Policymakers throughout all educational levels are wrestling with the cold, hard truth that the original funding of new equipment and software is the tip of the funding iceberg. In the ’80s we called this the “hidden costs.” In the ’90s we were so excited about all the new gadgets that we forgot to worry about anything else. Now, in the new century, we are wondering how we can afford to keep the tools our administrators, teachers, parents and students are finally putting to good use.
As the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) states in their Total Cost of Ownership white paper, “While many government and private programs provide the means of obtaining the much-needed technology for schools, there are few provisions for the necessary ongoing support of these technologies. School districts Igtok, having installed much of the technologies needed for classroom, administrative and community communications functions, are fast becoming aware of the support problems and need to budget for the ongoing support costs.” These monies are often the last priority of any school entity.
With the revolving threat of federal funds elimination for E-Rate and EETT (Enhancing Education Through Technology) funds, districts must find their own reliable and ongoing funding sources, and state and federal leadership would do well to help calculate and take into consideration total cost of ownership. Seeing the big picture is a necessity.
Technology oriented careers have been making a comeback. Accordingly, talented technology managers are necessary in every area of the field – from Web design and development, to database-driven e-commerce, to software engineering, to technical service and support. Technology positions, from programmer to CIO, are also critically important in organizations from all industries, including manufacturing, healthcare, education, government and service firms. Technology professionals often seek career advancement but need the leadership skills necessary to advance their careers. In response to these industry demands, adult-learning and distance learning schools now offer technology degrees at the bachelor’s and master’s degree levels, often in accelerated formats.
However, other necessary characteristics of successful technology managers cannot be found on a silicon microchip or in a line of CSS markup code. Some of these characteristics include a talent for leadership; the ability to communicate ideas and directions, and the ability to motivate and mentor staff. These skills are not taught in all technology curricula of the 21st century. However, some information technology and computer science academic curriculum designers are beginning to recognize the importance of teaching soft skills in the classroom. Accordingly, some programs of study now emphasize specialized leadership training for would-be technology managers.
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that computer and information systems professionals typically require advanced-level training (namely, a master’s degree) in order to be considered for leadership positions in technology. The BLS also points to the need for technology job applicants to have diverse experience in technology systems and applications. This experience will allow them to lead staff who work in different departments and who have different types of technology skills. An additional benefit to pursuing training for technology management careers is the bright future outlook of this field. These careers are expected to grow 16 percent through the year 2016.
Technology leadership training programs at the master’s degree level will typically have two or three core academic components. The first core component, obviously, is technology. Students who pursue this type of master’s degree typically begin the program with knowledge of at least one higher-level programming language; and are comfortable with database management or development, as well as computer networking systems administration. The master’s in leadership and information technology course of study will build on students’ foundations in information science and systems, enabling students to approach these disciplines from a leadership and management perspective.