I was just thinking
I have been ask about a post I did awhile back "What Makes an Effective Technology Committee in Education" as much as any I have ever done. Getting the chance write for Wes a little this week on Speed of Creativity seemed a good time to come back to this topic. I have always meant to do a edit /update, but until now just haven't made it that far down my list. One of the most common responses I get about engaging as many people in your institution in the technology planning process as possible is something along this line, "Well this is nice but I have found it better to ask forgiveness than permission" I interpret that many times as I don't want to I have work that hard, because as all of us know working with people is the hardest part of working with technology. I am sure some one will be offended by the assertion they have not worked as hard as they should have, but as rewarding as it can be to work successfully with others , there is no way around it being very hard work bringing people together to work toward a shared objective. Again I have a confession. I have invoked this "forgiveness vs. permission" line on occasion as well, but my observation over the long haul in planning for the successful implementation of technology in the enterprise is the more transparent you can be over time the more you will have gained credibility as a team player and the more successful you will be even if you want to try/implement cutting edge solutions. The trust you gain working through your formal processes is invaluable in the long haul. I have made a few changes to the original version but hopefully this helps you out in some small way.
This is adapted from the original post on KentBrooks.com
Working as chair of the technology committee at Casper College makes my third go around as the chair of the technology committee at an institution of higher education. Working in the chair capacity and with technology committees at other institutions (K12 & higher ed) in the role of a observer/consultant I have seen large committee and small committees operate at differing levels of effectiveness. My experience in working effectively with a school/campus technology committee is it can be a positive experience and technology projects which have been most successful, are those which have been endorsed and driven by an institutional Technology Committee. I also believe the general ideas and concepts are effective at all levels of education if utilized. IT directors(again at all levels) usually describe the transition of major enterprise systems in not so flattering terms. However, it is possible to make this a relatively pleasant experience. My favorite example of this was the successfully transition from WebCT to Moodle(a major enterprise system) at my previous intuition. This was in large part because of a really engaged technology committee participating in all phases of the process : brainstorming, research, evaluation, testing, piloting, training, conversion, and most importantly communicating with each other and the larger campus community. There is not just one standardized formula for making a technology committee successful. There are simply too many personalities, expectations, technology “crises” and other issues to state that this model or that model will work in a given situation. Flexibility and a willingness to work are the key factors for membership on a given technology committee. A few things to keep in mind:
There are a lot of benefits to a smoothly running committee. For the CTO/ IT director, and the institutional administrators, the committee is a useful way to help channel the many demands for IT products and resources. A well run technology committee is an effective liaison between the user community and the IT department. The technology committee can explain and define the user community's requirements to the IT staff. A good technology committee understands the role of the IT staff and can effectively explain IT potentials and issues to the institution. Finally the technology committee can see to it that the IT department receives the credit it deserves for a job well done.
There are a number of possible functions of a technology committee. Among them are to:
Note that all of these responsibilities assume that the committee will work at a reasonably high level. The committee exists to represent the end-user community on campus. So a good technology committee limits itself to defining and prioritizing IT requirements (for products and services), setting IT related policies, and providing general oversight for the technology functions in the institution.
The technology committee does not directly manage the IT department. The effective technology committee does not engage in a lot of "day-to-day" activities. Among the activities which the technology committee should avoid are:
1. Setting technology procedures. The committee sets policies. They do not define the procedures to implement policies.
2. Making specific hardware decisions(input is reasonable). Extended discussions on specific PC brands and features are a sure sign that the committee needs to rethink its role.
3. Reviewing technology staffing decisions (except the lead position). Leave it up to the IT director to run the department.
4. Managing the specifics of technology projects.
5. Approving purchases for previously budgeted items.
6. Acting as the Help Desk. They should not involve themselves in "day-to-day" IT questions and problems.
7. The technology committee is not the first level escalation path for IT problems. This should be left to the IT department.
The composition of the technology committee should not necessarily be filled with “uber” geeks, should not assume that younger employees, since they use computers all the time must somehow magically know how to deal with tech issues and must not be fill with members who are the biggest complainers as a way to appease them with a thought process which says since they are included they can at least be heard and if not then its their own fault. All of these strategies are almost sure to lead to failure. They indicate a failure to properly understand the role of the committee. Consider some of the attributes of the successful committee members:
There are a lot of advantages to having the membership consist of those with similar backgrounds and management interests. However, the defining mark for technology and its use in any institution is set by the students. Their needs must be met first.
Few faculty understand or appreciate technology from the perspective of the secretaries. Few administrators understand or appreciate technology from the perspective of the IT staff. Few IT staff understand or appreciate technology from the perspective of the the physical plant. Few college employees understand or appreciate technology from the perspective of the student. The higher education technology committee must have connections to the entire institution. Technology committees come in various sizes. But every group, no matter how large, must have champions who will represent the needs of their particular area.
|Educause 2011 Top IT List
(IT Leader Perspective on What IT Issues are most important)
|Inside Higher Ed 2011
(Presidential Perspective on the Effectiveness of Campus Investments in IT)
|1. Funding IT
2. Administrative/ERP/Information Systems
3. Teaching and Learning with Technology
5. Mobile Technologies
6. Agility/ Adaptability/Responsiveness
7. Governance, Portfolio/Project
8. Infrastructure/Cyber infrastructure
9. Disaster Recovery / Business Continuity
10. Strategic Planning
|1. Online/ Distance Ed Courses & Programs
2. On-campus teaching and instruction
3. Library resources and services
4. Administrative Info Systems & Operations
5. Data Analysis and Managerial Analytics
6. Academic Support Services
7. Student Resources and Services
8. Student Recruitment
9. Research and Scholarship & Development efforts
10. Alumni activities / Engagement
The group should meet regularly—at least monthly and sometimes more often on projects which will have a major impact on the institution. A formal (regular) agenda should be set for each meeting. Notes should be kept, action items formulated and reported on at subsequent meetings. The IT committee chair should have responsibility for organizing the meetings and for follow-up as required.
Finally, it takes time for a good technology committee to learn to work together. It takes a long time to learn enough about technology and its application in the law institution. Since technology cuts across every area of the institution, technology committee members must be allowed the time to learn about the issues and concerns in every area of the institution (including the administrative areas). Don't expect results overnight. Practice and patience will bring rewards.
Kent Brooks is the IT Director at Casper College in Casper Wyoming. You can find out more about his thoughts on educational technology, open source and disruptions in education caused by technology use at KentBrooks.com or follow him on Twitter @kentbrooks He previously served as the Chief Technology Officer/ Dean of Distance Learning at Western Oklahoma State College in Altus Oklahoma for 15 years. While at Western he led an effort to transform a struggling rural institution to a significant distance learning provider(24 online students in 1999 to over 5000 in 2010). He was an instructor, department chair and computer coordinator at the University of New Mexico – Gallup Campus prior to coming to Altus. While in New Mexico he was actively involved in the Los Alamos National Laboratory EDUNET program which sought to bring telecommunications technologies to the four corners area of the US. Kent has been heavily involved in numerous teacher-training projects and efforts to bring networking and telecommunications technologies to rural areas. His grant writing efforts have brought over $50 million dollars to equip rural schools, tribal complexes and museums across the US with distance learning technologies. Kent's work interests include the acquisition of technology and training resources for rural under served communities. More specifically his work interest and focus is on the "open" or "free" software movement and its impact on delivery of technological services in education.
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