By Dr. Ramiro Zuniga
Since the mid to late 90s, many school districts have been paying out stipends to individuals selected to serve as campus technologists, sometimes also as instructional technologists or another similar title. In essence, a campus technologist serves as an intermediary between a teacher wanting to integrate technology into the classroom and a computer technician.
Make no mistake, a campus technologist is neither a computer technician nor a network specialist. The intent of this position is not to repair computers, printers, and the like. Their mission is to assist teachers in trying to integrate technology into the daily curriculum. In most cases, the stipend is paid to a teacher, which makes sense because a fellow teacher can “speak the same language.” Of course, it is always easier for teachers to learn from a colleague than “some trainer” from Central Office or “some consulting firm.”
Stipends vary from one district to another but I have seen stipends ranging from $ 1,000.00 to more than $ 5,000.00 per year. This is where a potential dilemma can originate.
Unfortunately, I have seen firsthand how these stipends and positions can be misused. I have also heard many similar stories from my graduate students, teachers and administrators from various school districts.
These stories all seem to follow a similar plotline. A principal decides that “his friend” or “his favorite teacher” will serve as the campus technologist. It is a good way to give someone a raise without really increasing their duties. After all, “you can always call the IT department” if a task is beyond the capabilities of the campus technologist.
Too many times, little consideration is given to the requirements of the position. Technology integration is a gray area in which it is hard to determine how much of the integration can be attributed directly to the campus technologist and how much can be attributed to someone else.
On the other hand, many campus technologists are making a real difference. These technologists understand that their role is an important one. They know that many of their colleagues are resistant to using technology due to lack of training, fear, and other reasons. Many technologists push themselves to learn how to perform basic troubleshooting of computer hardware. Others learn how to install software packages onto classroom computers. Many work before school, after school, during the conference periods, and even during their lunch hour. They understand that they are on a mission.
So I call on principals and other campus leaders to think about the successes that a campus technologist can bring about. I understand that principals want to “reward” their best teachers, but surely, there has to be an alternative to this practice. No Child Left Behind requires that schools produce computer literate students by the time they leave eighth grade. More importantly, technology is here! Let’s do what we can to bring technology into as many classrooms as possible.
In Part II, I will discuss the skills and traits that I feel are essential in a candidate being considered for a campus technologist vacancy. I will also present what I think is a unique idea in relation to the position of campus technologist.