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Curriculum and Tech Leaders Must Have 'Common' Language

Five years ago, members of the Consortium for School Networking at a gathering similar to one held today resolved to make establishing lines of communication between technology leaders and other educational leaders a top priority going forward.

Now, with the snowball that is the implementation of the common standards beginning to roll, it's time to see whether that emphasis has paid off, said technology leaders at CoSN's annual leadership forum here at ISTE 2012 in San Diego.

"If there's common core work at your district and you as your technology leader are not involved, I would question why," said Ray Eernisse, the chief information officer at the Francis Howell R-III school district in Missouri, just outside of St. Louis.

While the scariest specter for many CTOs and CIOs might be the reality that, by the time the standards are fully implemented by the 2013-14 school year, districts will need to have enough broadband access to allow most of their students to be logged into online assessments at the same time, the concerns for tech professionals don't stop there.

With standards alignment across previously disparate states, issues like finding the right digital educational resources and giving students sufficient access to them will also be important, as will facilitating online professional development on the standards for teachers.

District technology shops that have evolved to include input from curriculum specialists may be the most equipped to handle the transition, said Jill Hobson, the Forsyth County, Ga., school system's director of instructional technology, who herself has a background in curriculum development.

Even further, while some technology directors may feel frustrated that they are shifting to align with new requirements after, for example, ISTE's National Educational Technology Standards, that experience should help going forward, said Eric Willard, the CTO of District 300 school system in Carpentersville, Ill.

"If you can prepare for flexibility, you can prepare for anything," Willard said.

Devin Vodicka, the assistant superintendent of business services at the school district in Carlsbad, Calif., admitted his district is not as far along in its preparations for full standards implementation as some others. But he, too, agreed the key to success would be interpersonal relationships.

"I think it's ironic how often these technology conversations come back to the relations between people," Vodicka said.

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