Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Key Skills for EdTech Leaders

3 key EdTech skills for teachers

When one actually considers what an EdTech professional has to deal with during any given month, it’s pretty clear that the skill set that these professionals need is as broad as any other position in IT. In fact, it’s not a stretch to say that an EdTech professional needs the breadth of knowledge that any CIO has, but with the operational skill set of a strong system or network administrator. This expectation that any EdTech professional will possess all of these skills is clearly over the top, and somewhat unrealistic.

Rather than get into the details of the specific details of the IT or management skills that an EdTech professional may need to be successful, I think it’s more useful to take a larger view. The reason for this is that sheer scope of the skill set demands that we start at a higher level so that we can build a focus.

I believe that the CIO analogy is apt, in that an EdTech professional needs to have an understanding of; Security, Data Protection, Networking, Servers and Administration, Disaster Recovery, Mobile computing, Windows, Virtualization, Social Media, and I’m sure a few others I’ve neglected. That’s not a job, it’s an IT organization. And most districts don’t have all those resources. In my opinion, the key starting point is to create a list of what skills are needed on a daily or at least weekly basis, and which others are used far less frequently. Focusing on the tasks that need regular attention should drive the skill set. However, EdTech professionals should have a familiarity with the other technology aspects so that they can partner with the right providers.

It’s also very important to realize that not all of the “regular” tasks are worth focusing on. For example, outsourcing first level technical support, or “Break/fix”, or some tasks that have less true value to the district often makes sense. Looking at the regular tasks that bring the most value to students and faculty should be a starting point.

This classic approach of what do I need to “own” and what can I “buy” helps the EdTech professional start to consider what skills they must personally have, and what skills they will be getting from a third party or other part of the team. As more IT vendors add a greater range of services and more solutions are available via Cloud delivery, there are more options you can leverage. In particularly for understaffed districts, these solutions should be the first option. In particular, IT hardware vendors have dramatically changed the ownership experience with new service offerings that are often a great fit in EdTech. Starting a new deployment with these services already in place can simplify the initial installation and the on-going use.

One of the latest trends, brought on by some of the Cloud service providers is to bundle a number of services for a complete offering in one aspect of infrastructure or an application. This is clearly a major benefit to a thinly stretched EdTech professional. Looking at the breadth and completeness of a service offering as part of the buying process clearly makes more sense than ever.

Simply put, the job of the EdTech professional is so broad that prioritization and focus is essential to success. Starting at a high level to sort the most important skills and tasks from those that can be completed using external resources or services is critical. Leverage may be one of the most important skills that an EdTech professional can possess.

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