What Skills Does an ICT Co-ordinator Need?

First, a quick translation. What we Brits call an ICT Co-ordinator, our American cousins tend to refer to as a Technology Co-ordinator. It’s all very confusing, and would never have arisen had the USA not broken away from us a couple of hundred years ago. But I digress.

This is more of a liaison role than a technical one. In the UK, almost every area of the National Curriculum is expected to provide learners with opportunities to use ICT. The idea is not to teach ICT itself, but to embed it in the curriculum in a way that ensures that it’s used in the service, if you like, of other subjects.

This means that this kind of role will probably not suit the ICT “purist”, because the level of ICT skills and knowledge required to achieve a given result in a particular subject is often lower than the level at which the students are working in that subject.

As an example, students in an art class may be doing quite high level work looking at textures, and integrating patterns into their artwork. The ICT contribution to this might be going around with a digital camera taking snapshots of everyday objects, and then transferring them (or having them transferred) to a computer. This is not a high level ICT skill!

To be successful in this role, you need the following skills:

  • An amazing ability to do hundreds of things at once. I ran a competition four or five years ago about what people see as being the role of the ICT co-ordinator. Here are some of the entries.

    One teacher thought that the job is like "hanging onto a wind turbine on a windy day...where will you land next?", while another declared that it’s "being responsible for everything that has a plug on it."

    A bunch of ICT Co-ordinators?The winner, however, made the observation that being an ICT Co- ordinator is "like being a circus performer, spinning plates whilst juggling balls, all the time smiling, cheering other performers on and perfecting our own art of fixing everything!" She said: "I am an ICT coordinator of a school that is learning to get to grips with – and even get excited about – so much potential through new technologies. We are learning that e-learning means that although we have to move out of our comfort zone, we are still good teachers because we must keep learning, keep adapting to change and keep humble about what is still left to learn."
  • You’ll need to a good organiser. If the school has one computer suite available for booking out to classes, you will need to have booking sheets for months ahead (why not the whole year?). You will also need to keep a log of which classes have been in and which haven’t.
  • Assertiveness is a good quality to have in this job. You may find yourself having to refuse a booking to the Deputy Head in favour of a newly-qualified teacher – because the latter makes better use of the facilities, meaning that the pupils learn more or make better progress than they do in the other class.
  • A good understanding of how standards in other subjects can be raised through the use of ICT. So you would also need to be interested in undertaking research, or at least keeping up-to-date with research that has been done by others.
  • An ability to see the big picture (are all pupils getting adequate opportunities to apply their ICT skills?) as well as the nitty-gritty (is it possible to do colour printing from all the computers in a particular classroom?)

Now, looking through that list, it is not obvious to me that the ICT Co-ordinator needs to know anything about educational technology at all. Well, not much anyway. And thinking about it, when I held the combined role of Head of ICT and ICT Co-ordinator, I was more than ably supported by three teachers who were marvellous ambassadors for using ICT in the curriculum, and none of them was an ICT specialist. One was a science teacher, one a PE teacher and one a history teacher. What they had going for them was enthusiasm, personality, and non-geekiness.

Perhaps, if you’re a member of a school’s senior leadership team looking to appoint a new ICT Co-ordinator, rather than look for an ICT expert who has great people skills perhaps you should look for an incredibly warm and sociable person who can be trained up to a reasonable standard in ICT.

Why not take part in a discussion about the role of the ICT Co-ordinator? Check it out here. You’ll need to register, but it’s free!

The photo is (c) Tim Olson

Some of the above is taken from a book I wrote some years ago called “Getting a job as an ICT manager in a school”.