Keying in the Future of Education Technology: Different Strokes for Different Folks
When school and district leaders talk about technology and learning, they often come to the discussion from very different places. Even when those leaders are all from the same part of a state, there is a remarkable difference in the rate of adoption and attitudes about technology. Who is right? Who is wrong? Essentially, it’s all a matter of perspective, and in many instances, you have very smart people making very different decisions to obtain the same outcome.
In a recent panel discussion at the Learning Counsel’s 2019 event in Boston, three Massachusetts districts and one private school compared notes about their pathways into the future of technology for their learners. The discussion was fascinating, and the panelists were both forthcoming and raptly attentive, learning much from each other. In attendance were Michelle Hibbard, the Integration Technology Specialist at Hudson New Hampshire School District, Dr. Naim Syed, the Director of Technology at Alton School District SAU 72, Dr. Jay Lang, the Superintendent at Chelmsford Public Schools and Kerry Gallagher, the Assistant Principal, Teaching and Learning at St. John’s Preparatory School.
Kerry Gallagher works directly with teachers in her role at St. John’s Preparatory School. In that capacity, she has a lot of opportunity to allay fears, particularly whether her teachers were going to be forced to use certain devices or software tools. Her response says a lot about her school’s attitude towards technology. “My whole job,” she would tell them, “is to make sure you forge healthy relationships with your students. All the research out there says students learn best when they are with people, peers and adults that they trust. If I can help them use technology more efficiently, to promote student expression so they can get to know their students in a different way, to give their students access to materials that connect to their learning needs and differentiate with all the students in the classroom, that’s what technology should do.”
Michelle Hibbard’s district just rolled out their 1:1 initiative for their seventh graders. She is there to support the teachers and give them different tools they can use to help students not only in school but out of school. Her goal is to get the students prepared for a digital world. Hibbard helps the teachers understand that teaching the students to use technology and be good digital citizens is not a one and done proposition. It’s an ongoing process with reminders and lessons along the way.
Dr. Naim Syed says technology is a pathway. You start with where you are and determine where you want to be. “Technology is a tool, said Syed. “It is just like a pen or a pencil. Technology is moving faster than we as teachers or administrators can comprehend, but the students can. They know where they want to go.” Syed says we need to keep the outcome in mind. We need to see where the student is coming from and adapt our lesson to that.
Dr. Jay Lang’s district will be beginning a 1:1 initiative next year. Funding is an issue, and they are trying to infuse as much technology into the district as they can. In four years’ time, they will be 1:1 in grades five to 12. Chelmsford has a relatively small technology department to support the initiative and has found difficulty in trying to support the high number of Apps and programs they use.
The panel discussed how technology affects/will affect the refinement and choice in the teaching profession, and how they can use technology to achieve real personalization. The four panel members represent many stages in technology sophistication, and each is a smart, caring and highly skilled professional, wrestling with the best possible future for their learners. Be sure and watch the video. You’ll learn many of the questions to ask, and more than one solution you can use in your own school or district today to find success for your own learners tomorrow.
Click the video below to begin.