“IT leadership is no longer hiding in the wiring closet”

Sometimes it takes a crisis to bring about change, but if people are smart, they learn from OTHER people’s trials-by-fire and do something about it before it happens to them.

Remember Lower Merion School District and their laptop spying case? Laptop cameras were activated and photos taken (over 50,000 it turns out!) of students without permission, compromising privacy, and probably illegal. National headlines for the district to deal with, investigations, lawsuits and more. What was meant to be a way to track stolen laptops turned into a legal and PR nightmare for the community.

That was February 2010. What’s happened since?

Tech & Learning magazine thinks there is a silver lining to all this — and they may just be right. Especially if others learn the lesson. (by Andrew Page – Watch It!)

If there is a silver lining for this school district, which has incurred more than a million dollars in legal fees and countless hours of extra work, it may be that just as the advanced use of technology put it on the front lines of privacy issues, the same technology has proved itself a remarkable ally in connecting the district with its parents and students, who rallied around the shared mission to provide the most up to-date learning tools and environment. Whether it was Facebook groups or electronic petitions, Web sites or video broadcasts of public meetings, the solutions to the many challenges to the district’s use of technology came, in part, through technology itself.

In May, the same school at which the laptop-spying scandal broke, Harriton High, was the setting for the first meeting of a brand-new technology advisory council, a group of parents, students, and administrators who have volunteered to meet and discuss subjects raised by the district’s progressive embrace of technology for learning. Sixty volunteers attended the first meeting, which ran for three hours, and discussed everything from policy development to the overall strategy of using technology in the classroom. A special subcommittee on privacy and security was formed and had its first meeting in July.

IS director Frazier was there.

“One thing that has emerged from all this is that IT leadership is no longer hiding in the wiring closet,” he says. “IT leadership has to also think about it in terms of communicating with the students and parents, and how you can add value and decision making.”

from Watch It! Lessons learned from Lower Merion’s “Webcamgate”

So – what about YOU? What will it take to get IT out of the wiring closet and start building community consensus with parents, teachers, administrators and STUDENTS!

This article continues with links to new policies, roles, resources, and new plans for keeping the technology vision moving forward at Lower Merion. Why not take advantage of their hard-won (and expensive) knowledge!