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How a CIO Can Help Improve America’s Education

by Chris Curran on September 30, 2010 [email] [twitter]

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I love the Ocean’s movies, although the middle one was pretty weak.  In Ocean’s Thirteen, there is a scene in which Danny Ocean (Clooney) catches Rusty Ryan (Pitt) watching Oprah with a tear in his eye - all while enjoying a nice glass of red.  Funny stuff.  But I have to admit that I just watched an episode of Oprah - the entire episode.  The show focused on the problems with America’s schools and a new movie about it called Waiting for Superman.  It featured the movie’s director, Bill Gates and much-discussed DC Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee.  Needless to say, this is a very emotional topic and continues to generate heated debate from students, parents, teachers, unions, administrators and philanthropists.

In the end, we all want a good education for our children, our families, our employees and our nation as a whole.  But what is our role as business leaders?  None of us have the resources of Bill Gates, but with a little creativity and effort, we can make an impact too.

4 Ways a CIO Can Make an Unique Contribution to Education

Here are four ways that an IT leader can make a real impact on the community by improving the educational experiences for children:

  1. Start a Mentoring Program - I spent several years working with The Hartford.  One of the things I vividly remember is that in the afternoon when I would grab a coffee in the cafeteria, I would often see many of the employees tutoring some local school children.  With all of the math and science skills and experience in our IT organizations, I’m surprised I don’t see more of this.
  2. Sponsor a School - Last year I had the opportunity to hear Cincinnati Bell’s CEO Jack Cassidy speak.  He is a really clear thinker and is pretty entertaining too. An achievement he seems very proud of is the work the company has done to help one of the poorest performing schools in Ohio, Taft High School, get back on top.  In fact, this school has now become an IT magnet school.
  3. Support a Science Center - For the last 10 years, my wife and I have been actively leading an effort in north Dallas to develop a science and technology learning venue.  This weekend will be its grand opening at its permanent location.  During this adventure, I have learned many things, maybe the two most important being that there aren’t enough valuable things for underprivileged kids to do after school and there aren’t enough passionate volunteers.
  4. Help Develop Computer Science Curriculum - I’m surprised that with all of the computing devices in schools there aren’t any courses about electronics or software before high school.  Yes, there are some classes that teach how to use Word and Excel.  I think there is a real opportunity to generate excitement in our youth in building cool software.

I’d love to hear your stories about contributing to education in your communities!

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  2. IT Czar - A New IT Leadership Role?
  3. Will the CIO Lose the C?
  4. CIO Guest Blog Series - The CIO’s Journey
  5. The CIO Through the Eyes of the CFO

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  • Chris Curran

    Based on what I’ve heard from teachers during my sons’ time in school and what I’ve read, aside from district wide teachers training, there isn’t much sharing of best practices outside of an individual school. What if we dedicated some time to help our school districts build a decent social collaboration and document sharing platform? Just a basic set of discussion boards and some learning plan and resource sharing should go a long way.

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