The California Educational Technology Professionals Association's (CETPA) Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Mentor program exists to drive the professionalism, aptitude and abilities of educational technology professionals. The CTO Mentor program achieves this by pairing the participants with highly respected EdTech professionals in a mentor/mentee relationship and by leveraging the strengths that each participant brings to the program by leveraging the power of collaboration. Additionally the program strives to highlight the increasingly important role that the CTO plays within an educational organization.
The kickoff session for the CTO Mentor Program included keynote speakers from the California Department of Education and from a consulting group that lobbies for education with the State's Legislature. The information provided was extremely valuable and provided some great insight into the higher level workings and political pressures that education is facing in California.
In addition to the presentations, the CTO Mentor Program participants were provided with an overview of the course, general guidelines and the overall expectations. One of the key components of the course, reflective writing, was presented to the group and a number of exercises were done to assist the participants with being successful in writing reflections on future sessions.
The kickoff finished with an introduction to Professional Learning Communities (PLC) and an explanation of how effective they can be in education. The tenets of Reflective Dialogue, Continuous Inquiry, Collaboration and De-Privatizing Practice were explained and worked on by the CTO Mentor Program participants.
The second session of the CTO Mentor Program focused primarily on developing leadership skills and and working on strategic planning. The program participants engaged in small work groups and discussed a number of resources presented by the instructors. Finally the group worked on identifying and developing plans for individual improvement.
The participants viewed a number of resources that prompted a lively discussion on the various qualities of a leader. They worked in small groups discussing the merits of a variety of quotes from noted leaders and they worked on strategies for moving an organization forward.
Finally the CTO Mentor participants utilized a tool developed by Microsoft to develop a plan for individual improvement based on 36 competencies identified by Microsoft as paramount to the success of leaders in education. Individuals selected and collaborated on plans to focus on three of their strengths.
The Professional Development session explained why continuous learning is vital to today's professional. The session explained what makes for successful professional development including identifying the specific needs of the audience, tailoring the sessions to those needs and providing a feedback loop for participants. The session covered the need to develop and promote Professional Development with marketing materials that effectively explain what participants can expect to gain by attending a particular Professional Development. The Professional Development session also provided tips for presenting Professional Development successfully like the concept of ELI5 (Explain it Like I am 5) and common pitfalls to avoid like providing too much information on slides and simply reading from them.
One other aspect of the Professional Development session was the discussion of the SAMR model and how we can use Professional Development to provide instruction and assistance with improving the implementation of technology in instruction, moving from Substitution through Augmentation, Modification and finally Redefinition. Of particular import was the concept of simultaneously working in all four areas of the SAMR model, using technology to enhance instruction when and where it makes the most sense.
The Educational Technology session focused primarily on the educational aspects of technology. Many of the participants in the course come from an Information Technology background and may not be aware of or have expertise in the educational aspects and requirements needed to be a successful Chief Technology Officer in an educational organization. Conversely, those participants that have come the program with a background in education may not be as well versed in the technical aspects and requirements of educational technology.
The course covered the requirements and demands of the Common Core, including the importance of explaining the new requirements to parents and the community at large. The session also covered the relatively new assessments from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and how it is important for every member of an educational organization to have a solid understanding of the new assessments and especially important for a CTO to understand the technical demands of successfully administering the assessments. In addition to understanding the technical demands, the session covered the importance of understanding the funding being made available to implement the new assessments and the impact that competing demands from devices, networking upgrades and professional development will have on that funding.
Apart from the demands being imposed by the Common Core and SBAC assessments, the session also covered emerging trends in Educational Technology including concepts like Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), 1:1, online courses and how emerging technologies can be incorporated in the classroom. This session also covered the legal and regulatory requirements imposed on educational organizations implementing technology in the classroom and throughout their organization.
The Fiscal Management and Finance Centered Aspects session provided a comprehensive history of school financing in California as well as an overview of the most recent iteration, the Local Control Funding Formula and related Local Control Accountability Plan. In addition to state sources of funding, the session covered a variety of Federal funding sources and related regulations including the newly re-formatted eRate program from the Federal Communications Commission. The session covered an educational organization's accounting and budgeting requirements including the Standardized Account Code Structure (SACS). The session also covered the acquisition process starting with assessing the Total Cost of Ownership for a given project or device, on to the bidding process for awarding contracts as well as negotiating tactics. Finally, the course covered the ethical implications of one's actions related to the award of contracts and general dealings with vendors.
