by Gabriel Lucas, Principal, Ed Tech Recruiting
Our company has helped schools around the world recruit for senior educational technology leaders. The number one question international schools ask is, “How can we hire someone who is fluent in all the emerging Ed Tech tools, and get them to come to our part of the world?” Our number one answer is, “You shouldn’t.”
I recall one time that the administrators of an international school said their hope was to hire a technologist who had worked at a large independent school in San Francisco, Los Angeles, or Seattle. Their reasoning: these candidates would have worked at a well-resourced school with parents from some of the biggest tech firms, thus ensuring direct access to the latest hardware and software.
However, after we counseled this school to design a better job posting and run a more thorough application process, they hired a former classroom teacher from Canada with hardly any technology management experience in schools. The reason? She had unparalleled talents in two critical but frequently undervalued areas: faculty professional development and collaborative administrative leadership.
Hiring for a technology leader in a school used to involve a battle of acronyms. LAN, WAN, A+, MCSA, CCNA…the list goes on and on. Schools eventually wised up and recognized that these “hardcore” IT skills are sometimes necessary but never sufficient.
However, we are seeing a new wave of infatuation for technology terms like “STEM,” “CS,” “tablet,” “maker” and so on. As an example, not too long ago a school posted a job with the following qualification statement:
Interactive whiteboard and apple iMac/laptop hardware/software experience required.
The job posting might as well have said:
We have no idea about any of this educational technology stuff, so go ahead and fool us with a bunch of jargon.
What can international schools do to improve their chances of landing a top educational technology professional? Here are six critical tips that every leadership team should consider.
First, don’t worry about whether someone has connections to Apple, Google, Microsoft, or any other tech company. I’ve been a tech director at schools with parents who worked at Apple headquarters, and we still had no inside support when problems arose. You want to find a technologist who is well-connected in the academic leadership ecosystem. More often than not better support comes from one’s own peer network than from the tech companies.
Second, make sure you frame the position appropriately. International schools too often place educational technology positions under an IT director, assigning titles such as “Deputy IT Director.” This practice, which scares off forward-thinking educational technology leaders with no desire to report to an IT director, has been all but abandoned by the leading schools in the United States. Far more contemporary models are: (1) the reverse—that is, educational technology managing IT; (2) split technology departments, or (3) a true CIO / CTO overseeing everything.
Third, stop worrying about the technology! You are better off finding a candidate who is an inexperienced fast learner than an experienced slow adopter. That latter candidate is the right person for today; the former candidate is the right person for tomorrow. Interactive whiteboards are a prime example. It’s fine if you have them, but don’t require candidates to have experience with them—and there’s certainly no need to emphasize them in your job posting. You’re implying to candidates that the key job function will be to provide hardware support instead of advancing curricular innovation.
Fourth, start worrying about professional development! Schools need an educational technology leader who can evangelize, mentor, model, and inspire. Schools need an educational leader who views faculty technology fluency as an evolving continuum requiring different modalities of targeted trainings. And schools need an educational technology leader who knows the difference between instructional technology integration (the tip of the iceberg) and instructional design coaching (the rest of the iceberg).
Fifth, make sure your hiring process evaluates candidates in as many dimensions as possible. Don’t just have someone teach a technology lesson. Ask them to propose a multiyear professional growth plan for faculty. Ask them to facilitate a leadership team discussion on the pros and cons of running dedicated technology classes versus embedding technology skills into core classes. Ask them to write an executive summary outlining how to manage a major system transition for a new LMS or SIS. Ask them to deliver a TED talk on a specific transformative instructional methodology that resides at the intersection of innovation, technology, and education.
Finally, when seeking a true technology leader, you’re best off running a search in the fall for the following July. These searches attract the top candidates who are the most selective. Each year, more and more candidates are off the market by December.
If you do all this, you will give yourself a far better chance to hire the educational technology leader you’ve always been seeking. However, don’t be surprised if your next technology professional has far fewer traditional technology skills than you originally expected, but instead brings the gift of professional development. After all, at the end of the day are you hiring this person to teach technology or teach your faculty?
Gabriel Lucas is the principal of Ed Tech Recruiting (www.EdTechRecruiting.com), and the co-founder of ATLIS (Association of Technology Leaders in Independent Schools). A former technology director at two independent schools, Gabe now helps schools around the world recruit and hire for senior technology leaders.