In my opinion, every single school district should have at least one technology integrationist on staff. An integrationist’s role is to assist the teachers in overcoming the “hurdle of how”.  If you’ve spent any time in public education, you are probably very familiar with the hurdle of how: “How can I use this in my classroom?”.  I believe the best technology integrationists are former teachers.  It doesn’t matter what subject, grade level, or school they taught in. What matters is they have experience in the classroom. The skill set and experience they bring to the table is the key their success. As a Director of Technology for a public school district, here are my five reasons for why an integrationist is so vital to a district’s technology implementation strategy.

1. They View Technology Differently Than You Do

A strong tech integrationist doesn’t typically view technology in the same way we geeks do.  Where we see an online photo editor, they see a creative outlet for students in social studies. We see a new web based link organizer while they see an app that would make a great tool for creating digital student portfolios. They have a way of looking at the web from an entirely different point of view.  In my role, I seek out this view point especially when we are looking to adopt a new application or device. The collaboration that follows leads to a better understanding of what tools will work best for students and staff.

2. They Deliver Professional Development Better Than You Do

I pride myself in my ability to teach teachers, but no matter how good you are at teaching others how to use technology, you cannot overlook experience in the classroom.  Many integrationists truly understand the planning it takes to create a tech based lesson and the frustration that occurs when that lesson doesn’t go as planned.  They embed that unique knowledge into their teaching which allows them to connect with teachers on a level that most cannot.

3. They Can Be a Catalyst for Change

A tech integrationist can be an evangelist for your plans and ideas. Their enthusiasm for a new application, model, or idea can be infectious.  When they get excited about a newly discovered application, the staff listens. Why?  Because the excitement is coming from a trusted source who knows first hand how they are using technology in the classroom.  This is an often overlooked aspect of this role, but a vital one none the less.

4. They Can Be Places When You Can’t 

A technology integrationist can spend time in the classroom on a daily basis helping teachers at the point of instruction.  You could too if it wasn’t for your administrative meetings, tackling that wireless issue, investigating new potential solutions, and keeping up with the day to day activities of the IT department.  It can be difficult to make time for classroom visits.  An integrationist can be your eyes and ears though.  They can provide insights on what is working and what’s not as it relates to technology which allows you to adjust strategies and policies accordingly.  Its like having a window directly into the classroom.

5. They Can Take Your District to the Next Level

When you combine the reasons listed above with a strong technology department, the outcomes are phenomenal!  We’ve seen an increase in staff engagement as well as technology use in and out of the classroom.  Our teaching staff is trying new applications and ideas on a regular basis. For example, we have staff using sites like Twitter, Instagram, and Vine in their curriculum. They can do this because they feel supported in the use of digital tools across all content areas.

Summary
In seventeen years of working in educational IT, this is my first working with a full time integrationist dedicated to our district. This has easily been one of the best years of my career.  Our teaching staff is using technology to enhance their curriculum in new ways and our students are experiencing personalized learning thanks to her efforts.  Every school district, every student, and every teacher needs to experience the positive impact that can be made by a thoughtful, enthusiastic, full time technology integrationist.