Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Why should K12 CIOs and Technology Directors be on Twitter? Part 2

In my last blog post, I began listing some of the reasons that K12 CIOs and Technology Directors should be on Twitter. Here are a few more!

Stay connected to your customers
Regardless of whether the K12 technology leader comes from a "education" background or a more traditional "IT" background, connecting and interacting with educators - not just technology professionals - is vitally important to help you stay connected to the students, teachers, and administrators you serve. As I described in an earlier post, there is often a serious disconnect between technology operations and instructional technology.  By staying on top of the latest education technology trends, you will be able to make better operational decisions. For example, I hear many stories of educational Web. 2.0 technologies being blocked by IT directors over the protests of educators and administrators.  Just today, I spoke to a teacher at the FETC who would like to use Edmodo in her classroom, but her district's IT department blocks it because it falls into the category of  social networking.  I can certainly understand wanting to set up a school/district subdomain for Edmodo, but the wholesale blocking an educational tool like this strikes me as an incredibly short sighted decision by a technologist who has no idea of what Edmodo actually is or how it can be used in the classroom. 

Stay connected to Education IT colleagues
Being a technology leader in an educational environment is different from other industries. In addition to overseeing traditional desktop/server infrastructure, the education IT leader must be familiar with a plethora of client and web based educational software and a dizzying array of classroom peripherals. Smart Boards, Document Cameras, and iPads, Projectors, Chromebooks, and Apple TV's…let's throw in a mixed Apple/Windows environment and BYOD! Funding constraints often mean maintaining a lot of aging computer hardware. In addition, there are industry-specific rules and regulations to follow like CIPA, e-discovery requirements for e-mail, PCI compliance, etc. And let's not forget that revolving door of web apps and social media applications to keep track of! However, by connecting with other education IT professionals on twitter, you can learn from those who have already walked a mile in your shoes and spare yourself hours of work in the long run. 

Keep your eye on the big picture
I think it is very important for CIOs and Technology Directors to make a conscious effort to keep their eyes on the big picture. When you oversee IT operations it is very easy to get caught up in the minutia of day-to-day responsibilities. I think it is a rare technology leader that doesn't have these tendencies, because most IT professionals are detail oriented by nature. What I have found is that being active on twitter helps keep me from getting "lost in the weeds" and reminds me to focus on doing the right thing, not just on doing things right.   

Who would you add to a list of the "Top 20 Education CIOs and Technology Directors on Twitter?" And why do you think other technology leaders should follow their lead?

Monday, January 21, 2013

Why should K-12 Education CIOs and Technology Directors be on Twitter? Part 1

Huffington Post blogger Vala Afshar (@valaafshar) recently published a piece called "The 50 Most Social CIOs on Twitter (and 20 Rising Stars)." I was honored and surprised to be included on the list as #9 and pleased to see K-12 CIOS @JDSCIO and @bengrey also on the list. (I can think of several K-12 technology leaders who also should have been included - feel free to add your suggestions in the comments below!) In his post, Afshar shares his thoughts about why CIOs should be on Twitter and links to other blog posts on the topic.  Based on my experiences, I decided to share some reasons that K-12 Education CIOs and Technology Directors should be on Twitter. 

1. Stay abreast of current trends
There is no better way to stay on top of trends in education and technology than a well-curated twitter feed. Twitter can help you stay abreast of the latest news and and find great blogs to add to your RSS reader. Furthermore, you can segment your interests through the use of saved hashtag searches and by creating and following lists.  I use hashtags and lists to follow people who share resources about a variety of different topics, including but not limited to technology, education, education technology, social media, digital citizenship, parenting, small business, and leadership. Within those topics, I can be very granular about the content I follow.  Within the topic of education technology, for instance, I can search for #mlearning for information about BYOD and mobile learning, or #edtech for a broader spectrum of education technology content. Thinking about deploying Google Apps for Education or a 1:1 iPad program? Hashtags like #edtech, #gafe, and #ipaded can connect you to people who will gladly share their lessons learned. Want to follow technology trends in other industries besides education? You'll always be in the know if you follow business and technology journals and industry thought leaders on twitter.

2. Interact with really intelligent people
Some of the best and brightest minds in education and technology are active on twitter, and it's a great way to stay sharp and in tune with cutting edge industry initiatives. Some of the smartest people I've ever "met" are people with whom I have interacted on twitter, whether via asynchronous communication or through twitter chats like #satchat. I enjoy interacting with and learning from intelligent people, and you'll find a lot of them on twitter.  Some may be "big names" with thousands of followers and some may be twitter newbies with less than 100, but the conversations you can engage in through twitter are inspiring and thought provoking (whether you agree with an individual's point of view or not!)

I think that Tom Murray (@thomascmurray) said it best in this tweet from the 1/19/13 East Coast #satchat:
  • "#satchat has been an unbelievable (Professional Development) tool for me.  I've been able to connect with educators far more talented than me and learn every time! 
3. Follow industry conferences
Can't attend an industry conference due to scheduling or budget constraints?  Following a conference hashtag is a great way to follow the action. You'll get a play by play of the action, links to resources and presentations, find great people to follow on twitter…conference hashtags are a GOLD MINE of information. One year at FETC I could not attend a concurrent session because the room was full, but by following the conference hashtag I was able to get a lot of the information presented. I sent out a tweet asking if someone in the session would share a link to the presenter's materials and someone immediately shared the link. Twitter is also a great way to learn about conferences you might otherwise not have known about, like Edcamps and smaller conferences outside of your geographic area. You can then follow those conference hashtags and you'll connect with some terrific, forward thinking educators and technologists who you might never meet at a larger conference.

if you are attending a big conference, then following the conference hashtag and attending a tweet up is a must!  It's a great way to connect with like-minded individuals and put names to faces. I have met several people who I had previously followed on twitter at conference tweet ups and it was like meeting old friends. Furthermore, you never know who you will meet at a tweet up.  I've been invited to write guest blog posts and been interviewed for an article in an industry journal because of connections I have made at tweet ups. If you are attending #FETC this month, you can sign up for the tweet up here

I'll share more reasons that K-12 CIOs and Technology Directors should be on twitter in my next post…but feel free to share your reasons below!