The Security Fundamentals session provided a great deal of information on the various security threats facing any Information Technology professional and what can be done to mitigate those threats and defend an educational organization. The session began with a brief overview of the complex world we find ourselves in with access to the internet proliferating across the globe and virtually every device imaginable being connected to the internet. The session then covered the need to proactively monitor a network for security flaws and continuously work to improve the security of the network. In addition to mitigating and protecting the network in the face of an ever widening array of threats, the session also covered the regulatory requirements for protecting a network from data breaches, especially any personally identifiable student data that is unique to educational entities.
The Organizational Management session focused on the fundamental skills of organizational management which are understanding organizational culture, managing change, managing conflict, making hard decisions and establishing an ethical environment. Each of the fundamental areas was discussed with examples, metaphors given and group discussions for each. Candidates learn that as the influence of Information Technology permeates every aspect of an educational organization the need for those in IT to fully understand, and embrace, the mission and vision of the organization is increasingly important. Candidates also learn that they can no longer be reactive to change and conflict within their organizations, instead they must have the necessary skills to effectively manage change and conflict.
The session also covered IT governance tools and strategies including Control Objectives for Information and Related Technology (COBIT) and the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL). Of particular import to the candidates is the inclusion of Key Performance Indicators (KPI) and Critical Success Factors (CSF) as critical methods for successfully managing IT projects.
The Technology Infrastructure and Data Systems session focused on the physical network design, systems that house an educational entities information and best practices to follow as well as steps to take to ensure the quality of the data that is stored therein. The candidates were engaged in discussions related to their respective network topologies and data systems as well as comparing those systems to best practices and recommendations. The session also covered data governance best practices to ensure that the quality of data is maintained throughout an organization. One of the key aspects covered in the session was the need to identify and adhere to a system of record as an authoritative data source for a given data set and to take steps to prevent data entry errors introduced by duplicate data entry via interconnecting systems and putting controls in place to ensure the integrity of the system of record. Additionally, the Technology Infrastructructure and Data Systems session covered the lifecycle of implementing large scale Information Technology projects from defining requirements, to developing a Request for Proposals (RFP) to finally successfully implementing the project.
In the Project Management session, the candidates learned that “failing to plan is planning to fail” and that project management is “The application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities“. The session covered the essential competencies required for project management and the candidates learned that the project management tool or various methodologies, while important, are not nearly as important as understanding the overall goals, scope and mission of a project, working ethically, communicating effectively, knowing available resources and sharing credit. The candidates also learned that effective project management is a vital component of a CTOs repertoire and that the successful CTO knows what their role is in the overall management of a project.
The session covered a simplified project management lifecycle including the following steps: initiation, planning, execution and closeout as well as the inevitable “dip” in enthusiasm during a project's lifetime. The session covered each of these steps in the lifecycle and the candidates learned in particular about the necessity of properly planning for a project including risk assessment and the development of SMART goals. The session also covered the need to manage risks, resolve conflicts and how to effectively manage politics through the implementation phase of a project. Finally the candidates learned that a project can be defined and measured by three primary criteria: time, cost and quality and that these three criteria are intrinsically linked to each other whereby making a change to any one of these primary criteria will impact and affect the other two.
The Assessment and Accountability session provided candidates with a broad understanding of the current state of assessments in California and the state of uncertainty related to accountability. The candidates learned about the history of assessment and accountability and what motivated particular changes in them throughout the years. The candidates also learned about the tight relationship between assessment, curriculum and standards. The Assessment and Accountability session reviewed the California Common Core Standards and the new curriculum requirements driven by these new standards. The session also covered local assessments and the need for an educational entity to, not only, meet State and Federal requirements but to also ensure that students are college and career ready when they leave high school. Of particular import to a CTO candidate is the administration of the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP), formerly known as as the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) tests. The candidates discussed the trials, concerns and successes of administering the new, computer based, adaptive assessments.
While currently an area of regulatory uncertainty, the candidates learned about the multifaceted nature of accountability including the Academic Performance Index (API) and Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). Being familiar with the previous iteration of accountability will better prepare the CTO candidate to incorporate the new face of assessment, whatever that may look like. Finally the candidates learned that the CTO plays in integral role in all aspects of assessment and accountability and must have a good understanding of the varied and complex nature of the same.
