DAILY INSIGHT: Invest in your own PD

By Steven M. Baule. CIO Advisor

How are you handling your own professional development?

A recent ASCD survey showed that three quarters of building administrators feel their jobs have become too complex. With the winds of change blowing all sorts of acronyms (NCLB, CCSS, PERA, IDEA, SLC) past us like flying monkeys or even entire farmhouses from the Wizard of Oz, it is easy to see how principals feel that way. One of the things that has always made a school CIO position difficult is the need to keep up with the current trends in education and in the IT world. So, if 75% of principals feel the job is too complex, I don’t need to wonder what school CIOs are thinking.

School CIOs are often responsible for a great deal of professional development planning for others, but how do you keep current in your professional development on the educational side as well as the technical side? Where do they merge? I have a few suggestions, but would be interested from hearing what others do to create a conversation about the best practices to keep current in educational technology.

My suggestions are below:

1. Develop a strong network of professional resources.I don’t mean just add more contacts on LinkedIn, but search out experts in your area, particularly those with backgrounds and experiences that are likely to complement your own experiences and fill in your knowledge gaps. These are people to whom you can posit an issue and hope for creative and useful solutions, since they have either already dealt with the issue or may be in the same place you are. Keep in contact with them even when you don’t have an immediate need, so you are sure to develop a strong professional relationship over time.

a. A sub-point on this for new CIOs: Find a great mentor(s). Someone who you can go to and you won’t feel stupid asking the simple questions, etc. If you are serious about embracing the dual aspects of the CIO role, find two mentors, one from the educational side and one from the technological. Eight years into the superintendency, I still call on my mentors for advice or to bounce ideas off of. Let me publicly thank Drs. Howard Bultnick, James Lockard, and Kim Perkins for putting up with all of my phone calls and e-mails over the years.

b. The corollary for more senior CIOs is: reach out and offer to mentor those new to the role and profession.Leadership roles can be lonely, particularly with the difficult decisions being made around the country and the smaller groups of leaders doing those jobs. I would suggest that whenever a new CIO is appointed, at the least, you send him or her a congratulatory note and offer to help with their transition.

2. Find a professional learning community or network in which to expand your understanding of your role.AASL, CoSN, ISTE and various state-level organizations are all vehicles to do this if a more local group doesn’t exist. Actively participate in a professional organization as well. Make time to attend a conference and network there as well. Participating online is a good (and less expensive) option in many cases, but it can’t build the same networking potential that actual onsite participation can.

3. Follow thought leaders on Twitter, a blog, or otherwise.Some of the twitter accounts that I follow include @RVoltz, @BreakingNews, @OfficeofEdTech, and @audreywatters.

4. Read widely.Being well read is a centuries-old mark of intelligence and education. Continue to read both in and out of your fields of expertise. I am amazed at how many people with degrees no longer read. I know I probably sound like a Luddite, but being well read is the mark of a true professional.

Of course, you can also link to the vault from T&L’s Chicago Tech Forum which I was lucky enough to attend last Friday. That might be too blatantly commercial, but there were some excellent presentations and discussions. The link is below. I particularly liked the presentation Moving Beyond Textbooks by Michael Gorman, Charlene Chausis, and Phil Lacey.

Let me know what you think and good luck keeping up!

Steven M. Baule is superintendent of North Boone CUSD 200 in Poplar Grove, IL. He has written several books on aspects of library and technology management and planning. Follow North Boone on Twitter @NBCUSD200.