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8 Characteristics of a Successful K-12 Technology Department

Posted by on July 6, 2015

mike daughertyMike Daugherty is the director of technology for a high-achieving public school district in Ohio, an occasional contributor to AATT (see his last post, 5 Things You Need to Know About 3D Printing), and the author of Modern EdTech Leadership, a discussion on how today’s administrators handle the blending of tech and ed.  I asked him if he could distill this profile into bite-size chunks, consumable over coffee or between classes. Here’s what he came up with:

Handling the technology needs of a public school system can be a daunting task at times. Online testing, BYOD, 1:1 computing, and assistive technology are only a handful of the variety of technical challenges that flow through the department every day.  In my experience, truly successful technology teams possess the eight key characteristics outlined below. I discuss these and many more topics related to educational technology leadership at my website and in my new book, Modern EdTech Leadership.

  • Responsive – Strong technology departments understand the importance of responding to teacher’s requests. Whether these are work orders or emails, a quick response is best. This doesn’t mean the department says yes to every wish or fixes every work order within minutes of a ticket being placed. It simply means they respond to the initial request as fast as possible by letting the teacher know when they can expect to receive help.
  • Proactive – Instead of always reacting to issues, successful IT departments proactively attempt to identify potential problems and prevent them. This can be something as simple as monitoring the district infrastructure for trouble spots to meticulously going through an image before pushing it out to 300 machines. Well-built teams thoughtfully think through their plans to avoid future troubles.
  • Diverse – A team made up of network engineers may not do very well helping a teacher design a lesson plan. On the flip side, a technology integrationist may not have the mindset needed to resolve a string of wireless issues plaguing the network. A successful tech team recognizes its member’s individual strengths and weaknesses.   Issues are then assigned to the person(s) that is strong in that area. Larger conversations involve everyone on the team to ensure that all aspects of a project or problem are being addressed.

  • Geeky – In my experience, the best teams are made up of people who truly love technology. These are the guys/girls who are downloading new apps on their own just to check them out. They’ve bought a raspberry pi to see what uses it might have with their district’s network.   The “geeky” teams always seem to have the most creative solutions because they have their collective hands busy with so many different technologies.
  • Student Centered – Great teams always consider students when making decisions about technology within the district. Even though it may not these decisions may not reflect the popular choice or they may require additional work, teams that put the needs of the students first will find success. There’s no question of that.
  • Communicative – Similar to being responsive, highly effective teams communicate well both with the district stakeholders and with other members of the team. This is especially important for technicians. It avoids confusion and double work when they keep each other apprised on the status of each project they are working on. From the customer service side, teachers are regularly kept up to speed on that status of their machine repairs, the software they ordered, or any other issue that involves IT.
  • Empathetic – Technology doesn’t always cooperate. We all know that. On those days when something does not go as planned for a teacher, team members practice good “bedside manner”.   While a tech team member may not know how uncomfortable it is to stand in front of a room with thirty high school students when a Smartboard decides not to work, they can appreciate why that teacher might be frustrated with technology. Empathic technicians approach these situations with a calm demeanor because they understand the teacher is not irritated with them personally. They help the teacher work through the problem and discuss potential options if a future issue occurs.
  • Constantly Improving – A key factor to the success of any team is their ability to improve. An excellent tech team establishes benchmarks for success, regularly measures their progress, and adjusts accordingly. In my experience, this is the one area that most teams fall short on. They don’t strive to improve their service as long as everyone is the district seems to be satisfied. They become complacent. When a team become complacent, service can quickly begin to drop. The really great teams never stop improving. They are always looking to be better, faster, and more responsive to the needs of their district.

If you’d like to check out Mike’s book, here’s a link to Amazon:

Mike Daugherty has over seventeen years experience in educational technology serving a variety of roles.  He was recently awarded the OETC (Ohio Educational Technology Conference) Technology Innovator of the Year award and received honorable mention in the national DILA awards.  His site,, looks at EdTech from the district administration point of view.

Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 15 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, CSG Master Teacher, webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, CAEP reviewer, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, and a weekly contributor to TeachHUB. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.

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