20 Resources for CTOs in Education, from Summit CTO Bryant Wong

Chief Technology Officers in education are tasked with the role of setting a technology philosophy that, in the end, has a positive impact on student outcomes and the classroom experience. From understanding the instructional vision, to crafting a tech strategy that enables students and teachers to learn and teach at their best, education CTOs contribute an important perspective in the conversation about a district’s ability to offer personalized, effective, and data-driven instructional solutions.

While technology isn’t always the solution, it is often a piece of the pie. It is important, then, for CTOs to stay up-to-date on emerging technologies and their relevance to the education sector, while also developing broader skills in leadership, communications, strategic planning, and organization resource design.

We sat down with Summit Public Schools CTO Bryant Wong to get his take on the top resources — including reading recommendations, conferences, videos, and more — for district and school CTOs and CIOs looking to get in-the-know on how to lead technology in today’s education environment.

Here are his recommended resources, with a few sprinkled in from other teammates. What top resources and events for education CTOs do you find invaluable? Share your top picks on Twitter and Facebook!

Conferences to Attend

Wong suggests a number of conferences for education CTOs and CIOs. His top list includes EdTech conferences, as well as broader technology conferences.

“When you work in education, you have to think beyond EdTech-focused conference,” Wong says. “It’s equally important to attend technology-focused conference to learn about trends and to be aware of changes that will or might trickle down to education.”

  1. International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE): Network with other education technologists and stay current on the latest technology solutions for education. At ISTE 2017, we hosted a series of sessions on topics including navigating change management, transitioning to a personalized learning environment, and housing curriculum, grades, and so much more on a single technology platform.
  2. Consortium for School Networking (CoSN): Connect with technology peers in education and learn how to make the greatest impact on teaching and learning with limited funding and resources. At CoSN17, Wong spoke about designing technology solutions for personalized learning environments.
  3. Dreamforce: For education nonprofits using Salesforce, this conference provides a wonderful opportunity to challenge your thinking about cloud solutions and how those solutions can be deployed more effectively. “Attending the conference should not be limited to Salesforce,” Wong says. “It’s more about the energy and thought leadership about how to approach and solve new and emerging problems through attending the sessions, networking with people, and talking to vendors on trends in cloud solutions.”
  4. Google Conferences: Whether EdTech-focused or more generally tech-focused, Google conferences — as well as conferences from other industry titans — are an opportunity to learn about the application of new and emerging technologies. Wong suggests Google Apps for Education trainings and conferences and Google Cloud Next Conference as top-choice events hosted by Google.
  5. Microsoft Conferences: Stay up-to-date on the latest offerings from Microsoft and understand potential classroom applications. Again, whether EdTech-focused or more generally tech-focused, these conferences enable leaders to survey the technology landscape for trends and applications. Most recently, Wong attended the Security in a Day workshop. Though Microsoft-focused, the workshop “provided insight into the larger security apparatus,” Wong says. “It opens up the thinking about what is currently happening and what solutions are available.”
  6. RSA Security Conference: Stay up-to-date on how to protect student data in a changing privacy and security landscape.

Reading Recommendations

For deeper insights into leadership and technology transition, here are four resources to dig into:

  1. “Good to Great” by Jim Collins [Book]: This book will challenge technology leaders to redefine their role within their school or district, Wong says. “It is a powerful book about transforming good organizations to great organizations. It opened up my eyes to how to think about strategy and has grounded every aspect of our technology strategy.”
  2. Re-Engineering Information Technology: Design Considerations for Competency Education [White Paper]: The CompetencyWorks collaborative, led by online learning membership association nonprofit iNACOL, published this paper as a means to catalyze conversation around “how we can design IT systems with student learning at their core.”
  3. Network Essentials for Superintendents: Upgrade Your Network for Digital Learners [White Paper]: An action-oriented guide by Internet infrastructure nonprofit EducationSuperHighway, this paper “provides actionable practices and expert tips for district leaders who are managing network upgrade projects.”
  4. Future Ready Learning: Reimagining the Role of Technology in Education, 2016 National Education Technology Plan [White Paper]: Published by the U.S. Department of Education, this paper “sets a national vision and plan for learning enabled by technology.”

Videos to Watch

Get inspired with some visual resources:

  1. Angela Duckworth’s TEDTalk on “Grit”: “Every tech leader needs grit and perseverance to do their job,” says Wong.
  2. Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford Commencement Speech: Wong emphasizes personal motivation and inspiration and suggests that technology leaders look inside themselves to understand what drives them. This speech by Apple co-founder and former chairman and CEO Steve Jobs is one he recommends to all tech leaders.

Relevant Subscriptions

As CTO at Summit Public Schools, Wong keeps his reading list stocked with the latest insights applicable to education, technology, and leadership. He recommends the following subscriptions for education technologists:

  1. Harvard Business Review: Dive into new insights into strategic leadership thinking that are based on real-world problems.
  2. MIT Technology Review: Learn about new and emerging technologies that could be applicable in schools in the future.
  3. Stanford Social Innovation Review: Discover social ventures that could have positive applications in education.
  4. The Economist: Learn about the broader world as well as specific global or domestic changes. “I believe it helps broaden the thinking about the work we do from a global perspective,” Wong says.

Activities to Take Part In

Reading, watching, and listening only go so far — eventually, you should get to doing. Below are four activities that can help catalyze communications and ideation in your organization and community.

  1. Network with your peers: Get to know other education technologists at conferences, meetups in your community, and through online webinars and networks. Learn from their successes and mistakes. Actively share their insights with your team.
  2. Visit other schools: Nothing beats on-the-ground research as to how schools utilize technology to meet instructional needs. Set up visits to observe students and teachers, interview fellow CTOs, and learn how the solutions they’ve selected might also be viable solutions for your district’s needs.
  3. Start a conversation with your team: Consider the Chief Academic Officer and the Superintendent your key contacts for determining instructional needs and, thus, technology solutions. Make sure all relevant teammates have a seat at the table and develop a cross-organization solution. Once you’ve determined instructional needs, consider using our “District Instructional Technology Worksheet” to determine existing infrastructure and need gaps.
  4. Learn from your leaders: Many technology leaders come into education from industry with a perspective of solving tickets and bugs and issues; Wong says education CTOs must make a necessary shift towards how technology impacts learning and teaching. Summit CEO Diane Tavenner, he says, has been instrumental in his growth, recommending professional development opportunities that have served him well over the years. He recommends partnering with your superintendent to be on a continuous learning track. “Having a great leader to learn from has shaped my thinking,” he says.

Share Your Favorite Resources

Are you an education CTO or CIO who turns to other key resources to stay in-the-know? If so, share your top picks on Twitter and Facebook!

About the author

Erica Swallow
Erica Swallow is a storyteller at Summit Public Schools, dedicated to sharing informative and inspiring stories from around the Summit Learning community. Erica's thoughts have been published in Forbes, Fortune, and The Wall Street Journal, among other publications. A first-generation college student, she believes education is the key to opportunity. Erica holds degrees from New York University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.