from Technology & Learning
Who's Doing What
Recent tech initiatives from the nation's school districts.
Columbia, South Carolina, is increasing its schools' security by expanding instant sex-offender checks on all visitors to its Richland District Two campuses through an automated identification system. The new machines' touch-screen interface from LobbyGuard Solutions, LLC scans a visitor's driver's license and checks it against a national database for sex offenders. "If a person is flagged there, an administrator immediately steps in," says Bethel-Hanberry Elementary principal Jeff Williams. LobbyGuard will be installed in all Richland District Two schools by the beginning of the 2008-'09 school year and is similar to systems throughout that city.
The Hillsborough County School District in Tampa, Florida, will provide high-speed Internet access during a massive renovation of the district's 209 schools. The district will wire as many as 60 temporary cottage classrooms with the Telkonet iWire system, giving 13,000 teachers and 180,000 pre-K-12 students instant access to the district's network with limited support needed by IT staff.
Orange County Public Schools in Orlando, Florida, will be upgrading its assessment reporting system to the state's department of education. OCPS tested Certica Solutions to help monitor and improve the quality of data the district is required to submit in a pilot program conducted in early 2008 and found the company's Certify software reduced reporting errors in attendance and course enrollment by as much as 48 percent. Officials also cite cost savings and operational efficiencies as benefits.
Cedar Falls, Iowa, parents will be able to monitor their children's grades and attendance over the Internet this fall after school board officials okayed an agreement with Infinite Campus to install a Webbased student information system. The new system, expected to cost $78,100 to install and $42,000 a year to run, will store student information, including grades, health data, and class schedules.
The new system will also help the district track state test scores and student achievement. "This will allow those of us at the district level—building administrators and teachers—to access [state testing] data," Cindi McDonald, director of elementary education, told the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. "Right now it's such a process. It's not accessible, not easily."
SUMMERTIME: 'To Do' List
A look at the different ways to tackle training and development programs that offer big rewards once the school year starts.
By Marty Weil
To prepare for the technology infrastructure challenges that lie ahead in the upcoming school year, school district CIOs would be wise to tackle some or all of the projects described in this roundup of suggested training, development, and administrative tasks.
Our suggestions cover a range of subject matter from personal/professional development to data audits, social networking, acceptable risk policies, and data security. By embarking on this summertime self-directed improvement process, CIOs can hope to gain the critical insight and knowledge needed to foster technology-rich learning environments in their districts' classrooms.
For CIOs interested in professional development, Greg Davis, PhD, executive director of technology for Des Moines Public Schools, recommends the CASTLE courses for education technology leaders. CASTLE courses are graduate-level courses, often offered at a distance, based on ISTE's National Educational Technology Standards for Administrators. It is the only course proven (by the American Institutes for Research) to have a statistically significant impact on participants' technology leadership knowledge, skills, and abilities.
Another highly respected resource for CIO training is the Carnegie Mellon CIO Institute's Executive Education programs, which focus on managing the technical enterprise via courses that integrate strategy and management with technical expertise. Carnegie Mellon has one of the top IT programs worldwide. The CIO executive program is offered through the university's school of public policy, and therefore it is well suited to the needs of school district CIOs.
Other worthwhile CIO personal development and training programs include the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) certifications, which are a set of concepts and techniques for managing IT, and ISACA's Control Objectives for Information and related Technology (COBIT), a best practices framework for IT management.
School districts accumulate, maintain, and analyze a large volume of data relating to various aspects of their operation. Over the summer, Kate Mullin, a Tampa-based IT systems security expert, recommends that CIOs do a risk assessment and business impact analysis of the data and then look at high-risk data such as financials. Mullin suggests CIOs identify what data is logged, should be logged, and can be logged. CIOs should also study how the data is stored in transmission and at rest and how backups are stored. "The value is in knowing what your data is worth, where it is, and what management decisions can be made based on risk," says Mullin. "This knowledge can assist in performing a governance function and to make decisions that evidence due diligence."
According to Greg Davis, the Consortium for School Networking resources for determining total cost of ownership and value of investment provide good tools for conducting technology resource audits, such as the one outlined by Mullin, which contribute to technology planning, and lead to the identification of priorities and goals that can inform grant writing.
SOCIAL NETWORKING/ONLINE SAFETY
Social networking is one of the hottest trends among K-12 students. Currently, the National PTA is collaborating with the Entertainment Software Rating Board to provide information in the form of documents and Webcasts that describe what school district CIOs (and parents) should know about online safety, social networking, and Internet gaming. The PTA site contains links to a number of resources that can help CIOs learn about the ways in which teens interact online.
For CIOs interested in taking a hands-on approach to understanding the world of social networking, Facebook is a great place to start. Within minutes, CIOs can create their own Facebook pages and easily explore Facebook's robust online community. Other online social networking venues that are popular among students include MySpace, Bebo, and hi5. By joining these communities, CIOs can quickly get a flavor for the technology and features without encroaching on students' personal space or data.