This session concerned itself, primarily with student and business records. The session began with understanding the regulatory environment related to properly classifying records to ensure that they are retained for the appropriate amount of time and identifying who is ultimately responsible within and educational organization for classifying and overseeing the retention of records. The candidates learned that, irrespective of format, there are 4 major classes of records including: Continuing, Class 1 - Permanent, Class 2 - Optional and Class 3 - Other. The session covered the regulatory retention requirements of each class of record.
In addition to the classification and retention of records, the session covered the specific nuances of dealing with electronic records. The session covered the retention and discovery implications related to electronic records and what role the candidates play in making recommendations related to retention periods of electronic records. The candidates were also engaged in a number of discussions related to the variety of laws and regulations that govern access to student records and personally identifiable information including newly instituted regulations in California and the impact that they have within an educational organization. Throughout the course, an emphasis was placed on the candidate's role in maintaining the privacy and ensuring the security of student records as well as common areas where breaches may occur including the need to ensure that contractor or other third party access to records is properly reported and controlled in accordance regulation and best practices.
The Personnel Management session started off by reminding the candidates that employees are an educational agencies “greatest (and most expensive) asset”. The session defined what a manager/leader is and what skills they must master in order to be successful. The candidates were also introduced to the concept of what a “Learning Organization” is and why creating an atmosphere of continuous learning and transformation is vital to nurturing growth in employees. The session also stressed the importance of the recruitment process where, especially within an educational organization, the candidates have the perfect opportunity to get the right people into the right positions to help ensure the success of the organization. The instructor stressed the importance of having up to date job descriptions and that one of the vital components of recruitment is the realization that the probationary period is the final step in the process. The instructor also covered the evaluation process and the importance of developing specific, measureable, achievable, realistic and time bound (SMART) goals for employees as well as methods for dealing with poor performance and progressive discipline utilizing tools like those contained in the FRISK manual.
The Technology Policies, Standards and Plans session covered a variety of topics including Technology Standards, Board Policies, Education Technology Plans, Section 508 Compliance, and Copyright. The session started with a presentation on Technology Standards and why they are important. The candidates learned that typical IT standards in the workplace may no longer be effective as the consumerization of technology and the workforce's desire to have a choice over what technology they use come to the fore. Candidates also learned that as the endpoint clients become less standardized, the importance of developing and embracing standards for applications, networking and access to resources is becoming even more important than ever.
The session also covered what Board Policies are, how they are developed, adopted and implemented. The instructors highlighted the difference between a policy and a procedure and candidates learned that the Cabinet can modify a procedure without requiring the Board's approval. The candidates also learned what a “greensheet” is and worked collaboratively to develop a greensheet for a policy change being presented to a fictitious board. The instructors covered the key requirements for a greensheet and what the board should expect to see when reading one.
Next, the instructors covered the Education Technology Plan. The candidates learned what the purpose of an Education Technology Plan is and were presented with a variety of resources for developing and reviewing them. The session covered the five key elements of a tech plan and the candidates broke into groups to review a tech plan against the CDE's Technology Plan Template.
The candidates also learned what Section 508 is and why it is imperative that an educational agency make a concerted effort to ensure compliance. Section 508 refers to a section in the Americans with Disabilities Act that requires that technology resources are accessible for all users. The candidates reviewed their district's websites utilizing a tool that validates Section 508 and found many shortcomings that prompted a discussion on mitigation strategies.
Finally the instructors provided an overview of Copyright and discussed Fair Use and items in the Public Domain.
The final session of the CTO Mentor program covered strategic leadership and served as a bookend for the program by reviewing the goals laid out in the first session. The candidates shared their growth over the course of the program as they worked on their individual development plans. The candidates also reviewed each of the sessions and participated in an activity highlighting the key take aways from each of the previous sessions. The instructors also covered vendor relationships and how to balance the need to maintain personal relationships with business partners while ensuring that the candidates remain true to their own ethical standards all while not running afoul of any regulatory restrictions.
The second half of the final session started with a discussion on politics and how being in IT does not mean that the candidates are immune from or need not be savvy with regards to politics. The candidates then participated in a group activity that highlighted the need for strategic planning and how leaders can follow a process to facilitate strategic planning by adhering to a few key leadership behaviors. Finally the session covered organizational structure and goal development, including the CTOs role in defining goals for the IT department that fit within the overall organization's goals.