People often ask Tech Directors, “What exactly do you do?” The answer is of course incredibly complex, but in essence they keep the blood flowing to all the parts of the school.
Let’s think of a school as a living organism (which in many ways it is). This organism is a community of people working towards a common mission of student learning. They work together an interconnected set of systems, workflows, and dependencies much like the human body.
In the human body, each system serves a purpose towards the greater goal of keeping the body alive. Some of these systems are quite visible to use (the consumption of food, our ability to move, our senses, etc.) while others work in the background (the nervous system, the respiratory system, the circulatory system, etc.).
In schools, technology serves as the circulatory system.
In the human body, the circulatory is vital system that branches to every part of the body exchanging blood to ensure continued life. It contains a collection of mechanisms and parts that ensure the blood continues to be oxygenated and distributed, while prepared for emergencies should there be a problem.
The same is true of technology in a school. Technology’s purpose in a school is to distribute the life blood of the organization: information. Whether it’s network cable and wifi serving as the arteries and veins or maintaining access to the most updated information as the oxygenation of blood, technology helps ensure that every part of the school that needs it. Technology has backups and protective measures to handle issues and emergencies similar to the circulatory system. And just like the circulatory system, technology works about 97% of the time and people rarely notice it unless there is a major problem.
Of course, we have to address a key thought you might be having: with this analogy, does he think technology is the heart of the school? Well, yes…and no. From a functional standpoint, yes, technology runs the heart of the school. The servers and systems that pump information everywhere its needed acts as the four-chamber heart of the school. It needs to be well maintained, protected, and free of clogging. A breakdown of this system is akin to a heart attack with the same potential severity. From a metaphoric standpoint, no, technology is not the emotional heart and purpose that drives a school. It is not the reason the school operates or the school’s driving force. Nor should it ever be…though I think we all know tech people who might disagree.
Technology as the functional heart and circulatory system, but not the emotional heart of a school is key concept for all stakeholders as it sets clear expectations and culture.
If leaders, teachers, parents, students, and technology personnel understand the critical role technology holds in all academic and operational areas of the school then expectations can be appropriately set. Uptime requirements and communications from the tech department will be more in line with the reliance all others place on their work. The need for institutional support and appropriate funding will help ensure system health. The need for clear protective measures and operational procedures will be understood by all stakeholders. And realistic expectations around technology capacity, functionality, and reliability will be held by all. Further, when everyone in a school understands the circulatory system role of technology a culture of better communication and efficient technology usage tends to arise.
This begs the question: how do leaders, teachers, and parents better engage the technology department to build this understanding?
First, a technology roadmap for the school should be co-created to outline the current state of technology across the organization. This will outline the veins, arteries, and (functional) heart of the system. Such a roadmap will allow for greater clarity of decision making and serve as a backup of institutional knowledge.
Next, the process and data flows should be mapped by the tech team. This outline of the blood will allow the school to better understand what data it has, how it is used, and how teams work together to ensure consistent flow.
Last, an exercise program and healthy eating program should be put in place. The goal of better data flow, protected technology, and systemic improvement should be treated the same way we aim to exercise and eat well. The school should do this through strategic planning, cybersecurity auditing, and data flow and protection procedures.
By understanding that technology is the circulatory system of the school and treating it as such, the functional aspect of the organization can be maintained and improved in a healthy manner. This will allow everyone to focus on the true heart of the institution.
I work as an Educational Technology consultant at International EdTech committed to helping schools use technology successfully. I frequently present at conferences on Educational Leadership, Learning Technology, IT, and Data Systems. I am also a a published author focusing on Educational Technology, International Education, and Leadership.