When it comes to developing or evaluating acceptable-use policies, the NSBA's Technology Leadership Network is an excellent resource for school district CIOs. Another resource is the SANS Institute, which offers computer security training for system administrators, computer security professionals, and network administrators. SANS has a number of template policies that can be adapted. Both of these organizations provide useful insights to help CIOs think about what is important for inclusion in an AUP for their districts.
When creating an AUP, Adam Petrovsky, a Phoenix-based network integrator, suggests CIOs abide by the Schools and Libraries Division of the FCC. According to Petrovsky, SLD publishes information regarding acceptableuse policies that many schools have implemented.
To create his district's AUP, Jeff Field, IT Manager at the Clayton Board of Education, created a committee of staff members and parents. The formation of an AUP committee is a step CIOs can take during the summer months that can pay huge dividends in the fall. "We came up with an AUP that was relatively easy to understand and broad enough to cover the technologies we use everyday, without being so specific that it wouldn't cover future innovations," says Field.
Excellent resources are available to provide CIOs with new insights into data security. As a starting point, CIOs should consider reviewing "The Standard of Good Practice for Information Security" from the Information Security Forum, and from the International Organization for Standardization, "The Code of Practice for Information Security Management."
According to Amol Mathur, managing consultant/lead instructor at Foundstone Professional Services, a division of McAfee, CIOs should evaluate and consider taking defensive measures in the following areas:
- Intrusion prevention
- Vulnerability management
- Host level security
- Hard drive encryption (for specific systems)
- E-mail encryption
When it comes to data security, many CIOs might not be familiar with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, a federal law for protecting the privacy of student records. Since noncompliance could potentially lead to a loss of federal funding, a review of the act might be the best defensive measure a CIO can take this summer.
During the summer, CIOs might also consider creating an internal data security team. Hal Logan, information security analyst at Sarasota County Government suggests that CIOs either form an internal security team or outsource security to a security specialist.
Marty Weil is a freelance journalist based in Asheville, North Carolina. He can be reached at email@example.com.
More Than a Techie
How will the job of the top technology leader change in the next five years? What skills and understanding will you need in order to fill the role successfully in the year 2012? An exclusive excerpt from COSN's 2008 Compendium explores the future.
Experts predict that a few years from now the IT part of the job will be considerably less important than it is today. In Grooming the 2010 CIO, the Society for Information Management predicts that, for the corporate world, "by 2010, business and IT will be fundamentally entwined and interdependent" and the CIO will be a "full-fledged member of the top management team, expected to weigh in on discussions and decisions that have nothing to do with IT."
A number of other pundits agree that tomorrow's CIO/CTO—whether in industry or education—will be less of a techie and more of a business or education leader. In K-12 districts, of course, this is only possible if there is adequate staffing, allowing the CTO to serve as a cabinet member and delegate IT implementation to a highly qualified technology expert. Luke Fox, executive director of IT for Richland County School District One in South Carolina, explains, "I advocate having a CIO reporting directly to the superintendent with three executive directors—responsible for research and accountability, IT, and instructional technology—reporting to the CIO. I believe this allows the CIO to leverage all related technology for strategic district goals."
Gartner's Bill Rust describes these two sets of complementary skills and attributes as soft and hard, or yin and yang—with the technology expert needing the hard (yang) skills and the CIO requiring the yin skills of leadership and vision. While he thinks that both leaders have a crucial role to play, he recommends that the cabinet-level CIO/CTO should be the one with the soft skills. In CIOs in K-12 Education Must Demonstrate Political and Interpersonal Skills, he elaborates on the personal leadership skills that he believes are crucial to a district's top technology leader.
According to Jeffrey Hunt, an important part of that leadership job involves facilitating communication across groups about the role technology will play in meeting district goals. "The idea is to be an internal consultant," he says, "to listen to the needs, goals and challenges of the district's departments and schools and determine through collaborative leadership the means to resolve issues."
Ramona Tyson, associate superintendent, management information systems, for the DeKalb School System in Decatur, Georgia, offers an example: "As an IT department, we had to get out of our offices and come from behind the nuts and bolts of technical operations and get into departmental meetings. It meant listening to their challenges and finding ways, through the use of technology, to assist them in meeting their goals and objectives. They became our advocates in securing funding because they knew we were problem solvers with a true interest in partnering with them to improve teaching and learning."
Of course, leadership skills are needed for internal team building as well—to support and develop expertise within the departments that report directly to the CTO. Greg Davis, executive director of technology for the Des Moines Public Schools in Iowa, advocates taking a distributed leadership approach to building leadership capacity—a concept that he's currently elaborating on in his doctoral thesis work. "The main message," he explains, "is that CTOs don't have to be the sole source of technology leadership in the district. It's far more important for the CTO to be skilled at building leadership capacity and able to fill the gaps in ed tech leadership in the organization. The more 'domineering' a CTO is, the less likely it is that the district will be able to sustain its technology initiatives when that CTO leaves."
Other capacity-building suggestions include the following from Bill Rust: "Single out individuals who are well-motivated— and who, perhaps, have real star power—and get them involved with your agenda. Point out successes and relate them to the educational goals of the school system, even if they occur outside the realm of your immediate responsibility. Recognition programs can be extremely effective, even when no monetary award is attached."