Collaborative IT Decision-Making in Schools

Coincident with the changing nature of IT in schools, has been an increasing need for a range of IT professionals to ensure the devices are well-chosen, functional, and used for appropriate teaching. It is unusual to find educators who have sufficient technical expertise to manage the enterprise networks that necessary for school operations and effective teaching and learning. It is also unusual to find IT professionals with sufficient understanding of learning to make effective judgements about how technology should be used in classrooms.  

In a situation in which the expertise necessary to make effective decision cannot reasonably be found in a single individual, it is necessary that decisions be made collaboratively. When making technology decisions in schools, the expertise of educators to decide what is appropriate, the expertise of IT professional to decide what is proper, and the expertise to school leaders to decide what is reasonable is necessary, but none is sufficient. (For a more complete description of appropriate design, proper configuration, and reasonable implementation, see this.) 

If the collaborative decisions are going to be sound, and result in IT being used to make school operations efficient and teaching and learning effective, it is necessary that all participants in the decision-making share a common understanding of what they mean when they use certain language. While the details of how one configures a network and accesses cloud computing services should be left to the IT professionals, both the teachers and school leaders who are collaborating with the IT professionals should have a conceptual understanding of what they are doing and how the problem must be solved. Similarly, it is essential that the IT professionals understand the variety of activity that constitutes teaching and learning and that the best-laid plans are often not what happens when students, teachers, technology, and curriculum come together. 

IT decisions require the collaboration of three different groups: 

  • Educators, especially teachers, who spend their time working with students to teach the many curricula that are included in the program of studies. Most schools have instructional coaches, curriculum and assessment leaders, and others who provide academic leadership. While these professionals may have educational expertise, if they are not involved with delivering lessons when students are present and actively using the information technology systems, then they cannot be included as educators in decision-making.  
  • IT professionals who spend their time managing the hardware and software infrastructure in the school. In recent decades, a wide range of IT professionals have been added to typical school staffs. The IT professionals most important to decision-making are those who have broadest knowledge of the infrastructure and who can provide direction to the correct individual on the IT staff who is responsible for implementing the decisions.  
  • School leaders who manage school operations. These leaders must be familiar with budgets, human resource procedures, regulatory and policy expectations, and other limits. They must also be in a position to be the arbiter of disputes and have the authority to direct IT professionals and educators to take decided actions.