with the technology itself, but instead is directly related to a focus on student learning and an effort to break down silos.

When districts keep student learning at the top of their list and focus on building successful relationships, a digital transformation is more of a reality and less of a dream, said Lenny Schad, chief information and innovation officer for LRP Media, during CoSN 2019 in Portland, OR. Schad sat down with Rob Abel, CEO of IMS Global Learning Consortium, for an informal discussion about CTOs, CIOs, and their roles in driving digital transformation.

Read more: Driving a successful digital transformation in urban districts

Here are some of the elements Schad said are key to understanding and executing to ensure a successful digital transformation:

Make the digital transformation about kids. “As CIOs, take a step back, think through your strategic planning, and really analyze if you have kids at the center of this conversation. If you watch kids and talk to them, they’ll open up your mind to what’s possible,” Schad said. “Then, you have to get the adult in you out of the way, because the adult in you will tell you it can’t be done. That’s when we become the enablers to the solution.”

Be willing to talk about tough topics. “We don’t have conversations about how it’s unrealistic to start transformational leadership initiatives if you won’t talk about governance, policy, and all the things that go along with it.”

Focus on systems, not silos. “The thing that strikes me is that we never make the linkage between how things need to fit together. Have a broad conversation about the things we need to link together, and as a system, are you ready to do this? If you’re not, what’s your call to action? What are you going to take back to your district?”

Define your “whys” before you define your “hows.” “It was all about our students and all about our goal to have global graduates–we talked about student and teacher readiness, how this is a big change in culture, and how this is an evolution. We never talked about devices,” Schad said of his time as Houston ISD’s chief information technology officer. “If you’re going to kick off transformational initiatives, you have to have a level of understanding. When you hit that tipping point with a great level of understanding, then you get to the how.”

Read more: Here’s how to make your digital strategy seamless

Be able to work at part of a team to arrive at the “why.” “It takes commitment from the entire leadership team and a clear understanding of everyone’s roles and responsibilities. If you don’t have that, you won’t be successful. In any type of digital transformation, you’ll step on toes. You need a leadership team and a superintendent who is actively engaged and committed to the initiative. There should be very few initiatives in your district that you’re the sole driver of. If that’s the case, you need to work on your relationships.”

Realize that one district’s digital transformation may not look like another district’s digital transformation. “Transformation has become a dangerous word–it’s completely dependent on your culture. Transformation looks different for everybody.”

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