Your school’s mission statement is its North Star. It ensures you remain committed to your core purpose, acts as a litmus test for new ideas and programs, and ensures every department is rowing in the same direction.
As technology leaders know full well, the work of “how” a mission is fulfilled often lands on their department’s shoulders. Returning to the boat metaphor, if your school is the vessel, technology is the oars (or motor). Given this reliance on technology, it is critical that you develop a technology mission statement to be the rudder. This is important for two reasons:
1. Build the bridge
A technology mission statement provides the bridge between the “how” and the “why.” Just about every major schoolwide goal and initiative is empowered, or at the very least, supported by technology. Your statement helps colleagues understand how technology fits within the broader context of your school. It also helps the members of your team to understand their critical role in your school’s ambitious goal of changing the lives of young people. It puts the day-to-day (sometimes mundane) work into a broader, high-reaching narrative and grounds abstract ideas in reality.
2. Avoid distractions
Often, one of the most exhausting aspects of leadership is discerning when to say “yes” and when to say “no.” Technology leaders, unfortunately, are often the voice of “no.” It might be telling the leadership team, “No, that’s not technically possible” or informing a young, creative teacher, “Sorry, we don’t support that app.” Or, perhaps most exhausting, you might be telling those annoying software companies that you really don’t care about their new product or free trial (that one hits a little too close to home 😊). Your mission statement is the why behind your “no.” It allows you to say “no”, but put their request in a broader context.
With that said, a mission statement in hand, might allow you to say “yes” more than you expected. Maybe your goal is to create curiosity with technology, in which case, you should say “yes” to that creative teacher.
Where do I start?
Each school has different goals, so each mission statement is different. However, consider this pyramid framework when drafting your statement.
A safe campus
Any goal, aim, mission, vision, or value assumes that students are safe. This pertains to both safety on your physical campus as well as student cybersecurity. How can your mission statement contribute to student wellness? How will technology make your community safer? These questions should form the foundation of your mission statement framework.
Next, as an exercise, write down your school’s mission (along with visions and values if you have them) and note in the margins how technology is the catalyst. This will likely provide an outline for your mission statement.
Culture of Data and Technology as a Tool
How will you empower users? Every department knows they should use data and that software can make them more efficient and effective. Yet, few departments know how to do this. The exponential effects of technology are felt when users are self-sufficient. Explore the ways that your statement can motivate your school to move towards technological independence.
In an earlier post, we wrote about creating a ten-year technology plan. We made the case that any good long-term planning considers the future and builds flexibility within that framework. Your mission statement doesn’t need to predict the future, but it should acknowledge the technology department’s role in supporting the school through an ever-changing world.
The Overlake School
The Overlake School in Redmond, Washington recently went through this exercise. Click here to read their technology office’s mission. You can find more thoughts and reflections from Jay Heath, the Director of Technology at Overlake, in the ten-year technology plan post.
One could argue that technology is the single most important operational tool at your school. Again, returning to the boat metaphor, you can’t afford to be rudderless.
You’ll never be able to dedicate as much time to this as you’d like. That’s OK. Just get started; just write something down. Spend 20 minutes brainstorming and jotting down a few notes. Share it with a few colleagues and ask for their feedback. You can always go back to edit, update, and improve. But if you wait too long, the ship just might sail. Good luck.