The Role of the ICT coordinator… Whether it is e-learning leader or ICT coordinator every ‘modern’ school has one but actually what is their role and how should they best support their staff? What should school leaders be looking for when they hire an ICT coordinator? Yes of course, there is the tech support side – managing report programs, new staff computers/logins and email accounts, ensuring the system in running smoothly and effectively but none of these tasks are truly what is required of the role. They are merely scratching the surface of the job description. In fact most of these tasks should fall under the role of technical support officers (more on this topic later).
They must be innovative and have vision. What does this mean? They must want to push education into a new direction through the use of ICT and encourage their teachers into challenging the way they currently teach. A good ICT coordinator must understand the ICT is simply a vehicle for better quality teaching and that it allows us to do things which we may previously not have been able to do, to be able to communicate in new ways or show us new or different ways of thinking. It is not the be all and end all. Google is fantastic, don’t get me wrong, yes I may get excited about the latest app or the way it seems to read my mind but this is not what motivates me to use ICT in education.
The ICT coordinator must lead by example and be competent in ICT, however I would go out on a limb here and add that there are not vital. This does not mean they hide away in their room, but know that it is ok to not know the answer and they don’t need to be the only person in the school who can fix things. There can at times be a culture within schools in where an “expert” becomes they only person who can solve computer problems. ICT leaders and computer technicians do this all the time, they mystify their work through jargon and three letter acronyms and often block educational revolutionary ideas because of power control issues. The ICT leader must build a network within the school of teachers and students who are working towards an ICT vision who become peer mentors to other teachers and students. Whether this is done through a formal committee or more informally, this is an essential component of changing culture. Staff must feel that there is more that one person pushing the vision, that there are other people “on the train” and that it is possible for everyone to use ICT. This takes several trains of action.
ICT needs to be at the forefront of a schools strategic planning and professional development plans. It is not merely enough to talk about using ICT or give every student in the school an iPad. Whilst this will increase your ICT usage it will not increase the productivity or the educational quality of teaching practice. Staff need guidance, they need support to try new things, they need structured and good quality professional development (perhaps at multiple entry or interest points) to understand and be given the opportunities to share and be acknowledged for their trials. Simultaneously leaders need to demand that all teachers are expected to get on board with ICT, it is not an elective, it is not something that one chooses to do with their students, it is mandatory and yes we will support you but the reality is you are expected to do this every day in your class – no excuses. This is were it can get tough, resistance will come and heels will dig but is important that staff understand that ICT is not a optional extra to teaching.
This is where it becomes important for ICT leaders to get into classrooms and planning meetings, to find out what is happening in curriculum and to find ways to entice each teacher into ICT. The ICT leader must find each teacher’s individual “carrot,” whether it is organization, communication, easy of marking, gaming, writing, spelling, etc. there is a “carrot” out there for all of us. This requires time and it can be a battle when most ICT leaders are also teaching full time. The leader must fight for time allocation and resources. As a leader it is vital that you are pushing your curriculum area… English and Maths should not be getting all the light in a school. The leader must fight for ICT to be on the forefront of everything that is driven through the school. It must become embedded across all subject areas and this may require working with the English and Maths leaders to cross combine.
Technical assistance needs to be supportive and on board and not the biggest blocker of ideas. Some schools have techs who are extremely innovative, who understand technical requirements and educational philosophy but others do not. Schools and innovation can be hindered when all the power is in the hands of a SSP. This is why it is the role of the leader to develop a strong relationship with the SSP, to invite them into planning, professional development and strategic meetings. The tech needs to understand the pedagogy of the school just as essentially as the teachers as they have opportunity to make or break the vision.