When David Chan started his career in education, he began in the classroom. Now, he works as the director of instructional technology at Evanston Township High School in Illinois and largely credits his experience as an educator for helping him take on this role successfully.
“I had a lot of the ed tech experience, I had the teaching experience, and I felt like I had a lot to offer the IT department,” Chan says.
Bringing the instructional component to the IT team was important. “I really wanted to emphasize that instructional piece, so I spoke with our HR department about titles because I felt director of instructional technology was very fitting,” Chan says. “It really made it clear that I’m coming from the education side. I have a background in instruction, curriculum and teaching and not just technology.”
WATCH NOW: David Chan discusses his transition from the classroom to the IT department.
While instructional technology positions are more prevalent now than when Chan stepped into his current job, he feels adamantly that every school should have an instructional component to its IT team.
Incorporate Instructional Experience into K–12 IT Departments
The technology department at Evanston Township High School is the IIT department. “It’s not just information technology, like traditional IT, but actually informational and instructional technology,” Chan says.
Instructional technology brings in more of an educator’s perspective and focuses on the utilization and evaluation of technology for teaching.
“I sit down with the staff, and we come up with a goal. We decide what we want to integrate technology into,” says Daniel Stitzel, district technology coach for Ohio’s Streetsboro City Schools. “We co-teach together, and once the teachers feel they have the integration down, then they move forward.”
Building a strong IT (or IIT) team in today’s education landscape requires a distinct focus on technology integration. Through this lens, schools can find the most meaningful ways to incorporate ed tech into teaching and learning.
“I oversee the student tech support center. Because we are a full one-to-one school supporting more than 3,700 students with their own Chromebooks and laptops, we needed to have a space where they could come in to get service and loaners and things like that,” Chan says. “While it still falls under the traditional IT role, it is very student-centered and student-facing.”
Watch the full video to learn more about the importance of bringing an education background to IT teams.
Build a Balanced K–12 IT Team for the Best ROI
K–12 school administrators should be innovative when it comes to hiring IT team employees, especially in small districts. In smaller schools, or those on a tighter budget, balancing the technical expertise on the team with instructional experience is crucial.
“My experience as a teacher really helps with my role as the tech coach, because I have an understanding of how the classroom functions,” Stitzel says. “I understand there are days where tech integration is going to go really well. I understand there are days where I need to sit with students and work with them one-on-one.”
IT teams should look to hire teachers with an IT background or someone sponsoring a club or other school activity. Someone who has that experience will more effortlessly bring the instructional skills to the team.
“That investment in people will go a long way toward getting a return on investment on your equipment and software,” Chan says. “If the equipment’s not being used, if the application is not being used by teachers and students, then you’re throwing money away.”
KEEP READING: K–12 leaders can follow these tips for balancing budgets with government funding.