Technology is essential for today’s students to succeed in a mobile world—few, if any, would argue that. But how can school administrators, and district CIOs in particular, adapt to ed-tech’s fast pace while still maintaining a secure and productive district networking environment?
Here, Gregory Smith, ASCD’s new and first-ever chief technology officer, talks to eSchool News about six essential things district CIOs must consider as they move to develop and implement innovative ed-tech solutions. In addition to his new role at ASCD, Smith just released a new book, Straight to the Top: CIO Leadership in a Mobile, Social, and Cloud-based World.
1. The world is going mobile.
CIOs must change their approach for dealing with ed-tech applications and network access through mobile devices. That may require purchasing solutions and/or developing applications that are mobile in nature. Content has to be formatted and delivered to myriad different devices that are not necessarily under a school district’s control, such as smart phones and tablets with different operating systems and platforms. At the end of the day, those are the devices that people communicate with and access systems with. School districts must develop a mobile strategy, and before they implement it, they must make sure they have the right architecture to support such an ed-tech initiative.
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2. The cloud is no longer myth. It’s reality.
CIOs have many more options than they had five years ago when it comes to hosting applications, hosting infrastructure, and purchasing applications in the cloud. School districts should develop a cloud strategy that’s based on business need and risk mitigation. Risk mitigation is important, because before an organization moves all its apps into the cloud, it has to recognize that by doing so, it loses control with security. Schools must pick and choose cloud strategies wisely and should understand the economics of cloud computing, as well as the impact on an IT budget.
3. Dependent upon their cloud strategy, school districts may need to completely redo their ed-tech integration approach.
When an organization moves an app into the cloud it is going to have to change the integration technologies that move information between applications. Cloud integration is completely different than traditional integration in that it uses different software, methodologies, and tools. CIOs should look at the cloud integration market and search for companies that offer integration strategies, such as IBM’s CastIron, or SoftwareAG’s webMethods.
4. Social media presents both challenges and opportunities for CIOs.
As more organizations are now starting to service customers through social media channels, IT organizations have moved from blocking access to these sites to now embracing them as a potential channel for school communities, customers, or sales campaigns. For instance, a school system’s PTA might have a social networking site to interact with the school community or educational leadership. CIOS need to leverage social media outreach support and communication. Now, with social media comes risk, and a risk-based approach for handling social media is key—including a district legal adviser isn’t a bad idea when having conversations about how social media will be used within the district. Having appropriate use and approval policies in the school system before something is posted or communicated is a smart step. Make sure social media mangers know how to deal with unhappy school community members and don’t put out information that is private, personal, or not yet approved.
5. Stay abreast of technology trends and vendors that are introducing new and innovative products.
District CIOs need to spend time at IT and business conferences, should have IT advisory and research services, and must understand what technologies are coming down the pipeline and how they’re going to impact the ed-tech marketplace.
6. CIOs need to double down on security.
Cloud computing, social media, and other trends push things outside of a CIO’s control. Data centers have to boost network security measures, and that might mean employing actions such as content filters and data loss prevention software.