Connecting District Leadership and the Tech Team: How to Overcome Challenges

Posted by Erin SurpriseO

August 21, 2018

School districts’ leadership and IT teams are often on different pages. Thanks to the rise of new educational technology, it’s essential for districts to bridge this gap.


As educational technology solutions become commonplace, school districts nationwide need to streamline strategy and communication between two essential teams: district leadership and information technology (IT).


With already full plates and differing priorities, it’s easy to understand why district leaders and IT professionals may fall out of sync: while technology teams focus on keeping district technology functioning, leadership teams train their efforts on student instruction and initiatives to improve achievement. But educational technology has evolved from an instructional accessory that simply needs to be functional to all-encompassing learning management systems and districtwide databases that empower data-driven, and ultimately more effective, instruction. Due to this change, it’s important for IT teams and district leaders to work in tandem. Schools’ success — and by extension, students’ success — depends on districts’ ability to bridge the gap between these two important groups.


Districts that successfully facilitate connections between these departments will be better equipped to leverage educational data, share that data with educators, and begin making strategic decisions for school improvement.


Tech and Ed Teams: Better Together


District technicians have always been tasked with configuring servers and networks to ensure systems work well for the end user. But in the past, it wasn’t necessary to understand the teaching or learning process in order to do that job well. And while administrators have embraced providing technology in the classroom to aid instruction, things like data infrastructure and analytics have often been left completely to IT teams to handle. But in order to support data-driven decision making, both district leadership and the technology teams need to have a seat at the table.


Today, districts leverage several systems of data, from student information and assessment to transportation, HR, and finance, which can deepen their understanding of — and ability to equitably care for — students’ specific needs. Ensuring such systems are in place, properly maintained, and effectively integrated into educator workflows requires alignment between the teams that use them and the teams that maintain their functionality.


For example, facilitating a data warehouse requires a massive amount of data consolidation — a responsibility that will likely fall to district technology professionals. However, if tech teams don’t understand educators’ goals, the data warehouse might not provide the specific insights that end users need. What’s more, consolidating the necessary data requires funding and resources; administrators need to understand the tech team’s process in order to set realistic expectations and provide the support technology professionals need to succeed.


What It Takes to Bridge the Gap


Districts must establish best practices to ensure technology and leadership teams both have the information and support they need to set and achieve ambitious goals. Creating those best practices requires collaboration, clear and consistent communication, and channels through which each side can share goals, questions, and concerns. At Hoonuit, we’ve seen the districts that are most successful in facilitating this collaboration begin by including tech team members in strategy planning sessions and end users (often specialists or teachers) and administrators in technology meetings.


Once the lines of communication are opened between teams, districts can cement the connection by designating a leader or group of leaders that represents each team’s interests. This may be a person who works on the IT side but has experience with or a deep interest in educational strategy, or a teacher with a background in technology or information systems. The person or group should be willing to listen to and advocate for each teams’ respective goals.


Ultimately, bridging this gap begins with district leadership. When district leaders show an active interest in understanding the logistical steps necessary to accomplish tech-related goals, they create an atmosphere of respect and collaboration throughout the entire school system. That’s why at Hoonuit, we always invite district leadership to observe and participate in our meetings with district tech teams. Because when it comes to meeting ambitious district-wide goals, it takes a village.

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