Jun 17 2015

ISTE 2015: How to Design Mission Control for Your School District

You may have a mission for the conference, for your school or your district. However, it is important to focus.

Do you know your mission?

As ISTE 2015 approaches, it’s important to understand your “why” as you plan for this outstanding event. The options for learning from colleagues and partners are exponential; however, without a narrowed focus, the experience can get overwhelming.

In the summer of 2007, I attended my first ISTE, in Atlanta. I had been named the director of instructional technology at a large school district in Texas just a few weeks before ISTE. Coming from my previous role as an elementary-school principal, I was eager to learn more about educational technology and how we could best use it to benefit students.

If you are an ISTE newbie, consider this your warning. The amount of learning and technology can be overwhelming! I can still recall the butterflies in my stomach when I first hit the expo floor, seeing the plethora of options and decisions before me. I felt like I had to stitch everything together and bring the best info back to my students. It is easy to get “shiny object syndrome” (SOS) with all the cool stuff, free T-shirts and tchotchkes to entice visitors.

Over the past eight years, I have attended countless conferences. Whether you are a veteran or a rookie, I’d like to offer some advice ahead of this year’s event to help you avoid “SOS” and to keep you focused.

I believe that one of the things you must understand before you get to Philadelphia is your why or your mission. You may have a mission for the event, for your school or for your district. However, when options are great, it is important to focus.

As a former teacher, administrator and technology leader in a school district serving the NASA community, I look back on what I learned from a partner that knew a thing or two about the meaning of “mission.” Over the years I had several opportunities to visit both the space shuttle and International Space Station Mission Control. One of the things I was always impressed with was the amount of off-the-shelf hardware and software that is used in modern mission control.

What does mission control have to do with ISTE? In order to build the right system to support your students’ learning, you have to understand your mission. When you do, you can narrow your focus and think systematically about your goals. I am always surprised by the amount of customization some schools require. In many cases this is due to years of changing directions or missions. However, when you get laser-focused, you can build your school’s mission control for learning in a cost-effective and efficient manner, right off the shelf.

In previous posts, I discussed how to build that mission in a systemic, sustainable and supportable way and how to work toward strategic abandonment of things that aren’t affecting that mission.

I’ll close with one of my favorite stories. In 1962, President John F. Kennedy was visiting NASA and noticed a janitor carrying a broom. He walked over to him and said, "Hi, I'm Jack Kennedy. What are you doing?"

The janitor responded, “Well, Mr. President, I'm helping put a man on the moon."

I hope you understand your mission as well as the NASA janitor did his, I hope to see you at ISTE 2015, and I’d love to understand your mission and how I can help you navigate the educational technology landscape to achieve it.

Know Your Why:

It is important to have a strategy that aligns with what you need to learn —and why—to move your school forward.

Stay Focused:

Remember, there will be distractions. Think about the interoperability of your existing systems when considering your mission.

Be Student-Centered:

Think about how each of these emerging technologies affects learning and students first.

This article is part of the “Connect IT: Bridging the Gap Between Education and Technology” series. Please join the discussion on Twitter by using the #ConnectIT hashtag.

[title]Connect IT: Bridging the Gap Between Education and Technology


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