DAILY INSIGHT: CIO = Chief Interpretation Officer

By Jason Epstein, CIO Advisor

The title of CIO typically stands for chief information officer, the person who leads technology and information systems. However, in a school system it often seems more appropriate to stand for chief interpretation officer.

It is now the end of October and the school year is firmly under way. Summer projects are complete and hiccups that hit during the start of school are hopefully smoothed out. It is time to look back and analyze the work that has been done, both the successes as well as areas that need improvement. As I look at where the majority of my time has been spent and where I may have needed to spend some more, it seems that most of my “time well spent” was on translation and interpretation.

Interpretation and translation of the technology vision, of the purpose of varying technologies, and of the direction a school is technologically headed is essential to keep all stakeholders on the same page. A CIO needs to be able to articulate what their needs are to the school administration, and illustrate how fulfilling those needs will move the school in the direction that has been suggested by the board. The CIO needs to interpret those visions into tech language and tangible directions for the information services team. hen the CIO needs to interpret these needs, directions and visions to the faculty of the school so that they can stand behind and integrate these tools to enhance the students’ experiences in all educational areas.

The story is not finished. The CIO then needs to interpret all of this to the community at large with a special focus on the students’ parents. You need your parents to be “on board” with the school’s direction and mission, and the CIO’s effective interpretation and its delivery can mean the difference between endorsement and empowerment or a steep, uphill battle.

While it is important for a CIO to know the elements of technology and the nuances of education, understanding the stakeholders that make up the school community and having the ability to communicate to each of these groups in the ways that are most effective to each is a skill set in and of itself. CIOs should take the time to know each of their stakeholder groups and how they relate to the culture of the school. A great CIO needs to know the vernacular of each of these groups and have the language and understanding needed to interpret the needs, goals, visions and concerns of each group to all of the others with regards to the information services of the school.

Jason Epstein is CIO of Worcester Academy in Massachusetts. This blog is cross posted at teachtalk.